07 The Best Mother
(By Liddell Sharen)
Terri Wilson stomped her foot. She was the only student left in the schoolyard. And it was raining. Finally, her mother's car turned into the parking lot.
You're late! Terri said as she got in the car.
Sorry. I had to take Snowball to the veterinarian for his shots, her mother said. "I almost didn't come. I thought you'd be walking home. Then I remembered you wouldn't wear your raincoat this morning."
Terri scowled . No one in sixth grade wore raincoats!
Their small white dog pawed at her knee. "Snowball! Get down! Bad dog! You're getting hair all over me."
Terri, he's just glad to see you.
Terri sighed and patted the trembling animal. "Sorry, boy. I didn't mean to yell."
Mrs. Wilson stopped the car in the driveway. Terri helped carry the groceries into the kitchen. Grumbling to herself, she pulled a carton of milk, some cans of apple juice, and a box of oatmeal from a bag. Why couldn't her mother buy chocolate milk and carbonated drinks and sugar- frosted puffs like Mrs. Hanson bought for Laurie?
Her two older brothers trooped into the kitchen. "We're starving. Is there anything to eat?"
Mrs. Wilson pointed to the fruit bowl and the boys grabbed the last two apples. Half a dozen oranges remained in the bowl. Terri clenched her fists. She hated peeling oranges. Wishing she were an only child like Jill MacDonald, she stomped off to her room.
Where was her tape player? She pawed aimlessly through the scattered piles of papers, books, and tapes littering her floor. Her mother refused to clean her bedroom; she said eleven-year-olds should be responsible for their own things. Terri snorted. Susan Brown was twelve, and her mother still picked up for her.
That evening Terri turned her basket of clean clothes upside down. The only pajamas she could find were the red flannel ones. She loved the soft feel of the material, but she hated the bright color. She called down the hall. "Did you do a wash today?"
Did you wash my blue pajamas?
I don't think so. In fact, I don't think I washed anything of yours. Did you put your clothes in the hamper ?
Terri ground her teeth. She hated carrying her dirty clothes to the stupid hamper in the utility room. Why couldn't her mother gather up her laundry? After all, she walked by Terri's room at least fifty times a day. Amanda Cummings' mother always made sure her favorite clothes were clean. Once Amanda wore the same purple capris every day for two weeks. She said her mom washed it every night and had it ready for her to wear the next day.
Terri pulled on the red pajamas and snuggled up to Buster, her teddy bear. Mom will have to sew his poor arm on again, she thought, closing her eyes. Moments later, she heard a noise. Someone was vacuuming . She opened one eye, then bolted upright. There was Susan Brown's mother,cleaning the bedroom in the middle of the night?
Terri looked around the room, confused. Mrs. Brown had picked up all her clothes and toys and lined her shelves with books and tapes.
I can't sew this threadbare thing! yelled Mrs. Brown. She was swinging Buster Bear around her head by one ragged ear. "We'll just have to throw it away!"
I can't throw out Buster. He's my friend. I've had him since I was six months old.
Then you've had him long enough. You'll sleep much better without this piece of rubbish. And remember, Snowball stays in his doghouse. If I find one white hair on your bed, it's off to the pound with him. Mrs. Brown sniffed and disappeared in a flash of light.
Terri, I have a present for you. Amanda Cummings' mother appeared, holding a pair of designer jeans. Terri whooped with delight. She tried to hug Mrs. Cummings, but the woman pushed her away. Be careful! You'll wrinkle my blouse!"
The pants fit perfectly, but they didn't feel right. "Uh, Mrs. Cummings, they're stiff ."
Well, of course. That's the very latest fashion.
But I like only soft clothes. Couldn't you do what my mother does and run them through the washing machine a few times before I start to wear them?
Certainly not. What's the point of buying the newest styles if you're going to ruin them right away? As soon as you get home, change clothes so you don't ruin those jeans.
Terri nodded miserably . She hated changing clothes after school. Then she heard Jill MacDonald's mother call her to supper. Holding the jeans, Mrs. Cummings vanished.
Terri looked down and found herself at the kitchen table. She saw scalloped potatoes, broccoli with a yucky cheese sauce, and a chicken cutlet on her plate. Mrs. MacDonald asked her what was wrong.
My brothers and I don't like scalloped potatoes, so my mom doesn't make them. We don't like cheese sauce either, so she just gives us plain broccoli.
Mrs. MacDonald raised an eyebrow. "Well, my husband and I like scalloped potatoes and cheese sauce. I'm not going to change our diet just to accommodate one child. You may leave the table if you don't wish to eat what is being served."
Suddenly, Mrs. Hanson was in the kitchen. For breakfast she put out frosted puffs and soda. They tasted terrific. Terri had two big bowls of the cereal and three tall glasses of the drink. But, later, at gym class, she couldn't finish the relay race. Her legs felt wobbly and her stomach was queasy . She groaned .
Terri, honey! Wake up!
Terri opened her eyes. Snowball was standing on her chest, licking her face, and Buster Bear was lying on her pillow.
Her mother leaned over the bed. "I heard you call out. Were you having a dream?"
Terri shuddered . "It was more like a nightmare."
Shall I make you some warm milk?
Terri shook her head. She reached up and hugged her mother. "Could you just stay with me for a minute?"
Mrs. Wilson smiled and sat down, her arms around her daughter. "This is nice. Lately, I've been thinking you were all grown-up and didn't want hugs anymore."
Oh, Mom! I'll never be so grown-up that I won't need hugs from you. You're the best mother in the world.