Mother What?

| October 09, 2001

When my son asked me to spend Mother’s Day with him, I imagined cooking his favorite dinner and getting tickets for a concert. If I were lucky, he would bring me roses.

Peter had other plans. He invited me to spend two weeks on the road.

As I climbed into the cab, I noticed his bed was neatly made. I wasn’t sure my heart could stand the shock.

“You’ll be more comfortable in this,” Peter said and tossed me a T-shirt. I stepped behind the curtain and changed out of my new red silk blouse I’d bought for the trip. I pulled on the T-shirt, and I had to admit it did feel better.

“Is there some place I can hang my blouse?” I asked.

“Sure, give it to me,” Peter said. He took the blouse, rolled it into a wrinkled knot the size of a baseball and tossed it onto a top shelf behind a blue flannel shirt. I never saw it again.

After hauling a load of tires from Tulsa to Little Rock, we pulled off at a truck stop. A waitress said she liked my shirt.

“It’s a gift from my son,” I bragged.

“Well, I admire you for being brave enough to wear it,” she said with a smile.

“It’s just a white T-shirt,” I said.

“Did you read it before you put it on?” she snickered.

I dashed into the ladies room and yanked off the shirt. On the back was a picture of a rig and red letters that said, “I’m a Bad Mother Trucker!”

“Just wait until I get my hands on that kid!” I whispered through gritted teeth. There was nothing I could do but put the shirt back on and join Peter in the café.

He’d ordered for us, and the chubby waitress was setting down the plates. I was glad to see Peter eat a good, hot meal. I worried about him living on fast food while on the road. Peter ate his meat and potatoes and left his vegetables – just like when he was a kid.

The waitress returned.

“You folks care for anything else?” she asked and glared at Peter. “Don’t you even think about ordering dessert until you eat your vegetables.”

I smiled at her and blinked back a tear. She’d done something I’d never been able to do: get Peter to clean his plate. As long as there were waitresses like this one, I wouldn’t have to worry about Peter eating right.

We were carrying 14,000 pounds of auto parts to Ohio when I started getting sleepy.

“I’ll just splash some water on my face, and I’ll wake right up,” I said.

I reached for the plastic bottle in the cooler next to me and poured some liquid into my hand. I rubbed my face and smoothed back my hair.

A few minutes later I couldn’t see.

“I’m blind!” I yelled.

Peter pulled off the road.

“What’s wrong? Are you having a stroke or something? Should I call for help?” he said as he tried to pry open my sealed eyelids.

“All I did was splash water in my face to wake up, and the next thing I know I can’t open my eyes!” I explained.

Peter held up the bottle and turned on a light.

“This isn’t water, it’s Dr Pepper. Your eyelashes just got stuck together.”

The next morning, I started to get out of the truck to go into the café, but Peter stopped me.

“Mom, your hair looks like a bomb exploded on your head!”

It was true. The Dr Pepper I’d used to smooth down my hair had dried, and my hair was standing straight up on my head.

“You’ll scare the truckers if you walk across the parking lot looking like that,” he said.

I stood beside the truck while Peter poured water over my head and tried to flatten out my hair so I didn’t look like roadkill.

Mother’s Day began as the world’s worst bad hair day, and Peter hadn’t even wished me Happy Mother’s Day.

He didn’t need me anymore.

“Hey, Mom, could you put 100 gallons of fuel in the tank while I run inside and buy some food?”

My son needed me! I jumped out and filled the tank.

He threw a sack into the cab, and we were off.

I knew what he’d done. He’d remembered Mother’s Day and had kept me busy outside pumping gas while he went into the truck stop and bought me a little gift. So thoughtful.

When we stopped, we couldn’t find a place to park and had to park in a junkyard.

Peter opened the paper bag. I waited for my gift.

He pulled out a box of doughnuts, two warm cokes and two tacos.

“I guess it’s not much of a dinner,” Peter apologized, “But I didn’t forget what day it is, and I cleaned all the dead bugs off your side of the windshield. Look, you can see the stars shining over the top of all the rusted cars.”

We both laughed until our sides ached. We sat up half the night eating doughnuts and cold tacos and talking about things we’d never talked about before. My son told me about his dreams for the future and about saving money for a little farm he wanted someday.

And he told me I was a good mother.

It was the best Mother’s Day this Mother Trucker ever had.

–By Linda Stafford

Linda Stafford lives in Hawaii, where she writes and paints. Peter Stafford drives for Schneider National.

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