Ms. Ribando would meet Mom at the kindergarten door, Matt with his baby blue coat, with fur cuffs that had become too short–but would continue to evade an AmVets donation for years-in his carseat waiting on me. I’d take my place next to him and we’d drive to do our afternoon work. The “bluebird” station wagon, with its big self would lumber down Arlington Heights Road to the white house.
Mom would fumble for the key, reach for the lone light that hung above. Basement illuminated, our work lay before us. The sawdust would adhere to our little shoes and make us slip once we hit the basement floor. Matt and I got accustomed to the mix of mud, manure, newly crafted 2×4’s that lined the basement floor. That wasn’t ours. Mom, her belly bulging with Holly I suppose, would cajole the green hose into place and begin spraying beds and beds of manure.
The hose and Matt would argue for control, once Mom gave him the reigns. Shoulder to shoulder we’d watch the earthworms wiggle as they were showered. Spray would hit our little noses, twitching we’d rub them. Mom would stand watch and hum a tune of the day, rocking back and forth massaging her growing belly. Her hair tied back, maybe one of the handkerchiefs that adorned her dresser, atop her head. Rambling through the rows and rows of flowerbeds, she was a woman with a plan and determined to survive on all levels with a smile.
Tick-tock had gone the shag-carpeted-avocado-green-bell-bottomed-70’s. 1980 was here and I was in half-day kindergarten. I was 6. The oldest in my class, with a lazy eye, Dynamo Kids cowboy boots, and and affection for my mother and brother that stems from our afternoons with the earthworms. We were a team with a task and mom knew we could do it-together.
“Arndt Earthworms” was an innovative response to the trash compactors of the day, I think? Uncle Gene and mom had this idea that earthworms were going to be the solution to the garbage and debris problem of the 70’s. Mom would hawk their business @ 1 am on local TV. Their financial return: pretty sure zilch. But mom taught me a million lessons in her determination to forge a new path, to take a risk, to say fuck it to convention. I never heard her questioning–what will people think? What if..it doesn’t work? These questions rarely populated my mother’s head.
Maybe me writing this is one example of her constant reel of thoughts, “Keep on keeping on. And be confident that you can handle the next challenge whatever it might be–regardless of the outcome. Because if you are true to yourself, that’s all that matters.”
I need to remember that mantra. I need to hold this memory in my mind and heart. Lessons are lessons to be used and celebrated. Thanks, mom.