36: The Separation

36: The Separation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

The Separation

Mothers and fathers do really crazy things with the best of intentions.

~Rosalind Wiseman

When I graduated from college and moved to the other side of the state, Mom was downhearted. The next year, when my sister graduated from college and moved across the country, Mom was dejected. And when neither of us got home to visit for the next year, Mom was downright miserable.

So, I wasn’t surprised when Mom called me the weekend before Thanksgiving to complain.

“It’s not right,” Mom grumbled. “Neither you nor your sister came home for any holidays this year—not Christmas, not Easter, not even Groundhog Day.”

“Why would we come home for Groundhog Day?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” Mom replied. “But it would have been nice.”

“I told you I just can’t make it home right now,” I said.

“Then I guess I should break the news to you now,” Mom sighed. “Your father and I have decided on a separation.”

This couldn’t be happening. Not my parents! I hadn’t even known anything was wrong, but obviously it had been a while since I’d been home.

Shortly after hanging up with Mom, I received a series of frantic texts from my sister. She’d heard the news, too.

I rushed to my laptop and scheduled a last-minute flight home on Wednesday in time to meet my sister when she arrived at the airport. We planned to share a rental car to my parents’ house.

Wednesday evening, my sister and I shared a long hug at the airport when she disembarked from her flight. Her arrival had been delayed due to bad weather in the Midwest, so I’d had plenty of time to claim my luggage and pick up the rental car before she arrived.

“What’s going on?” my sister asked. “Mom called me nonchalantly mentioning a separation.”

“Same for me,” I replied as we climbed into the car. “I thought everything was fine.”

Forty minutes later, we reached our parents’ colonial, suburban home. The windows were brightly lit, and pumpkins lined the front steps.

“Hello,” called my sister, rapping on the back door as we stepped into the kitchen. “Mom? Dad?”

“What are you doing here?” answered Mom. She was at the sink washing dishes in her apron. She grabbed us in a hug. “The kids are home!” she called to our father.

Dad emerged from the den, smiling. “What a surprise,” he said, hugging us.

“You shouldn’t be surprised,” I responded, taking off my coat, “especially after Mom’s phone call.”

“What phone call?” asked Dad.

“The call about the separation,” answered my sister.

“Oh, brother.” Dad tucked his hands in his pockets and began walking back toward the den.

“Hold it,” said my sister, folding her arms. “What’s going on?”

Dad shook his head. “Your mother told me to mind my own business, or she wouldn’t make pumpkin pie. And I want pumpkin pie.” He disappeared into the den.

“Yes, about the separation . . .” Mom said as she scooped her Thanksgiving-themed salt-and-pepper shakers off the stove and handed one to each of us. “I’m giving you these.”

I got the Mr. Pilgrim saltshaker; he stood at attention in his buckle hat with a musket in one arm and a turkey in the other. My sister got the Mrs. Pilgrim peppershaker; she wore a bonnet and held a pumpkin.

“What’s this?” inquired my sister.

“Like I told you,” Mom said, “your father and I decided on a separation—of the pilgrim salt-and-pepper shakers.”

“No, no, no!” I pointed at Mom. “You said ‘separation,’ but you never said ‘salt-and-pepper-shakers.’ We thought you and Dad were getting a separation.”

Mom held up her hands, laughing. “Your father and I have been married for twenty-six years,” she said. “We can’t separate! Your father could never survive on his own.”

“I can hear you!” Dad shouted from the den.

“And you know it’s true,” answered Mom. She motioned to my sister and me. “Sit, relax. I’ll make tea.”

“Mom, you lied to us,” said my sister.

Mom shook her head. “No, you misunderstood. That’s all right, we’ll have plenty of room at the table tomorrow.” Mom put the kettle on the stove, and then shrugged her shoulders. “All I know is that I no longer have pilgrim salt-and-pepper-shakers, but my children, who haven’t been home in ages, are here for Thanksgiving.”

“This is unbelievable,” I said to my sister. “We were outsmarted by our mother and a pair of ceramic pilgrims.”

“I guess the important point is that children should come home on a regular basis,” said Mom. “That way, they’ll know for sure what’s happening with their family.”

“What are we supposed to do with half a set of shakers?” asked my sister.

“They’re a nice memento.” Mom grinned. “A reminder to visit home more often.”

When I got home that Sunday, I placed Mr. Pilgrim on my night-stand—a token of my lesson learned. My sister keeps Mrs. Pilgrim on her desk at work.

I know Mom has a set of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus salt-and-pepper-shakers, so if I stay away from home too long, another separation announcement might be imminent. Just to be on the safe side, my sister and I now make sure to visit our parents as often as possible.

~David Hull

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