81: The Pink Wallet

81: The Pink Wallet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

The Pink Wallet

My mother’s love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, her intelligence reflected in my daughters.

~Michelle Obama

My mother was always very open with my siblings and me about being adopted. In addition to having three stepchildren and two biological children, my mother adopted eight of us. When I’d come home crying because kids in school would tease me about being adopted, my mother would look me in the eye and say, “You tell them ‘my mom chose me out of hundreds of babies in the world, and your parents were stuck with you!’ ” I quickly learned to recite those words to anyone who teased me about being adopted.

Mom was tough. She became a single parent by the time I was a teenager and made it clear that it was not an excuse to abandon “the sense the good Lord gave us.” So, at a very young age, we were taught to think before we reacted.

I’ll never forget the time my sisters and I found a wallet in the park. The four of us were between the ages of eight and ten. We thought long and hard about what we wanted to do with our riches. We voted and decided it would be best to splurge on chips, candy, and pop with the few dollars that were inside. Oh yeah, we were going to go crazy in our neighborhood gas station!

We took the bright pink wallet home and stashed it in our room. It had about three dollars and no ID in it. Being rich was hard work, so we took shifts guarding the wallet. I’m sure my mother picked up on the slightly different attitudes we were all displaying because of our newfound treasure. When my mom fussed about making sure our chores were completed, the four of us would go into our room and talk smack about using the three bucks to buy a house of our own; none of us would have to do chores if we didn’t want to. Yep, that’s probably when she really caught onto something being “off.”

When each of us was alone with her, she’d ask questions such as, “How was your day?” or “Do you have any homework?” We were convinced she was trying to see who would break first. So we met in our room and went back and forth trying to determine if she knew. Our meeting turned into each of us defending ourselves and the part we played in finding and keeping the wallet. There was only one thing left to do: bury the wallet in the sandbox and never discuss it again.

Whenever Mom felt like something was definitely off, she would call us into the family room. She would sit us down on the old church pew that served as extra seating when all the couch space was taken. Then she would walk from one end of the pew to the other, with a stern look on her face, lecturing us about the kind of children she didn’t raise. She would repeatedly ask questions she had the answers to, such as “What’s your name?” and “Where were you just a minute ago?” When these questions were asked, we knew any response would be taken as “getting smart,” but remaining quiet would be seen as “disrespect.” So . . . I’d cry. If no one cracked, she’d assign individual punishments. I can still hear her to this day saying, “Cash in every last Barbie, missy.” Yep, everyone got what felt like a death sentence.

I’m not sure who broke down and told Mom about the wallet, but once she found out, she made us pile into our fifteen-passenger van, and she sped out of the driveway burning rubber.

We got out of the van with tear-filled eyes and walked into the Southfield Police Department station. Mom (who knew just about everyone in Southfield, Michigan) walked in like she had a badge of her own and told the officers to arrest us all. I was mortified. Begging and pleading between our sobs, we reassured our mother that we were sorry. Mom, who was famous for getting her point across, wasn’t convinced. To ensure that we would “use the sense the good Lord gave us,” she grabbed her fanny pack (because this was the ’90s!) and left.

The police officers played along and gave us a firm talking-to. My siblings and I were so grateful when Mom came and picked us up after what felt like hours (but in reality was probably fifteen minutes). We were so happy to see her and to know that, no matter what we did, she was there for us. It didn’t matter if we had gotten in trouble or did something she wasn’t pleased with; she was there for us. That’s all that mattered.

Many may think what my mom did was a bit extreme. Trust me, when my Barbies were taken away, so did I. But when I look back at Mom’s methods, I understand that no matter how big or small the infraction, her mission was to teach us right from wrong. Because she cared about us, she drove her point home by exposing us to potential consequences. She preferred to show us while we were children instead of having “life” show us later on. But a mother’s concern was coupled with compassion during the ride home from the police station that day. Her words of comfort broke the silence: “You are all good kids.”

~Candace L. Parker

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