There were times in Susie’s life when she forgot how much she hated her life and simply wanted to share things with the woman who held the title of “mother.” Wednesday night was one of those times. When she came through the door after school, she was all smiles.
“Hello, my dears!” Mary was hopeful the evening would be pleasant. Because John got home so late, they usually had an early dinner without him. “What can I get for you?” Leftovers were common, and there usually were a few dishes to choose from. Mary was a huge proponent of only eating breakfast foods at breakfast, and that usually caused a huge stink in the house. However, in moments like these where charm and bribery might be necessary, she made the offer. “We have taco casserole and pancakes!”
Susie’s eyes widened to the width of her smile. She knew too this was going to be a good night. “I’ll take pancakes!”
“I don’t care,” Tim said.
Mary went to the fridge and got two plates of taco casserole and one plate of pancakes. She gently placed the plate of sweet, fluffy goodness in front of her daughter and patted her on the shoulder as if to say “only you get pancakes because you’re special.”
When the trio sat, Susie shared her news. “You are looking at the newest cheerleader!”
“Oh my stars! Oh Susie! That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you! Timmy, aren’t you happy for your sister?”
“Tim! That’s not nice! You should be happy for her! It’s a huge accomplishment.”
“But cheerleaders are hot and she’s my sister! It’s not fair.”
As much as she loved her son, sometimes Mary did not understand him. Susie certainly didn’t care. She was dancing in her seat. Mary glanced at her daughter and beamed with pride. There was a hint of nostalgia too, and Susie noticed.
“What is it, mom?”
Mary wasn’t aware she was drifting. “Hmmm? Oh, it’s…nothing.”
“Awww, come on! I wanna know,” Susie pleaded.
“Very well. I used to be a cheerleader too.”
Despite the fact that Susie was shocked to learn this new information, she could see it. Even some parts of Mary’s personality made sense to her then. “No way!”
“Mmmm hmmm. Actually…” she felt herself blushing, “the first time I ever noticed your father was at a practice.”
Susie knew and understood her mother didn’t talk much about her younger life, but it didn’t mean she didn’t want to know more about her. She relished in those rare moments when the Book of Mary cracked open. “Oooooh tell me!”
“Football is serious business in Newcrest. Recruiters from the Newcrest Knights were always at our games. So, you know our facility was the best of the best. The cheerleading squad was no different. We had the best uniforms, best routines, and we won all the competitions,” she said proudly.
Susie was enjoying this walk down memory lane.
“We practiced inside the stadium on the football field for security purposes. Other schools were always trying to sneak in on our rehearsals to steal our material! The walls were high, and the gates were locked. Only us and the ball players, coaches, and authorized guests were allowed in. But that didn’t stop the other boys from trying to get in…” She paused for dramatic effect.
Susie’s eyes grew wider in suspense of how this story related to her father.
“That’s how your father got his nickname!”
“Oh-my-watcher! Dad has a nickname?? You gotta tell me!”
Mary temporarily went back to her dinner for an even more dramatic effect.
She made sure to chew slowly and swallow carefully. It would have been horrible for the girl if Mary just happened to choke and die in the middle of an epic tale.
Mary smiled and took another bite. It had been a very long time since Susie showed this much interest in her. Susie wasn’t going anywhere, and she took a few more bites of her food. She smiled and patted her belly to rub it in before she rebooted this story. “Where was I?”
Susie growled. “Dad’s nickname!!”
“Oh right. So, the boys were constantly trying to find new ways to watch us. They tried faking credentials to get in the gates, sneaking in when the guards weren’t there, and even scaling the walls! Your dad had the most epic attempt ever…”
“What did he do??”
“Well… He climbed a tree with a pair of binoculars…”
Susie sat there waiting for the punchline as if climbing a tree with binoculars just to gawk at some girls was not epic enough.
“…and then he fell out of said tree!”
Susie gasped. “Was he ok?”
“He broke his arm!”
Susie and Tim found this information to be quite funny. Mary couldn’t help but laugh either.
“Wait, mom…so, what’s this nickname?”
“Have you seen a bear in a tree?”
With the picture in her mind, Susie laughed even harder.
“Now, now, Susie, he was hurt!” But she couldn’t help but smile too. Those were very happy, innocent times back then. “Ok, you two. Thirty minutes, and then it’s homework time.”
Susie and Tim left the table to go waste time.
Mary sat back in her seat and sighed in satisfaction at the rare, pleasant moment with her children. She hoped there would be more of them in the future. And, perhaps, maybe after a few rounds of Maunika’s advice, maybe things could get better with John as well. She was definitely going to give it a shot.
John got home in the next hour and a half. Mary was coming from the family room to greet him. He was moving quickly toward the master bathroom; he had a stressful day and really needed a shower. She caught him before disappeared into his own realm. “Hey, J-Bear.”