I hated her when I was thirteen. My mother, widowed at age forty-two, who got the first job of her life to support my sister and me. In her spare time she cleaned the house, tended a garden, mowed the yard, hung our laundry outside in the sunshine and then ironed every stitch, cooked supper after a full day of work – that’s who was the object of my hatred. I felt miserable inside, and of course, I took it out on the safest person: Mom.
At thirteen, every emotion was exaggerated. But it felt real to me, that hatred, and I’ll bet it sometimes felt real to her, too. When December rolled around and Mom asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” I snarled, “Nothing. I don’t want anything from you.”
In my heart, I knew that nothing was exactly what I deserved.
In 1955, teenagers had no inkling of laptops, tablets or smart phones. We coveted radios. Not the big, boxy, wooden consoles in our parents’ living rooms, but the new, plastic table-top models. That’s what I really, really wanted – my own radio beside my bed, to listen to the Top 40 privately in the dark. How grown-up and sophisticated would that be! But I was firmly stuck in the nose-cutting, face-spiting mode, so I couldn’t ask, or even hint. And certainly Mom couldn’t guess, because how could she possibly know my secret hopes and dreams?
Christmas morning. I dragged my sullen self to the Christmas tree, where I was handed a box wrapped in holiday paper. Silently I opened it and there it was. My own personal little radio, modern in design, red and white with big gold tuning dials. Perfect. Exactly what I wanted.
At that moment, I got my first glimpse of grace: a gift freely given and totally undeserved. I hope Mom got a glimpse of her true daughter, still there but hidden beneath teenage hormones – the little girl who used to love her and the grown-up woman who would love her again. But then, she knew that all along.