A Warm Language

My mother, Pauline, with brother, Steve, and sister, Deb at our home in Braintree, MA – 1961

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.

That’s me on the left with my brother and mother at the top of the stairway in 1961.

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…

About Rich Kenney

Rich Kenney is an Associate Professor and Director of the Social Work Program at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.
This entry was posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to A Warm Language

  1. susansplace says:

    Oh my gosh, Rich, I smiled all the way through that one. It is just so precious! How wonderful that you have those memories, and are willing to share them. Absolutely priceless! Leave it to Beaver, Lassie, the Howdy Doody Show — oh man, those were the good ol’ days!

  2. Beautiful, Rich. Just beautiful.

  3. I loved that she was ironing or folding laundry. I still iron today because the smell of the steam reminds me of my grandmother. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memory.

    Onward by Faith!

  4. linneann says:

    I love this: “And there really were great moms like Mrs. Cleaver. Mine was one.” Beautiful.
    Did your dad ever find out? 🙂

  5. Dan Shea says:

    Hi Rich,
    Nice memories! I remember having to avoid the septic overflow on the driveway when I would cut through your yard on my way to Kevin C’s house. I particularly like the photo of your mom, Stevie and you at the top of the stairs. Actually, Stevie with his sixshooter strapped to his hip could be part of Ralphy’s posse from A CHRISTMAS STORY!

    Terrific story.
    Dan Shea

  6. Maryellen Mavrides Fielding says:

    Wonderful ! The memories came waffting back, Mrs, Puffer; Mrs. Smith; how beautiful I remember your Mom ( the validation is in the pictures!),I have
    similar recollections and a great appreciation for my childhood in the 1960″s. It truly was a wonderful time and those are treasurered days. Thanks for sharing and refreshing the memories of my youth as well. ( and YES , I always thought of your mother as Mrs. Cleaver as you know. She was the REAL DEAL!) Best regards and thanks for the happiness I feel when reading your posts, Mrs. Smith would be so proud of you !

  7. Anne Sikes says:

    I’ve nominated you for the Ten Commandments Award. No pressure or anything, but you deserve the award. God bless! http://mylifeuncutalmost.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-and-ten-commandments-awards/

    • Rich Kenney says:

      Thanks, Anne. By the way, your name is familiar. Did you work at Cardinal Cushing in Massachusetts?

      • Anne Sikes says:

        No, I’ve actually only been to Massachussetts once. It was probably a different Anne Sikes. 🙂 My name has only been ‘Sikes’ for 6 years. For most of my life it was ‘Rasor’ which was my first husband’s last name. And about the award…you’re welcome! 🙂

  8. Heather says:

    I love this post! Thanks for sharing.

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