When Mother is a Devil and an Angel – TellTale Souls’ Bio-Vignette No. 11

Pam Coletta + Mom 9-09 Mom! I’m shocked!  The following story excerpted from my guidebook, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character & Spirit is a delightful Mother Memoir, of a spirited woman.  This story begins on page 104 of Act Three in the section entitled “Using Descriptive Imagery.”

You can easily find other stories I’ve posted from the book by searching “Bio-Vignette No.”

TellTale Soul Pamela uses just the right touch of descriptive imagery while conveying deep attachment and sentiment in a humorous style as she invites readers to travel to the ocean beside her mother and herself.

Traveling to the Ocean

~Pamela S. Wight

I am here again, traveling along the same flat road, watching the tall green maples and oaks turn to scrubby, smaller bush and pine. What is it about my primordial need to return to the ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, every summer?

As I breathe in the hot humid New Jersey air, a mixture of dirt, gas, grass, asphalt, and salt water, I wonder if it is just a childhood memory that needs to be rewritten and retold yearly. After all, as a child I crossed the southern hemisphere of New Jersey, traveling from the little town of Pitman to Ocean City at least four or five times a summer. At one hour one-way, that amounted to fifteen hours round trip each summer for eighteen years—two hundred seventy hours of my childhood spent traveling to and from the Atlantic Ocean.

But it is more than that. It is . . .

“Why is he traveling so closely behind you? How fast are you going?” My mother interrupts my slow, careful thoughts.

“I’m going seventy miles per hour,” I answer defensively. Actually, the speedometer reads sixty-nine, but I know that will not satisfy her. On this particular trip, we are traveling alone, my seventy-something mother and me, to Ocean City on a gorgeous, sparkling, ninety-three degree Saturday morning. We will arrive at our rented house, two blocks from the beach, eight hours before my brother and his family join us.

“That’s too slow,” she responds. “The speed limit is sixty-five. I go at least seventy-five.”

I allow my eyes to leave the road to give my mom a small smile. She is younger than I in so many ways. Always has been, and I’ve always been older than she. That’s one of the reasons we enjoy each other’s company so much.

“You convinced me to let you drive my car,” she continues, “so don’t give me that look that says I can’t be a front seat driver.”

I just smile a little wider. We are enjoying ourselves in her little white Chevrolet Le Baron convertible. The top is down; the wind is in our hair. I decide to bite my tongue and not tell her I am driving particularly because she insists on driving eighty miles per hour when the speed limit is sixty-five.

I look in the rear view mirror. A big black sports utility vehicle is barely a foot away from my bumper. I am in the fast lane and can’t move over to the right lane because of a string of slower cars.

“Back off,” I mumble. I tap my brake lightly, but he doesn’t slow down a bit.

“Go faster,” my dear mother says. Her short white hair is whipped against her head like a cap. Her tanned legs are crossed comfortably in front of her, showing off light blue short shorts. Her white tank top accentuates tanned, muscled arms. Some people would look at her and think that she plays tennis and lifts weights five days a week. They’d be right.

“Mom, I can’t go faster, then I’d be right on the bumper of the person in front of me. Besides, I don’t want to go faster.” Why do I feel like the prim and proper old aunt?

She sighs and fidgets for four more minutes. Finally, I find an opening in the right hand lane, turn on the blinker, and begin to move over.

“Give ‘em the finger,” she demands.

“What? Mom!” I respond in shock.

“Come on, give ‘em the finger,” my pretty, demure mother, grandmother of four, insists.

No, I won’t. I am afraid she is going to make me.  At my age, I don’t need to give in like I did at six, or sixteen, or even twenty-six. I smooth into the right lane and begin to relax until I see my mother push toward me and lean over my lap. She holds her face up high, as high as her five foot two inch frame allows, and yells to the driver of the car passing us on the left, “J  E  R  K,” in a long, loud, reverberating scream. I stare at this woman and then look at the face of the driver as he, too, stares open-mouthed. He looks hurt that this small, cute, but older woman would be chastising him so harshly. As he lifts his arms and hands in supplication, I begin to laugh, first gently so I make no sound, and only my stomach rises quickly in and out; then I release myself and laugh until it hurts.

“Why didn’t you give him the finger?” She asks, when I am finished.

“Mom, you are too much,” I answer.

Her expression is surprised, like what did I do?

I think of the times our differences used to bother me: she was always short, cute, and feminine; I felt too tall, awkward, big.  She was the social one; I was the loner.  She was assertive; I stood in the background, watching.

“Love you mom,” I say just as a big wheeler passes us noisily on the left. I’m not sure she hears me, but she has a small, secretive smile on her elfin face.

 

Pamela Wight: “I have traveled to the ocean with my mom for over 50 years. We lived coasts apart for years, and now live four states away, but always get together to share the ocean. I am a creative writing teacher, a wife, and the mother of two incredible children, who now have babies of their own. This past August, all four generations traveled together to the ocean.”

Daughters and sons from 9 to 90 use The Story Woman’s TELLTALE SOULS METHOD to move memory into memoir in a uniquely creative way, “Keeping Spirits Alive.”

You can easily find the stories I’ve posted from the book by searching “Bio-Vignette No.”

Comments

  1. Pamela says:

    So fun to see my story up on here. THANK YOU. Just tweeted it. Makes me laugh every time I read it – even thought I wrote it!!!

  2. admin says:

    Your story is terrific — a lot of smiles underneath those truths!

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