MOTHER'S DAY

MOTHER'S DAY

From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Mother’s Day

It’s been 26 years since my Army buddy Dan and I loaded his metallic blue 427 Corvette with ice coolers, cutoffs and T-shirts, and drove past the somber-faced military police at Fort McClellan’s main gate. Armed with weekend passes and pockets full of crisp, new dollars from our first week’s pay at our Army Reserve summer camp, we were on our way to Florida—and the Army was the last thing on our minds. Blessed by not finding our names on the weekend duty roster, we had decided a weekend at the beach would be just the thing we needed to recover from four days of C-rations and mosquitoes in the hills of eastern Alabama.

Our camp that year was early. The May weather had been delightful, and with the top down and stereo up, we cruised into Birmingham and decided to stop to phone our mothers and wish them happy Mother’s Day before resuming our journey south on I-65.

Reaching my mother at home, I learned she had just returned from grocery shopping. I could tell by the tone in her voice that she was disappointed I wouldn’t be spending her special day with the family. “Have a nice trip and be careful. We’ll miss you,” she said.

When I got back into the car, I could tell by Dan’s face that he was suffering from the same guilty conscience that was haunting me. Then we had the brainstorm. Send flowers, of course.

Pulling into the parking lot of a southside Birmingham florist, we each scribbled a note to go with the flowers that would absolve us of the guilt of spending our only free weekend on the beach rather than with dear old Mom.

We waited while the clerk assisted a little boy who was selecting a floral arrangement, obviously for his mother. Fidgeting by now, we were anxious to pay for our flowers and be on our way.

The little boy beamed with pride as he turned to me and held up his selection while the clerk rang up his order. “I’m sure my mama would love these,” he said. “These are carnations. Mama always loved carnations.“

“I’m going to put them with some flowers from our yard,” he added, “before I take them to the cemetery.”

I looked up at the clerk, who was turning away and reaching for a handkerchief. Then I looked at Dan. We watched the little boy leave the store with his prized bouquet and crawl into the back seat of his dad’s car.

“Have you fellas made a selection?” asked the clerk, barely able to speak.

“I guess we have,” answered Dan. We dropped our notes in the trash and walked to his car in silence.

“I’ll pick you up Sunday evening about five,” said Dan, as he pulled up in front of my parents’ house.

“I’ll be ready,” I answered, as I wrestled my duffel bag out of the back of the car.

Florida would have to wait.

Niki Sepsas

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