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Texas | Columns

That's My Mom

by Frances Giles

The main sport played by kids in our neighborhood was baseball. I've mentioned before we had an unusually long season, mainly because it stayed warm for so long in Beaumont. The fact is, we just loved the game.

There was a city park about 3 blocks from our house as the crow flies called Roberts Park. It consisted of a square city block of grass, a kiddy swimming pool, the deep end being 3 feet, and an area that was meant to be a baseball diamond. I guess it had once been a proper diamond with lime marking the baselines. By then, though, the bases, home plate and the pitcher's non-mound were simply dug out places in the dirt. The baselines were merely strips of dirt, and there was a chain link backstop that held up pretty well over the years and legitimized the description "diamond". It all worked. Once in awhile we would decide to move outside of our front yard (our mother was the only parent on Emile who let us play in the yard and ruin her holly bush, which was our home plate). One of the leaders of our gang would make contact with a "team" consisting of kids who lived in neighborhoods on the opposite side of the park from us and challenge their team to a baseball game, usually on the nearest Saturday.

We were playing such a game one year, uneven numbers, but we always ignored that. I think our team had about 10 kids and the opponents were maybe 14. It was that kind of mix and close to the actual total. Remember, I'm old. We also didn't pay attention to innings, either. We played until it was near dark or until we had to go home. Our mother worked in a doctor's office as a nurse, and Saturdays were half days ending at 1. She drove by the park, stopped, got out and gathered us together and did a head count. She didn't say what she was doing and just drove away, and we resumed play. Minutes later she returned. She opened the car door and unloaded carriers of those little Coca Cola's, the 6 1/2 ounce green bottles, then leaned back in the car and brought out a bag. All of us kids ran to see what she had. She had driven the several blocks to C & C Grocery on the corner of Avenue C and Washington Boulevard, bought Cokes for every kid AND, even more exciting, a Hershey bar apiece!

We were beside ourselves with glee. I mean, 2 dozen kids all given a free soda and candy? This was unheard of in our neighborhood because few, if any, parents would have been able, or willing, to spend this much for unnecessary treats, not for all the kids, anyway. I was about 8 and my brother Butch would have been a year older. I'm not completely sure of the ages here, but we were definitely elementary school age.

What sacrifices she had to have made to spend a nickel for each drink and a nickel for each candy bar, I'll never know. I do know from grocery shopping trips with her every Saturday that she never could spend more than $15-20 a week on groceries during those years. She always paid with a $20 bill and always breathed a sigh of relief when she got change back. That $2.40 was a big cut into that budget. I don't remember whether I thanked her or not. Shame on me if I didn't. I remember other kids laughing and jumping around and calling out thanks to her and being so excited at this impromptu party, and I remember feeling proud that this was MY mother who did this wonderful thing.

She packed up the empties to return for the 2 cent deposit, got into the car still dressed in her white starched uniform, white hose and snow white Clinic shoes and drove away, an angel in the eyes of so many grubby kids. I can't remember if she had a bottle opener or if the grocers had opened the bottles for her at the store.

Somehow this incident seems to relate to her insistence that no one at our house was allowed to eat in front of anyone unless we offered to share. If Butch and I got candy or some other treat and we were in the front yard with our friends, we shared or we would be jerked inside the front door for remedial instructions on how we were supposed to behave. If anyone came to the house, EVER, she wanted to feed them. This was a behavior that continued to the end of her life. I bet there was some connection to having grown up dirt poor and feeling shame, deprivation, envy, sadness. I wish I knew.

Frances Giles
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions" January 18, 2015 Column

Related Topics: Mothers

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