A Mother’s Day Tribute (on a four-wheeler)

I wrote this in 2008, a year after our mother passed away. It seems a fitting tribute to publish it this year for Mother’s Day, looking back on that first summer without her, when our kids were so little and we were figuring out this motherhood thing all by ourselves. We know she’d laugh.

We broke out the cherry wine somewhere between the juice boxes and bologna sandwiches. We hated wine.

“Let’s open this wine and try to learn to like it,” Kerry said, unearthing a corkscrew from the back of her junk drawer.

I cut a sandwich in half for my 3-year-old son and sent a shocked yet pleased look over his head to Kerry. It was a perfect summer afternoon. Yet we both sat there pretending not to miss our mother.

It was an excellent distraction to our pretending.

We were 33 years old and neither adept at opening a bottle of wine. I promptly snapped the cork off half in the bottleneck, half out. Kerry poked the remainder of the cork into the bottle and watched it float before pouring two glassfuls into plastic wine glasses. Kerry’s was neon pink, mine grassy green.

“Cheers!” The plastic thudded in an unsatisfying way.

Our children, cousins, dirty from running in the sprinkler, tan from a summer of no shirts and no school, ran in the yard.

Neither of us could tolerate more than a few swallows of the sour cherry wine. We spit it, with much fanfare, into the burning bush at the edge of the deck. This is when the giggles started.

“Just boozing on a Thursday afternoon,” I whispered. We had, until that very afternoon, lived a prim and proper life. We’d grown up in a little town, lived less than five miles from the home we’d grown up in, had a good job and good kids. Never had we dreamed of getting drunk on a Thursday afternoon. It was a stupid yet very grown-up thing to do. And with no one about to stop us, we pressed on.

“I like where this idea is going, but we can’t do it on wine,” Kerry said, dumping hers in the bushes. “I could run down to the gas station.”

This, too, made us laugh. A beer run on a pretty summer day while the kids played in the yard?

“And leave me with four wild kids?” I liked the idea of getting drunk, but already it was too much work.

“Wait,” Kerry said. “Dad’s not home.” The words were an open invitation to the Smirnoff coolers he loved. And kept in inventory.

Dad, in fact, was 2,000 miles away on vacation in Montana.

“Field trip!” we belted out to the children, who came running. Kerry’s house was a mere half-mile from Dad’s. By cutting through the woods, we could be there in 5 minutes.

In 15 minutes, not only had we hijacked Dad’s fridge, we had also hijacked his four-wheeler.

In 25 minutes, we had figured out how to fit four children and two adults on a slowly creeping ATV with a six-pack balancing on the gun rack.

“Wait till Dad realizes his booze is gone!” we squealed. We were young and daring, stealing a four-wheeler we could borrow any day of the week, clocking 8 mph through the field, wide open.

We rode together, one hugging the other around the waist like we used to when we were 10. Back when things had been simpler, our mom in the kitchen making dinner, dad in the pole barn wrenching on something.

In 45 minutes, we’d traveled as far as we dared with the four-wheeler. Only to arrive, as if by fate, at the trampoline.

“Drinking and driving do not mix, but how about drinking and jumping?”
Everyone liked this idea, or at least we did.

In 50 minutes, tricks and small competitions were unfolding high in the air above the trampoline.

In an hour, the kids were unhappy and we were very, very happy.

“You’re ruining our fun!” the children bellowed. There was a general consensus that moms were too big for trampolines. TWO moms was downright dangerous.
“Then get off!” we yelled. We wondered about the neighbors watching from a distance. The twins had commandeered the trampoline.

The two older children started to cry because they wanted the trampoline back. The two younger children started to cry because they wanted their mothers back.
We poured another Smirnoff over ice in our plastic wine glasses and marveled at how we’d never thought to pour a drink over our sorrows before now.

It was the closest we’d come to having fun since losing our mother, an hour or two of going off the rails and letting go of the grief. It seemed even better that the good times were unfolding on her trampoline, with drinks from her fridge, and under the shade trees she used to share with her girls all summer long.

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