In honor of Mother’s Day, we’d like to share one of our favorite traditions with our mom: hiding from the Watkins man.
Every Tuesday, the Watkins man pulled in with his old brown car. And every Tuesday, we had to decide if we would hide.
Mom loved the spices and balms, but we all bristled at the inconvenience of actually placing an order. Don’t get us wrong. He was a friendly man but he persisted in long and involved sales visits even if we were standing there in our swimsuits, especially if.
When he pulled in, there was a throwdown over who would answer the door.
When my sister volunteered, she would try to be brisk with him, asking for the standard black pepper in a no-nonsense matter. But he didn’t care, he felt only that she was having a bad day and that, with some work, he could cheer her up.
I tried being extra jolly and ordered a slew of spices from him. But this didn’t send him on his way, as I thought it might, happy to go before I changed my mind. He saw this as only an invite to stay longer and offer preparation advice.
It got worse when our mother set out to “keep it short.” She was part Watkins man herself and the two of them would end up in a long play-by-play of the latest gossip.
So we all took to hiding from him, if, and only if, the pepper shaker was full.
One afternoon, we floated on flimsy air mattresses bought at the Ben Franklin in Interlochen. We were nearly asleep, while mom was doing the unthinkable: using the shallow plastic cupholder. When she wasn’t dumping Diet Coke into the pool, she was reading a book that soaked up and bloated with water.
This is when we heard the rumble of the old beater.
“Oh no, it’s Tuesday!” I said, floating in a perfect moon of sunshine, cutting between the shade trees Dad insisted on planting around the pool. I cried to think of leaving it.
“Let’s get out and hide!” Mom called out. But, with the Diet Coke and the book, she was ensnared.
“We’ll stay put,” I said and lay my head back against the plastic and shut my eyes. I was thin enough (then) and the plastic cheap enough, that I literally floated in the 6 inches of space between the water and the rim of the pool. I was nearly out of sight.
Mom wasn’t so lucky. She instead paddled one-handed to the side of the pool and huddled behind the tree between the house and the pool, clutching the railing with her wet book, her Coke can floating in the middle of the pool. We looked at her over our sunglasses. And the giggles started.
“Shhh! Here he comes!” Mom said. She was, in a real turnabout, mad at us. This only added to the hilarity of the situation.
“HELLO! Ladies?!!” the Watkins man’s voice rang out in the garage, a few feet from where we floated, hysterical.
“Hold steady,” Kerry whispered.
But it was not to be. The laughter was too loud and the pressure too much.
We certainly can’t remember what we ordered or who did the ordering, but we do remember how much fun those days were. When we were teenagers in the swimming pool, laughing and gossiping with mom and hiding from the Watkins man.
We miss those days. And, as if orchestrated from heaven, the day I wrote this, the Schwan’s man came calling. And I was in my workout clothes, on the treadmill and looking, dare I say, nasty.
What should I do? What could I do?
Hide, of course. (Forgive me, Fred.)
As he knocked and waited, I sat huddled in my sweaty clothes and thought fondly of my mother who had taught me best.
Happy Mother’s Day to our mom, who taught us when to wait things out and, just as importantly, how to laugh very, very quietly.