98: Mom Versus the Three Stooges

98: Mom Versus the Three Stooges

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Mom Versus the Three Stooges

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

~Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

I tumbled down the school bus steps and dashed up the sidewalk, accompanied by my brother, Joe and my sister, Julie. Throwing open the front door, we spilled into the living room and switched on the television set.

“Well, how nice to see you, too,” Mom said, appearing in the doorway. Our baby sister wriggled in her arms, anxious to be a part of the group. “Aren’t you even going to say hello to your little sister?”

Cathy was an adorable baby with wispy blond curls and big brown eyes, but we were already absorbed in our latest discovery. Our after-school television show had begun airing another series and we couldn’t get enough of these three funny guys. They entertained us from the moment they appeared on the screen. We cheered at their clumsy pratfalls and crowed with delight at their crazy antics. And a food fight, complete with whipped cream pies, caused us no end of laughter.

We’d never seen anything like The Three Stooges and after the first episode we were hooked. Nothing meant so much to us as getting home on time to watch our favorite show.

Despite Mom’s admonishments and Dad’s threats, the three of us began to mimic the Stooges’ outrageous behavior. We quoted our favorite Stooge sayings at odd moments, but especially during supper. If Mom prepared a dessert, one of us was bound to say, “I knew you were coming, so I baked a cake.”

Grilled cheese sandwiches or macaroni and cheese? “Moe, Larry, the cheese! Moe, Larry, the cheese!”

We even learned a new word. That word was lummox. As in, “You big lummox, get out of my chair.”

Mom had her own saying. “No more Stooges!”

Our affair with the Stooges might have continued, for Mom was close to overwhelmed with three school age kids, a baby, and a household, but with the decline of our table manners and an attempted food fight involving peas and mashed potatoes, she decided to take action.

Mom declared war on The Three Stooges.

It was a sneak attack. One afternoon we came home to find Mom at the door. “Come on out to the kitchen, kids. I’ve fixed sandwiches and you can tell me all about your day.”

“What kind of sandwiches?”

“Egg salad.”

Whatever Mom used to make egg salad was magical, transporting the regular sandwich to something heavenly. And she’d even sliced off the crusts! We sat down for a yummy after-school feast.

Mom questioned us about our school activities while we took our places around the kitchen table. Joe recounted the details of his geography test, I pulled out my almost-finished book report and Julie began selecting pictures from a stack of magazines for an art project. Even baby Cathy participated, as we took turns holding her on our laps.

Before we knew it, an hour had slipped by. And so had an episode of The Three Stooges.

Distracting us worked at first, but we quickly became wise to Mom’s tactics. If Mom fixed sandwiches or even if she baked brownies, we gobbled them down and sneaked back to the living room in time to catch at least the last few minutes of The Three Stooges.

A full-out attack was Mom’s next strategy. She marched into the living room and shut off the television. Right in the middle of a Stooges bank robbery.

We protested. We begged. We made promises of finished chores and finished homework and no more soda pop except for weekends.

But Mom was adamant. She shushed us with a look that would have made even Moe shake in his shoes. She plopped Cathy in her playpen and sat down on the couch. Then she picked up a book from the end table.

My brother groaned. My sister and I hung our heads. I liked to read, but even I didn’t believe for one minute that any book had the ability to replace an episode of The Three Stooges.

“This was my favorite book when I was your age,” Mom said. “I loved it and I know you will, too.”

Oh no. Not only was she going to read us a book, but this was a really old book. A book from when she was a kid!

The book was large and thick, much bigger than the paperback mysteries that Mom tried to read whenever she got a chance. The colorful cover of the book was full of movement. The little girl with dark curls and rosy cheeks cavorted down a dirt path with two goats, a bouquet of pink and yellow wildflowers in one hand. A boy with a stick in his hand and a red cap on his head followed behind her while a snow-covered mountain rose in the blue background.

“The name of this book is Heidi,” my mom announced.

I won’t say we were captivated. Not at first. We cast longing glances at the blank television screen and fidgeted, playing with our shoelaces and poking at one another. Mom ignored us, already absorbed in the story of a little girl who became abandoned on the top of a mountain with a gruff old man. And after a few minutes, Mom’s calm voice and the story stirred my imagination so that I no longer reacted when my brother shot a paper wad in my direction.

“That’s the end of Chapter One,” Mom said as she closed the book. “Time to start your homework.”

I looked up in surprise. I’d been picturing the mountaintop hut and the wind blowing through the old fir trees. “Wait,” I said. “What happens next? Does Heidi have to stay on the mountain with her grouchy grandfather?”

Mom just shook her head, a glint in her eye. “You’ll find out tomorrow when I read the next chapter.”

Perhaps it was the loving way in which she cradled the old book in her hands or how Mom developed a different voice for each character that grabbed our attention, but by the end of Chapter Three we were enthralled. We didn’t poke and we didn’t fidget. We just listened as Mom read about Heidi. How thrilled she was with the beauty of the mountains and the crimson snow. Her growing friendship with Peter and how she won over Grandfather. Little Swan and Little Bear, the goats. When Heidi was forced to leave the mountain to help care for Clara, I was devastated.

For a little while, I despised pretty, blond Clara. Even if she had to spend her life in a wheelchair.

Reading aloud was one of the best gifts my mom ever gave us. For me, it meant leaving behind the world of school and homework and the worries of whether or not I’d ever be a part of the popular group. Settled on the living room rug with a big pillow, I would close my eyes and go hiking with Heidi and Peter in the mountains. Instead of fretting over my hideous new glasses, I concerned myself with Clara’s frail health, wondering if she’d ever walk and if Heidi would ever go home to her mountaintop.

To this day, whenever I pick up a book, I think of my mom. I always open the book to the title page and in my head, it’s her voice I hear, announcing the title and “Chapter One.” Because of Mom, as I read a book, I’m able to picture the characters and the settings and the action as if I had a movie screen in my head. Because of her, I developed a lifetime habit of reading that has given me countless hours of imagination and introspection and joy. Something that not even the Three Stooges could hope to accomplish.

~Monica Morris

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