The delightful aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies greeted us as we neared the green and white house. Mom understood that a snack was the best help for weary students after the dusty school bus ride from town. As we munched cookies around the table Mom joined us to catch up on the challenges of our day.
Mom’s kitchen was our multipurpose room. Rugs covered the floor near the door—her attempt to catch the mud, dirt, and critters packed into the house by three active boys. Behind that door hung the family coat rack which tumbled from the wall several times under the load of hats and coats. Our two-part trash disposal system stood there, too. The plastic trash can accommodated garbage, and the grocery sack collected anything that could burn. The hot water tank, washer and dryer consumed one wall and their flat tops doubled the available counter space. The familiar brown table served as our desk for homework, workbench for projects, and of course, the place where we always ate good food.
But Mom hated dirt in her house. Keeping the outside outside was her mission. With three active sons roaming the hills, wading creeks, and exploring every nook and cranny of the woods dirt was a fact of life. Mom had her rules, unwritten, but binding. No one who lived there wore shoes in that house. Muddy clothes were discarded on the rug by the door, and if after a Mom-inspection the clothes were deemed too soiled, the wearer returned to the porch to either disrobe or brush the dirt away. Mom kept a broom by the door for home protection needs such as chasing dogs and cats away from her flowers, and she was not beyond using that broom to sweep her sons.
I got married and eventually brought granddaughters home to Mom who became Grammy. And, man, did Grammy sing another tune than Mom. Shoes were fine in the house, as long as the wearer was named either Amanda or Michelle.
I found Michelle jumping up and down on Grammy’s couch one day. The child was doing her best to see out the front window. The tiny shoes were covered in mud which extended onto her pants and up to her knees. Her backside had its own layer of detritus, and bits of leaves adorned her flowing tresses. She was enjoying her visit to Grammy’s house, blissfully unaware of the unalterable rules.
Motivated by the strong desire to preserve my daughter’s life I attempted to capture her. She assumed we were playing a game, eluded my first lunge, and left clumps of tennis shoe cleat mud on the pristine wood floor. Jeff, my brother, joined the chase and in short order we had the wild filly restrained. A concerned father and a loving uncle warned her of the dire consequences of muddying up the inside of Grammy’s house.
Too late! Michelle was caught! Mom, dish towel in hand stood at the edge of the kitchen peering into the living room. She had that look on her face, the one she displayed just before you heard your entire name recited. Try it. See if “John Wayne Nichols” gets your attention. I knew Michelle was toast, and the look on Jeff’s face confirmed his certainty she was in deep trouble.
Imagine the shocked look on our faces as Mom uttered this unforgettable line,
“You boys leave that baby alone. She’s not hurting a thing!”
What the pooh just happened here?