30: Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Gloom of Night

30: Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Gloom of Night

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Gloom of Night

I know how to do anything—I’m a mom.

~Roseanne Barr

The rain came on fast, with those big fat drops that appear out of nowhere, and before I knew it my doll and I were drenched! My friend Susan and I had been playing with our dolls in the alley, watching our big brothers play kickball and carefully guarding our dolls from the big red balls flying in our direction.

But now the skies were dark, with thunder and lightning raging. Dozens of kids fled to their homes. I raced down the alley with my carriage and my doll blanket. It wasn’t until I was safely inside that I realized, to my utter dismay, that my doll Susie (whom I had named after my playmate) was missing.

Is there any childhood panic or despair like that of a five-year-old girl whose only doll has been lost in the rain? So my sweet, beautiful mother went out into the dark and the rain to look for her. I was hysterical, crying for Susie and frantic that she would be washed down the alley and lost forever.

Later, the door opened and my mom walked in, shivering and soaking wet. She did not have Susie. I started howling again, but she hugged me and told me that as soon as the sun came up the next day we would go out and find her.

And so we did. She enlisted my dad, my brothers and sister, and all our friends on the block to search up and down the alleys and streets for Susie. It was the first time in my short life that I realized my mother was not completely magical, for after an hour or two even she, with all her wondrous powers of healing and fixing and making things wonderful again, couldn’t find my beloved doll.

I don’t remember what happened next. I suppose I cried and cried. But I think my mom must have promised that everything was going to be fine, because I was overjoyed but not surprised when, two days later, she came into the house carrying Susie.

“Kathleen, look what happened! The doll hospital called to say that someone found Susie and brought her into the hospital. They cleaned her up and fixed her hair (my brother had cut her hair the year before) and got her a new dress because her other one was so muddy. They heard that we were looking for her and they called us to say she was all better and ready to come home.”

I looked at my magic mother and my beautiful doll. Susie must have been very sick, because her skin wasn’t nearly as cuddly, and her eyes weren’t exactly the same color, and her red hair was kind of orange now. I missed her red plaid dress, but the new blue dress they gave her in the hospital was pretty too. I hugged her and told her how much I had missed her and how happy I was that she was home.

Fast forward to a Wednesday morning twenty-five years later. I was singing with my music class, an exuberant group of kindergartners. One of the little girls had her doll with her, and she was singing and dancing with her around the piano. Suddenly, a cloud lifted from my memory. The blazing sun of realization finally dawned. I started giggling to myself, then laughing like a crazy lady. At the five-minute break, I marched straight into the faculty lounge and dialed the familiar phone number of my childhood.

“Hello,” said my magic mother.

“That wasn’t really Susie you brought home that day, was it,” I accused.

“I’ve got the dumbest kids in America,” she said.

She’d been waiting twenty-five years for that phone call, and she didn’t miss a beat when it finally came.

She remains my magic mother, the one who was so chilly in the air-conditioned restaurant in Hawaii that she took the tablecloth off and wrapped it around her shoulders. The one who, a year before her death, was so tired of looking at the brown and dying flowers in the front yard that she got a spray can and painted them bright purple.

Her magic wasn’t strong enough for the cancer that claimed her, but the memory of her love and tenderness with her children can still, after all these years, heal our broken hearts and bring our lost loves back to us.

Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night was going to keep my magic mother from consoling her little girl. She was going to find Susie, whether she had to swim to her, or dig her out of the mud, or enlist the “doll hospital” to do it. And you know what? She’s still rescuing me, still consoling me, still loving me, twenty-nine years after her death.

That’s the strongest magic of all.

~Kathy McGovern

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