The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

The Curse

I remember well the day my mother cursed me.

It was in the early 70s, as I recall.  It may have actually happened more than once, but this one moment stands out in my mind.  I was working my boyish shenanigans, on a typical day, paying no mind to anyone or anything except that which caught my attention.  And very little could catch it.  Attention-catchers in that time of my life had to be bold, and curious, and the best ones were forbidden.  It was the Way of Things.

I can‘t recall what the Thing was, but I do remember my mother, in an exasperated voice, issuing me a Vexation:

“I hope you have children just like you”

And in a rare moment of focus, my young mind was stopped short, and found itself wandering into an imaginary world where my most recent escapades were committed by those I was responsible for.  A horror struck my heart.  It tore an entry wound, wallowed around making room for itself, and set up an operations office.

But, being a boy, I walked it off and I doubt it was more than a couple hours before I was back at it again.

Fast forward a few years.  The raw material my brain received to do its work had changed.  My shenanigans were focused on different subjects.

I had found a girl.

And the next thing you know, I was sitting in a hospital nursery holding a wee child.

And I remembered my mother‘s tormented declaration.  “Surely not this innocent bundle of sweetness”, I thought to myself.  “Ha!”  And I smugly settles in and cuddled my wee child with my wife recovering nearby.

And then two more came at once.  But still, what could go wrong?  And then another came.

And then they started coming in through the door instead of the delivery room.  The odds were greatly improved, and they were growing.  My confidence in avoiding my doom dwindled by the day.

And then… on a clear day with blue sky, green grass, and a group of unnaturally muddy children, it happened.  It took me totally unaware.  I was vexed, but what came from my lips stopped me short.

“I hope you all have children just like you.”

I knew instantly what I‘d done.  My wife did too, and she short-circuited the moment by sending the horde off to the wash station for cleanup operations.  She had a plan for this.  It was rehearsed.  And her capacity for patience was greater than mine that day.

And so I did the only thing I could think of to do.  I burst out in laughter, much to the confusion and dismay of the dirty little urchins departing the scene.

Bodies were washed, clothes changed, and it wasn‘t long before I was sipping lemonade and basking in the summer sun again.  And I found myself basking as well in reflection.  In introspection, I came across that walled off chamber of horror in my heart.  And there, sitting at the service desk, was the smiling visage of my mother.  

At the time, I thought my mother had wished a curse upon me.  But in this moment, I recognized it for what it was.  She wished for me the empathy to see both childhood and parenthood for what they were, together, in the same moment.  She wished for me to see that kids will be kids, and that eventually, with the kind of love only a mother can give, they will outgrow most of their shenanigans.  She wished for me to be able to see past the trouble, and the mess, and sometimes the pain, and see instead the small person in front of me as an adult, and to understand that while the mess will be forgotten, it is the moments of love or hate that will be remembered, and that this is, as a parent, the one thing I can control.  I choose whether my children remember love, or hate.

I don‘t really recall what I did on that impish day of childhood.  I don‘t remember the consequence of whatever it was.  And for years, I remembered the entire affair not at all.  But in the waning hours of that summer day, hearing the laughter of kids getting in trouble, and my wife dealing with the minor details with the particular kind of strong grace it takes, I remembered my mother‘s words in a new way.  I remember her wishing for me to have a full life, and to understand how to be human to the fullest, to be able to see and experience the love of a mother from a man‘s point of view.  And in my wife, on that day it was projected perfectly.

I remember my mother‘s blessing.


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