Column: ‘Scatty’ youngster took some getting used to for mom

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2002

From my young adult years on there existed between my mother and me a strong and deep friendship that had nothing to do with our relationship. If we had met as strangers I would have been favorably impressed and would have made untold efforts to win her friendship.

I told her this once and rather hoped she’d reply in kind. When she didn’t I was prompt to ask, &uot;If we hadn’t been related would you have liked me?&uot;

Her deliberate and considered reply was, &uot;Yes, once I got used to you.&uot;

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Most of my childhood years were spent in our getting used to each other. There was always an affection between us, but two more different people cannot be imagined. I greatly admired my mother but she was a perfectionist and I was one of those who &uot;muddle through.&uot;

I tolerated her insistence that I practice my scales, make my bed, do my errands, study my Sunday school lesson and comb my hair every time she caught a glimpse of me.

She tolerated many worse things in me. She never thought of me as &uot;bad,&uot; I’m sure. Worse, she thought of me as &uot;scatty.&uot; And if you don’t know what the word means I can be of no help. I’ve never found it in the dictionary. I suspect it comes from &uot;scatter-brained.&uot;

My mother, far ahead of her time in many ways, still lived her life in so orderly a fashion that without looking at a calendar you knew which day of the week it was. She did the washing on Monday, very early in the morning to have it out on the line before the neighbors did. Although one neighbor cheated by doing hers on Sunday night to the scandal of the neighborhood.

The laundry was ironed on Tuesday. Friday, at least in winter, was my favorite day. From mid-October until in the late spring when Nebraska heat made it too uncomfortable, my mother baked bread every Friday night.

Friday was my favorite day anyhow. In the summertime I could go to the library anytime I wanted to and take out as many books as the librarian permitted. During the school months I could go to the library on Fridays when with Saturday and Sunday ahead reading wouldn’t stand between me and my homework.

It was heavenly to come home with an armload of books to a house filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread. I devoured the crispy buttered heels, while I leafed through one of the library books. I had to be careful, though, to eat with only one hand and turn pages with the other.

My mother had strong views on the possibility of my getting butter on the pages of library books. She had even stronger views on my putting food in my mouth from a hand that had been turning pages in a library book. &uot;You don’t know whose house that book has been in.&uot;

In the summer we bought bread from Rodenbrocks’ Grocery Store, about two blocks from our house. Since carrying a loaf of bread two blocks didn’t seem beyond my capabilities, my overly optimistic mother assigned the task to me.

Bread was not pre-sliced then. The loaves of bread I brought home seemed a little out of shape, twisted here and there and bunched in the middle.

Mother complained to my father that she feared Mr. Rodenbrock saved misshapen loaves and palmed them off on a child, too inexperienced to realize what was happening.

Then came the denouement. The bread we bought was Betsy Ross bread. It came wrapped in red and white striped waxed paper. I never ran errands. That would have been boring. I had adventures. The bread, wrapped as it was, looked like an accordion to me.

When my mother glanced out of the window to see me taking my usual shortcut across the schoolhouse yard, she was pained to see me coming home singing at the top of my voice and playing the bread as one plays an accordion.

It was a bad moment for both of us. She was full of remorse for her ill-founded suspicions concerning Mr. Rodenbrock and once again she had come face to face with the probability that I was definitely scatty.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursday.