It’s that time of the year I usually come into big money. I try to stash a one- or five-dollar bill into a coat pocket when I put my coats away for warm weather and then rediscover them in the fall. Once there was even a 20-dollar bill, and I always hope my good luck is repeated.
This year, however, I stuck my hand down into my coat pocket the first time I put a coat on and found … candy wrappers. Trash. Just trash. I dug down again, but all I could come up with were grocery store receipts.
I always knew I was a pocket trash collector — what mother isn’t? You don’t even have to have a trash can, a pocketbook, a shopping bag or any kind of collection device for a child to shove trash toward you and say, “Here, Mommy. It’s my trash.” Even if you aren’t wearing a pocket, you’re responsible for the kids’ trash.
And so you collect it until you come across a bonafide trash receptacle. Hopefully, it isn’t your vehicle in which you are preserving the tattered, stained remains of your life and family history. I speak almost like I have experience, but I’m not admitting anything.
I had a conversation with my mother in which I felt guilty that maybe I had used her as a trash receptacle in my childhood. Had my sins come back to haunt me? My candy wrappers to taunt me?
Here’s how the conversation went:
“Mother, what did you do with all the trash I gave you when I was a child?” I asked, wanting my view of myself as a perfect child to be reinforced.
“Put it in my pocketbook. Tons of it,” she answered.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll make it up to you.”
“Well, that wasn’t the worst thing you ever did,” she said, taking the conversation further than I had planned. “Giving me all that trash wasn’t nearly as bad as making me go out in that hot Kansas sun and play badminton when you and your sister never once hit the birdie. I’d hit, you’d miss, I’d hit, you’d miss it.”
I somewhat recall that and how much I had to beg for her to leave the only air-conditioned room in the small house we rented and venture out into the 100-plus heat that my generation of children played in.
“Thank you, Mother,” I said sweetly.
“But … ,” she continued. “That wasn’t as bad as playing four square out in the street in that hot Kansas sun.” (Do kids even play four square anymore?)
“I’d bounce it, you’d miss it, I’d bounce it, you’d miss it. On and on in that hot Kansas sun,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
I added “thank you” and wished this was a Facebook conversation I could hide. She wasn’t finished.
“But that wasn’t as bad as teaching you to ride your bicycle out in that hot Kansas sun. Back and forth, back and forth. I’d push, you’d fall, I’d push, you’d fall.”
Should I send flowers? I began to wonder.
“But that wasn’t as bad as all those afternoons playing ‘Barbie Queen of the Prom’ on those cold, snowy Kansas days. You’d always get Ken as a date and the red dress, and I always wound up with Poindexter and the ugly green dress.”
“I’m sorry, Mother. Love you.”
“But that wasn’t as bad as the night you had to memorize all the states and their capitals for a test the next day.” That I remember. Who can forget a mean fifth-grade teacher? But I still remember “Boys eat (Boise), Idaho potatoes.”
“I’m sorry, Mother. I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”
“Oh, don’t be silly,” she replied. “I loved every minute of it. And besides, you and your sister were so cute.”
“We were, weren’t we?” I said.
“Except that day in Hawaii we walked downtown and you two had on roller skates and I had on flip flops. That was bad.”
So perhaps the cycle of trash in the coat pockets, or wherever you can stash it, is eternal and you reap what you throw away.
I went digging into the pockets of another coat to reap my reward for trash well collected through the years.
But that’s not as bad as playing badminton in the hot Kansas sun.
Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at email@example.com or (434) 791-7991.