"Are you coming this summer for vacation?” I could hear my mother sucking in the air and holding her breath on the other end of the line.
My head screamed: no, no, no! My mouth said: “Yes, of course.”
It will be fine, I kept telling myself on the way to my parents’ home. In truth, it is fun visiting my parents -- at least for my husband and son. They can roam the beautiful countryside, fish in the nearby river, take naps, and play games. I, on the other hand, go home.
Within ten minutes of arriving at my parents’ house, my mother had the first job for me. “We need to drive to Aunt Hetty and bring her the cherries,” she said.
“I haven’t even unpacked…”
"Yes. You can do that later. Aunt Hetty’s been waiting for the cherries for days. I’ve got a few grates down in the basement. They’re all starting to get mushy.”
My husband helped me load the trunk with cherries. Then I watched him and our son leave to take a long, relaxing stroll through the cool forest.
I, on the other hand, got back into the car with my mother to deliver the cherries. On the way to Aunt Hetty’s, my mom remembered that we needed to swing by Rudy’s to pick up some bread.
Rudy Larsen, the store owner, approached me with a smile and grabbed my hands. After reminiscing for half an hour, my mom and I left with a bunch of homegrown tomatoes for Aunt Hetty and a bag of potatoes for the next-door neighbor.
“Rudy usually brings her the potatoes and other heavy stuff,” my mom explained back in the car. “It’s really sweet of him. Well, of course, she has problems with walking. And then, she’s now all by herself. I don’t know if I told you, but the big house’s all gone to her nephew.” My mom shook her head and sighed. “Now she moved in next door to Aunt Hetty. But, I tell you, she still has her big mouth.”
“Who is she? Do I know her?”
“You’ll see,” my mom said. “You’ll see.”
After unloading the cherries and tomatoes into Aunt Hetty’s kitchen, I was eager to deliver the potatoes to meet this mysterious woman next door.
“I’d better go with you,” mom told me and led the way to the neighbor’s front door.
“Hope she doesn't bite, or something.” I grunted under the heavy sack of potatoes.
The neighbor’s front door opened and out came my worst enemy. I recognized her black eyes that always flashed like a shiny beetle in the sun. It was the old Burk woman, of all people. The lines around her eyes had deepened, and her mouth drooped more than it had thirty years ago. I hid my head behind the potatoes. Maybe she would not recognize me. After all, I was a girl back when she spanked me for riding my bike through her strawberry patch.
“Who’s that behind the potatoes?” Mrs. Burk’s shrill voice shouted toward me. She had not changed at all.
“Oh, that’s my daughter,” mom said, while I held my breath.
“Well then!” Her voice cut through the air. “Don’t just stand there. Take the sack to the hut over there. The door’s open. Just put it down around the corner.”
I carried the sack over to her hut and walked back toward the two old ladies.
“Well, Mrs. Burk, the potatoes are inside the hut,” I called out and turned to leave. “I’ll wait in the car, mom.”
"Thank you,” she replied. “Thank you so much. Wait a minute!”
Here it comes. I turned and took a few steps back toward the ladies.
“I’m glad to see that you’ve turned out a nice lady, who doesn’t mind carrying a sack of potatoes around for a grumpy old woman,” she said. “You know, I had my doubts about you.” Mrs. Burk raised her finger; then she smiled.
It turned out that Mrs. Burk had changed after all. She ordered me to get Aunt Hetty over to her house for coffee and cake. But, somehow, I did not mind. I saw the old, fragile woman she had become behind the authoritative voice. Old, fragile and lonely.
An hour later my mom and I drove back home.
“I think we’ll plant those dahlias, tomorrow,” my mom said, referring to the couple of plants in the trunk that Mrs. Burk had given us. “You can drive me to the cemetery.”
I nodded and smiled, as I parked the car. Another day of driving mom around. Another day of loading and unloading the car. Another day of reminiscing and meeting people from my past. How lucky I am to go back home and spend time with my parents, surrounded by people who have known me since I was born. I am one of the villagers, no matter where I live now.
“Oh, you know what?” My mom cried out as she put her seat belt back on. “We forgot to pick up the bread at Rudy’s. Oh, well. You’d better turn around and drive back to the shop.”
What are the effects of workplace bullying?
5 years ago