From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom


The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.
~Honoré de Balzac

It’s funny. I’m sure there were many times I was punished as a child but they have just about faded from my memory. What I do remember well are the times I should have been punished, but was not—especially the time I planned a surprise birthday party.

I planned the party for myself. I was in first grade and I wanted to have a party for my sixth birthday. I guess money was tight because my mother said firmly, “No party.” Well, that didn’t seem right to my still-five-year-old mind. So when I got to school I went up and down the aisles of my classroom whispering invitations to my friends. Apparently I didn’t have the sense to reckon on what lay ahead when all those kids would appear at our door ready for cake, soda and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

But they did appear at the door and my mother was, to put it mildly, the one surprised. We were living in Closter, New Jersey at the time, not far from the “downtown” which was a short strip of Main Street with a few stores on either side. One of those stores was a newsstand/candy store with a soda fountain. So, my mother did the best she could, solving the predicament by giving me money and having my older sister take us to the candy store to get ice cream sodas—a treat we didn’t enjoy every day.

The kids didn’t seem to mind—or if they did, I forgot. I do remember getting gifts, including a copy of my favorite story, The Poky Little Puppy. It wasn’t until years later that I thought about where the money had come from. Had my mother used some of the rent money or the food money... or did she have to go without something for herself? At the time, with the selfishness of a child, I didn’t give that a thought. All I knew was I had my party... and I got my gifts.

My mother was not amused, but she didn’t punish me either. Maybe she appreciated my tenacity or felt a little sorry for me. But she never berated me or seemed to include it in my ever-lengthening list of childhood sins.

I guess there are times a parent just can’t punish a kid... even if the punishment is well deserved. Maybe it’s the heart-melting innocence in a child’s eyes or the good-natured devilment in her smile. Or maybe it’s a reminder of the vulnerability of childhood, the poignancy. Whatever it is at the moment, it’s surely based upon motherly love.

I know that I owe my mother a lot for all that she did do and also for what she didn’t—for all those times when she allowed me to escape unscathed for my little acts of malfeasance.

~Carolyn Mott Ford

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