1: Mom Goes to the Mountain

1: Mom Goes to the Mountain

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Mom Goes to the Mountain

I may look quiet and reserved but if you mess with my kids, I will show you seven different kinds of crazy.

~Author Unknown

My mother taught me a lot of things, not just the usual mother-daughter stuff like cooking and cleaning and how to dress. The major lesson I learned from her was this: When you have a problem, don’t waste your time with middlemen. Go straight to the top, to the head honcho, to get the problem solved.

I watched my mother in action many times. One of my favorite incidents was when my brother Ted was attending college in a little town in Vermont. The campus was lovely, situated on top of a steep mountain with spectacular views. There was a problem though. At the start of his sophomore year, Ted called home and told my parents, “They said I don’t have a room on campus. They said they didn’t get the deposit.”

“Where are you staying?” my father asked.

“They have this house for visitors down at the foot of the mountain,” Ted said. “It doesn’t have any heat.” Now, this was early fall and the weather is nice that time of year in Vermont. But winter comes pretty quickly to New England — cold, windy, and snowy. Ted didn’t say what we all knew: It was also a long trek up that mountain to the campus. When winter came, he would have a hard time making it to class through all the snow.

My mother was angry. “They’re crazy — I know I sent that room-deposit check,” she said. “I’m going up there and straighten this out.”

I thought that was a great idea. I knew Mom could handle the situation. She would get it resolved quickly. But what I didn’t expect, and what I didn’t think was a great idea, was that I was going with her. That past summer, Mom and I had taken a Greyhound bus trip from Kentucky to Nevada and back. We both had miles left on the bus ticket — enough for the round trip from New York to Vermont and back.

I tried to protest, saying I didn’t want to miss school, but I soon found myself on a Greyhound bus with my mother, heading to Vermont. The father of one of Ted’s college friends picked us up at the station and took us to the campus.

Mom marched right into the Student Life office, the canceled check in her hand and a determined glint in her eye. She spoke to the comptroller about the problem, reiterating that she and my father had indeed paid the room deposit. She wanted Ted back in the dorm. Now. The comptroller said the dorms were full and there was nothing he could do, ma’am, sorry.

My mother was short of stature, but when she was indignant, somehow she got taller. She stood up straight, looked the comptroller in the eye and said, “Where does the president of the college live?”

The comptroller probably thought Mom was bluffing. He had a little smirk on his face as he told us where the president lived. He didn’t think my mother would go there. He didn’t know my mother!

Mom beckoned to me. “Let’s go.” She was not bluffing. She was going to see the president of the college. In his house! She was not going to let her son freeze at the bottom of the mountain and trudge through mounds of snow to get to class. She had paid for Ted to live in the dorm and she was not leaving Vermont until he was in the dorm.

The next thing I knew, we were standing on the porch of the president ’s house in the little town at the bottom of the mountain. I was mortified. I hadn’t wanted to come here in the first place, and now I really wished I had stayed home. I was beginning to think Mom was going too far.

The president’s wife came to the door and let us in. Mom introduced herself gently but pulled no punches. “I want to speak to the president,” she said.

“He’s busy right now,” the woman said.

Mom smiled. “That’s quite all right. We’ll wait,” she said. And we plunked down on a sofa in the living room. The president’s wife was startled, but she recovered enough to offer us some tea. Soon the president himself came in. Mom explained the problem. The president realized right away she was not going to leave his house until he had done something — namely, found a room in the dorm for Ted. He promised to take care of the matter. He escorted us to the door, but Mom had the last word.

“I’ll call you next week to make sure everything is all right,” she said. By now, everyone on campus knew she would do exactly that. And if they didn’t want her to come back, they had better get Ted a dorm room pronto.

The next night, after Mom and I returned home, Ted called. He played on the college’s basketball team and hadn’t been able to accompany Mom on her mission to get him back up the mountain, but he had heard what happened from a lot of people on campus. He thought it was pretty funny. And he was in a dorm.

That college did not soon forget the day Jane Tyler came to campus and shredded the red tape to get her son in the room that was rightfully his. My mother taught me some very valuable life lessons that day in Vermont: Never take “no” for an answer. Always stick up for what you know is right. And most important, don’t be afraid to go straight to the top — of either the mountain or the chain of command. Go to the people who can make things happen. They will always remember you for it.

Years later, after graduating, Ted ran into the college’s (now former) president at a function in Washington, D.C. After the usual greetings and handshakes, the president said, “And how is your mother?”

~Tanya J. Tyler

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