12: Cheer Leader

12: Cheer Leader

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Cheer Leader

Cookies are made of butter and love.

~Norwegian Proverb

As I stepped off the school bus and looked up at the house, I suspected she knew. She was peering around the curtain through the kitchen window as I made my way up the driveway. My five siblings raced past me, but I slowly sauntered along, kicking the gravel as I approached the back door. The buttery smell of freshly baked cookies filled the air as I opened the door and slipped off my shoes. As my brothers madly reached for cookies, my sister slapped their hands away.

Mom was oblivious to the chaos as she dried her hands on her apron and looked at me, examining my eyes. Donning her oven mitt, she pulled out a cookie sheet with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, all the while keeping one eye on my ravenous brothers and one on me going through my backpack. I threw down my backpack, and headed straight to my room with my head down. I shut my door, only to hear a light knock.

“Vicki, can I come in?” her quiet voice asked as I watched the doorknob turn. She untied her flour-stained apron, and held her arms out to me. “I called the office at school to find out. I know you didn’t make it.”

“You what?” I couldn’t believe that she would be so nosy as to call the office to find out who made the cheerleading squad. But when I felt her arms embrace me, I immediately felt her empathy and started crying, while rehashing all the horrible details. Through my sobs, I somehow relayed the entire scene.

“Mom, they posted the girls who made the squad on a big white poster board taped right on the wall of the main office! I could see from down the hall that my name wasn’t on it!

“Megan and Sara’s names were on it! Can you believe they made the team but not me? They can’t do aerials or back handsprings!”

She just listened and nodded, as I relayed the painful details of how my friends’ names were on the list, but not mine. I cried profusely, retelling her all the earth-shattering minutiae and she just sat and listened, stroking my hair.

“Mom, I even forgot an entire verse of the Eskymos’ Fight Song! Can you believe that?”

She looked away at that one, and I realized she was fighting giggles as she covered her mouth. “How can you laugh at that, Mom? It’s not funny!”

“I’m sorry, Vick. It just reminds me of my own sophomore year when I tried out for the flag corps and I kept dropping my flag in tryouts!” Her blue eyes twinkled, as she looked straight into mine, then tipped her head back in laughter.

I couldn’t help but giggle through my tear-filled eyes. “Did you make the team?” I asked, half-laughing and half-crying.

“Of course not. I was shaking so much that I was surprised I could flip the flag even once!”

We laughed together, and she wiped my eyes, holding my chin in her rough hands. “Vicki, I know you’re devastated now, and I was disappointed too, but pretty soon, you’ll find something else you love to do, and you’ll look back and laugh at this.”

I had to admit, I no longer felt like throwing up.

“Oh, don’t start,” I laughed, hitting her playfully on the arm. “I’m getting sick of everyone telling me it’ll be okay, and that I can always try out for basketball.”

Still holding my chin in her hands, she said, “Vicki, we’re all just trying to encourage you.” Of course, she was right. I hugged her, and as I looked over her shoulder, I realized my two little brothers had cracked open the door and were peeking through, watching us. She didn’t budge though, and kept wiping my eyes until I smiled up at her.

Ever since I can remember, my mom always seemed to say just the right words, and has always given each of us the attention we needed. Even though she had five other people’s problems to attend to, Mom made me feel like my problem was her only concern. Each one of us at different times was her only concern.

After wiping my tears and listening to my tale of woe, she said something that I’ll never forget. Though I was devastated at the time, my mom knew exactly how to soothe my pain. From that day on, she ended our many talks with two simple sentences: “Vicki, keep your chin up. That way, you can always see what’s coming next.”

And she was right — through all the disappointments of high school, she somehow made me feel that the crisis at hand would pass and there would soon be something new to look forward to. Just one month after consoling me, she was the first to congratulate me with another plate of cookies when I made the gymnastics team.

I’ll never forget that day, because my mom gave me the most simple, yet most important gift a mother can give her daughter. She didn’t get me the Guess jeans or the new stereo I had been begging for. She taught me compassion. She taught me that a mother puts her children’s needs ahead of her own. And I have used her gift in helping my own two children through their most troubling times. Whenever I hug and encourage my kids with their grandmother’s words, it always helps to dry their tears.

My mom raised my five siblings and me to “keep our chins up” and always look to the next challenge — and in true mom style, she never asked for anything in return — well, maybe just a little bite of a chocolate chip cookie.

~Victoria LaFave

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners