My mother’s “work from home” job was as task master, chaos controller, budget stretcher and organizational wizard for her seven kids. She took great pride in her mothering and homemaking skills and-like many people whose careers define them-lived with a degree of anxiety that a crack in the veneer would expose her as a fraud.
In the fifties and sixties, our kitchen table was base camp for art projects, school work and holiday-cookie decorating. No matter how many crayons, paste pots, glitter jars or paper maiche mountains littered the table the whole shebang was always put away before dinner. The table cloth was wiped down and the chairs were pushed-in. Pristine.
Not so below the surface. The underside of the long, oval table, its topside rarely seen without its fuzzy-backed-printed-vinyl tablecloth, was the repository for the day’s chewed gum.
My mother suspected we engaged in this forbidden activity, but I don’t think she understood the magnitude of our daily habit.
The underside of the table represented all we could get away with in a household governed by fear (despite my mother’s best efforts.) This daily act of defiance was a silent show of solidarity. Smushed orbs of Play-Doh-colored goo filled every recess-pink Bazooka, green Spearmint and taupe wads of Doublemint competed for real estate. Some gooey blobs were parked for later consumption but for most this would be their last resting place. Seven kids, umpteen years-you get the picture.
No-my mother never knew how prolific her gum-sticking kids were until the day the delivery men took that table apart, carted away the carcass and replaced it with a new one. When the table was turned turtle, my mother gasped in awe and horrified embarrassment at the legacy her kids had left behind.
New rounds of admonishments were administered before we again christened the new table. It never suffered quite the same fate, but we left our signatures in a variety of flavors for a second time.
As I build my own “work from home” business I’m reminded that, try as I might, I’m not in control of everything. Sticky stuff happens. Stuff we can’t see or plan for in advance. Yet, I’m called to leave my signature, my mark-in my way, no matter how many times I have to start over.
My mother died three years ago this month. This silly story has been hanging around my consciousness for days-thanks for the memory, Mom.