62: Midnight Grace

62: Midnight Grace

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

Midnight Grace

A mom forgives us all our faults, not to mention one or two we don’t even have.

~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

Mom and I stood in the hallway, nose to nose. Her hands were on her hips and her feet peeped out from her long robe. Even her toes looked curled and angry.

“I think you’d better go to bed now,” she said. “I’ll be talking with your dad when he gets home. He’ll be in to give you your consequence.”

I spun around and stomped to my bedroom. Then I yanked the curtains shut, flipped the light switch, and plopped down on my bed. 10:15. The green digital numbers reported that my dad would be home from second shift soon. Dad was a gentle man, but I knew that I’d be in trouble. Worst of all, I deserved it.

I’d had the worst day at junior high school. My best friend, Mary Ellen, decided to join forces with cool-girl Regina. So there was no room for me at the lunch table. I ate my turkey-on-wheat alone, in the library, pretending to be immersed in a book. Then we square danced in P.E. class. I was nervous about holding hands with a boy. The boy was unkind, refused to hold my cold, clammy hand, and called me Trout for the rest of the day.

Of course, none of this had anything to do with my mom, except that I’d been terrible to her that afternoon. Years later I’d learn the terminology — misplaced anger — but on that day I’d just been hurt and mad and Mom was the retaliation target.

I watched the numbers morph until 10:30. “Might as well lie down,” I muttered. I pulled back the comforter and slid between flannel sheets. As I lay there, I replayed the day’s events through my mind.

Mom had baked cookies and they’d been fresh, piled on a plate, when I got home from school. Peanut butter. Sprinkled with sugar and imprinted with the tines of a fork.

“Couldn’t you have made chocolate chip?” I said.

Mom looked up from the table where she helped my sister with her homework. “I could have,” she said. “But I made peanut butter. Why don’t you pour a glass of milk?” Then she smiled.

Later that night, when she pulled chicken from the oven, I balked again. Never mind that Dad was at work and Mom still put a nice meal on the table. I wanted hamburgers. “No one even likes that kind of chicken, Mom. Why didn’t you make hamburgers?”

Mom breathed deep and ran her fingers through her long blond hair. “I made chicken and I’ve never heard anyone complain about it before,” she said.

And it went downhill from there. I growled and complained until Mom hit her limit, lost her cool, and we had a shouting match in the hall.

By the time I heard the garage door open, I felt pretty bad about the whole thing.

I lay in bed and listened. The creak of the door. Dad’s boots squeaking on the tile. Muffled voices in the kitchen. Then silence.

I wondered what my consequence would be. After soaking in the dark for a while, I didn’t really care anymore. I’d hurt my mom. I’d seen it in her green eyes.

Why had I taken my troubles out on Mom? I knew that if I’d come home and shared what had happened, Mom would’ve listened. She would have offered encouragement and compassion. Then she would’ve said something funny and we’d have ended up laughing.

But I hadn’t done that.

Before long, I heard Dad’s quiet, bootless footfalls pass back down the hall. Then I heard the bathroom door shut. Then the rush of water. “Why is he taking his shower first?” I wondered.

The longer I waited, the heavier my heart felt. I considered getting up to apologize, but Mom didn’t want to see me. I decided it was better to wait for Dad.

The sounds of the night were exaggerated in the dark. The rumble of the heater. The wind outside my window. Then a strange sound. A whirring from the kitchen. The clank of dishes. “What’s going on?” I wondered.

The minutes stretched long, but finally my bedroom door creaked open. A shaft of light stretched across the room and stung my eyes. Soft footsteps to my bedside. Mom’s hair slid past my cheek as she leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Why don’t you come down to the kitchen?” she said.

I shimmied out of my bed and followed Mom through the bedroom and down the hall. As I passed the bathroom, I noticed the door was open. Dad had gone to bed. I was halfway to the kitchen when I smelled the thick, juicy scent of hamburgers.

I rounded the corner, puzzled, confused, and wondering if I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming. The kitchen table was set for two. “Have a seat,” Mom said. She bent to lift a tray of French fries from the oven.

I sat.

Mom scooped the steamy fries to our plates and then poured thick, vanilla shakes into the tall glasses she’d set on the table. Then she slid two burgers from the griddle onto rolls and placed them on our plates. Then she sat down, too.

“Ketchup?” she asked. She tilted the bottle in my direction.

I reached out to grasp the bottle, but I couldn’t. My eyes turned to my pajama-clad lap. “Mom, I’ve been awful to you today. I had a bad day at school and I came home and took it all out on you. You didn’t deserve it. And I don’t deserve this,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

I looked up.

Mom put the bottle down. She stretched her hand across the table. “You’re in a tough spot, Shawnie. Halfway to being a woman. Halfway from being a girl. I remember those days.” She smiled and tears welled in her eyes. “And I forgive you.” She stretched her fingers toward me.

I reached out and took her hand, soft and comforting.

“Now,” she said. “How about some ketchup for that burger?”

I wiped my own tears and nodded.

Mom and I sat in the kitchen and munched burgers while the night wrapped around our house. We slurped shakes, crunched fries, laughed and cried.

And I learned a lot about grace.

It’s now twenty-seven years later, and I’m the mother of five sons. They are good boys, but there are many, many times when a hefty consequence is laid out for one of them. And rightly so.

But then there are the other times. The times when I remember that night. The silence of the dark broken by Mom’s laughter. The warmth of her hand around mine. The sizzle of the burgers and the salty, crisp fries.

The night when I should’ve been served a consequence.

But instead, my precious mom pulled out the griddle, wiped the dust from the blender, and dished up a hearty portion of grace.

~Shawnelle Eliasen

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