From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul 2

A Worthy Investment

The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of the tires.

Dorothy Parker

When we were growing up, we always suspected our mother was a little bit crazy. One day in particular stands out in my mind. It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall, and Mom had been running errands all day. We five kids were raking leaves in the front yard when Mom pulled into the driveway. She was driving our beat-up old pickup truck. (It still amazes me that she wasn’t embarrassed to be seen in that thing.)

“Hey kids, come see what I got!” Mom yelled excitedly, and we rushed over to investigate. We never knew what Mom would be up to. She climbed up into the back of the truck, flung her arms open wide, and cried, “Ta-daa! Can you believe it was free?” She wore an enormous smile of anticipation.

Climbing into the pickup to join her, we saw the ugliest couch in the world. It had once been blue and red plaid, but now it was faded, stained and the stuffing was coming out in spots.

“Mother, please tell me you’re not putting this in the living room!” I groaned, dreading the embarrassment of explaining this monstrosity to my friends. Teenage boys were supposed to pull stunts like this, not mothers! Sometimes, I thought, Mom was just nuts.

“Of course not!” Mom laughed. “I’m going to put it in the garage. You see, I had this idea that we could clean out the garage a little bit and make it into a kids’ hangout room. Mr. Larson down the street said we could have his old Ping-Pong table for only ten dollars if we wanted it, and we’ll set that up in there, too. Then, when friends come over you can hang out in the garage, stay up late and not bother anybody! So what do you think?”

I looked at my brothers and sisters, who were obviously excited by the idea. “Hooray!” Chris yelled. “It can be a guys-only hangout. No girls allowed. Right, John?” John was quick to agree, but Mom interrupted as my sisters and I began to protest.

“We’ll all share it. You know that’s how we do things around here! But before we do anything else, we’ve got to get that garage cleaned out. Let’s go!” Rakes and leaf piles were deserted as we followed Mom to the garage. I had to admit, as crazy as Mom was to bring home a nasty couch, the idea of a hangout room was starting to grow on me. There was already a basketball hoop and a dartboard outside the garage. This could actually become a pretty cool place to hang out. I wasn’t so sure my girlfriends were into Ping-Pong, but at least we could sit on the couch (once I found a clean blanket to cover those spots) and talk.

Our garage quickly became a neighborhood favorite where kids in the neighborhood could hang out and relax. Mom couldn’t have been happier. She loved having lots of young people around the house. They all loved her, too, and treated her like one of the gang. Sometimes I would come home at night with friends and end up going to bed while Mom and my friends were still sitting up chatting! Everyone considered her their friend, and I was secretly very proud of having a “cool” mom.

Mom made our house a place that was always open to our friends, no matter who they were or what their background and reputation were. Our parents were always very strict about our going out at night to parties and on dates, but Mom was always quick to remind us that she was glad to have all our friends come to our house. We could always bring the party home!

Her real concern was that we were safe. She was much happier knowing that the party was going on downstairs instead of somewhere else! I think that Mom and Dad probably passed many sleepless hours, while Ping-Pong games and basketball tournaments went on outside their bedroom window at all hours of the night. But we never once heard them complain. To them, it was a worthwhile sacrifice.

Mom wasn’t the kind of mother who always had cookies and milk waiting for us and our friends. Instead she had refrigerated cookie dough, brownie mixes and microwave popcorn available twenty-four hours a day. Even now, when my husband and I come to visit my parents, we can count on seeing my brothers and sisters and friends there in the kitchen. Sometimes, even when my siblings aren’t there, their friends are! Mom has so endeared herself to them by her open heart and open house policy, they know they can count on her to listen when no one else will.

We still have that old couch in the garage. Although it’s pretty much destroyed, no one wants to part with it. For us, it’s a very special monument to Mom’s investment in our lives and our relationships.

Allison Yates Gaskins

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