Growing up, my parents listened to WHBC-AM (1480) in Canton because the show hosts didn’t play that doggone rock and roll music they so loathed, but rather the ballads Mom and Dad knew and loved from the 1940s and ’50s.
I still remember the jingles for a lot of the ads that ran on WHBC, including one for Peoples Drug. The ad would end with a man stating in a voice-of-God tone, "Peoples … the largest drug chain in the East."
People had stores all throughout the area, including one in Coventry Plaza on Manchester Road that was within easy driving distance from where we lived. Peoples was located next to the W.E. Wright Company on the south leg of the plaza, just down from where the Save-A-Lot now sets.
Peoples was my favorite store because it carried baseball cards. I can picture exactly where they were kept in the store. I was drawn to the spot like a magnet every time I was in there.
I loved baseball cards – and football and even basketball cards – more than I did mashed potatoes, strawberry milkshakes, fried fish, cherry pie and life itself. And that’s a whole lot of love.
My mom wasn’t a big sports fan, but she knew that I was so she tolerated the plethora of cards I collected as long as I kept them neatly organized in a big shoe box. You bet I kept them tidy. After all, they were my most precious possessions. Nobody but me was allowed to touch them.
Anyway, one summer morning, my mom announced that she was headed to Peoples. I asked her if she would buy me a pack of baseball cards while she was there. Then I quickly – and bravely -- raised the ante to two packs, and, much to my surprise, she agreed – albeit reluctantly so.
She was investing a whole dime – the packs cost five cents each, the same as a postage stamp – to further my nasty addiction, which was a lot of money in 1964, especially to a 9-year-old.
It wasn’t 9:30 a.m., but it was already a great day in my book.
Every time she bought me cards, she would place them in the bottom shelf of the middle kitchen cabinet. right next to the stove. That way, I could reach it. When I heard Mom arrive back home, I raced into the kitchen, flung open that cabinet with so much force that I practically tore the door off its hinges and, with the lightning-quick speed of a Sam McDowell fast ball, jammed my hand into the far left part of the shelf, where she always put the cards.
What’s this? My grubby little fingers were holding three packs of cards, not two.
Mom saw my wide-eyed, it’s-Christmas-in-July look of glee and explained, "I picked up three packs by mistake, and I didn’t have the heart to put one back."
That was nearly 53 years ago, and every time Mother’s Day rolls around, even though Mom hasn’t rolled around with it for nearly 30 years now, I think of that day. When I look her up in the dictionary of people I dearly miss, there is a photo of that moment.
I’m sure she never thought in her wildest dreams that it would be her legacy in my eyes. Actually, I don’t think that parents – or just people in general – back then ever game any thought to their legacies. They weren’t that vain. They were too busy living life.
In any event, that story epitomizes what my mom was to me.
Mom, like Dad, did without so many things so that they could afford to buy me not just what I wanted, and needed, but much more that I could have ever hoped for.
Instead of having new furniture (the sofa was thread-bare and they owned only one bedroom set through their entire 39-year marriage), new carpeting (it was thread-bare, too), better appliances (I remember running up to my mom while watching TV and proudly telling her, "I just saw our refrigerator on ‘The Three Stooges’ "), a new car (they had only one for the longest time, and I later learned that every time my dad turned the key, he prayed it would start), new clothes for themselves (there was plenty of room in their closet) or anything else comfortable, stylish and fully functional, they gave it all to me.
All of it. All of what they had.
Without blinking an eye.
I guess that’s what all parents were supposed to do back then – are still supposed to do in this day and age – but I find out now from my friends and relatives that it didn’t always happen in their homes.
As one relative told me sadly, "My mom was upset that she ever had any kids."
My parents had one and were thrilled to death.
Being selfless and not selfish, giving and not greedy, gracious and not grouchy, caring and not cruel, and kind and not curt, is a choice.
It comes as a result of love – the unconditional kind.
That’s the only kind my mom ever knew, and she delivered it in little doses day after day after day.
Sometimes it came in very little doses, as in an extra pack of baseball cards.
But it meant a lot.
And now, looking back, it means even more – more than I could ever say, really.
To all the moms out there, thank you so much for all the little extra somethings you keep providing, and enjoy your special day.