My mother and I had a secret. The thought of it breathed life into Mondays during fifth-grade arithmetic with Mrs. Smith. Its mid-week approach helped me endure sticky-finger Wednesdays and the glue-fest, art class fiascos with Mrs. Puffer. And come Saturday, its power of promise saw me through clarinet practice and those too-frequent emergencies of shoveling dirt over our leaky, backyard cesspool.
At ten years old, I was beginning to find my voice and spoke out against my eight o’clock bedtime. I had two years on my brother, Steve, and four more on my sister, Debbie. All I wanted to do was to be able to stay up a little later to watch the Leave It to Beaver show on Saturday nights which aired at eight-thirty. I thought I had a case but it didn’t fly with my father. The curfew stood… until Ma unveiled her plan.
This was our secret: “When Stevie and Debbie fall asleep,” my mother told me, “you can come downstairs to watch Beaver. But you can’t wake them up and you can’t tell your father.”
The second part of the plan was easy because Dad “played” every weekend – the saxophone with his band at the Mohawk Lodge or Ciro’s Top Hat. He’d never know.
The first part was trickier. I had a half-hour to make sure Steve and Debbie were sleeping. From the time we were in bed at eight, I’d spin stories about how The Sandman was on his way and how we should be asleep before he arrived. Somehow, it always worked. Then, the show’s opening theme music playing on the television in the living room – that was the signal to quietly make my way down the hallway stairs, careful to step over the creaky ones.
It wasn’t until I was settled in the rocking chair facing our black & white-screened TV, a Magnavox with three channels and four legs, that I dared breathe a sigh of relief, my mission accomplished. It was time to join the gang in Mayfield.
Every episode was real to me. I imagined walking to the fire station to visit Gus the fireman, with Beaver, Gilbert and Tooey. I knew wise guys like Eddie Haskel and Lumpy Rutherford. And there really were great moms like Mrs. Cleaver. Mine was one.
As I watched the shows, Ma ironed or folded clothes. We spoke sparingly so as not to wake Steve and Deb but there was communication. Like the whispers and puffs of steam rising from her iron, there was a warm language between us – one that helped smooth the wrinkles of childhood.
Happy Mother’s Day, Ma…