When I was in fourth grade, on Valentine’s Day, I woke up with a horrible stomachache. Mother knew it must be serious because when she mentioned missing out on the party at school, I just groaned repeatedly. Reluctantly she agreed to take me to the doctor’s office. They promptly sent me to the hospital to be admitted for possible appendicitis. They ran tests and kept a close eye on me. At least it seemed like it to me since our mother rarely inquired as to our health status.
That afternoon my dad arrived with a bouquet of roses for me. It was the first bouquet I had ever received, and I treasured them. Mother was not impressed. On seeing them, she began to rant at my father:
They don’t last long enough to even bother with them. Why roses? That money could have been spent on the outrageous medical bills you’ll be getting for her stomachache. I should have known there was nothing wrong with her!
Finally, Dad ushered Mother out of the room and took her home. I rested with dreams of flowers dancing though my head. The next morning I was released to return home and was eager to take my flowers with me. Mother put an abrupt end to that upon her arrival at the hospital.
She stormed into my room, grabbed the bouquet and insisted on finding “someone who really needed them.” As always, she preferred doling out her kindness to complete strangers over providing it to her own friends and family.
Down the hall we went, me ready to burst into tears, mother with the flowers in hand. Mother finally found an old lady in her bed who looked like she was about to shuffle off this mortal coil. Mother put the flowers on her bedside table and told the old lady that I wanted her to have them. In reality, what I wanted at that point was to yell
That’s a big fat lie and you know it!
Something prevented me from screaming that or anything else. I think I was worried that an outburst would push this poor elderly woman over the edge and into the land beyond. Mother and I left the hospital in silence.
Once home, without the flowers, I realized how quickly happiness can fade. When Dad returned home and inquired about the flowers, Mother made up another big fat lie about how I wanted to “spread the happiness around” and that I chose to give the bouquet away to an elderly woman.
I knew there was nothing I could say or do. If I said she made me give them away, I looked selfish. If I began to cry and called her a liar, I looked like a brat. And so in fourth grade I learned the lesson of the phrase:
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Other lessons learned:
For some unknown reason, our mother hated flowers, thus the eagerness to get rid of them. There was also no doubt a bit of jealousy going on. She knew how entranced I was with the bouquet and she resented my father getting it for me.
I also think that in her mind, in order to prevent me from having “unrealistic expectations,” she felt she was preparing me for the future. Faulty logic, of course, but rational thinking and Mother…well, never the twain met, really.
And, maybe the best lesson of all, she could give away the flowers but she could never take away the memory of a little girl and her special moment with her dad!