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A husband's view: Mom’s taste for trash mars otherwise perfect record

I expect trouble for this story, but a writer must adhere to facts, regardless of the consequences. So here goes: Marianne does not get an A+ in motherhood.Marianne is my wife and the mother of Mike, Jackie and Janet, who right now are all thinki...

I expect trouble for this story, but a writer must adhere to facts, regardless of the consequences. So here goes: Marianne does not get an A+ in motherhood.
Marianne is my wife and the mother of Mike, Jackie and Janet, who right now are all thinking the old man ought to butt out of Mother’s Day altogether, since it’s essentially a sacrosanct celebration that has nothing to do with whoever is currently sitting in the La-Z-Boy, eating peanuts, drinking beer and watching the basketball playoffs.
And the three of them surely will be speed-dialing Marianne within the hour to tell her they love her without reservation and that any assessment less than A+ is treachery and betrayal and indisputable evidence that the paternal unit in our family was raised by wolves.
All of which makes my case that my children are incapable of an impartial evaluation of their mother’s ranking.
Whereas I, relegated to the parental sideline, serving mainly as an observer and, on rare occasions, the tie-breaking vote in gridlocked child-rearing decisions - such as the question of punishment for Jackie’s unauthorized party, with boys, music and cigarettes the week in 1995 when Mom and Dad were in California - remain eminently qualified to make an objective judgment.
Therefore, I will stand by the less-than-perfect score for my wife on the basis of an incident that occurred 17 years ago.
It was springtime. All three kids were teenagers still living at home. Frank, who was not considered one of our children but only because of a zoological technicality, was barking strangely in the backyard. Not the usual “arf!-arf!” at someone pulling up in a car but more of a falsetto “arf?-arf?,” which dog people know is an indication that something odd is occurring for which the barker is requesting an immediate consultation.
Jackie, the only bilingual human in our family, rushed outside and shortly summoned the rest of us. There, in the high, bluish-green, uncut grass, Frank was staring at a rabbit, trapped and trembling between his outstretched paws. Clearly traumatized, the bunny seemed otherwise OK, though any move it made, whether blinking its eyes or flicking an ear, caused Frank to flare a paw to keep containment.
How the bunny got there cannot be known, though my guess would have been that the yellow Lab sniffed it out, picked it up in his soft retriever’s mouth, and set it at the center of attention before calling the meeting. It’s how he rolls.
And the reason I am able to recall the sequence so faithfully, so many years later, is that we were in possession of a borrowed video camera at the time, with which I recorded the next 60 minutes of Jackie chiding Frank, Janet swooping in to lift and cradle the bunny, and Mike subsequently examining the creature on the picnic table and supervising its watering, feeding and sheltering in a Famous Footwear shoebox.
The azure blue sky and overhead sun made for quite a beautiful video production, if I say so myself, a touching portrayal of three children, uncharacteristically more concerned with the care of the rabbit than with their own cinematic portrayal.
We would watch that videotape several times that day, another several the following week, and maybe one or two more times over the next six months.
The following spring - on Mother’s Day, as a matter of fact - as we were remembering the poignant episode from the previous year, Jackie decided to find the videocassette marked “Frank and the Bunny” from our stack beneath the 25-inch Magnavox. Only this time, when we pushed “play” on the remote, there was, perhaps, two seconds of Jackie looking at the camera as she bent over Frank and the bunny but then an abrupt cut to music and the opening credits for a TV episode of “Dynasty,” starring Joan Collins and John Forsythe. It was painfully obvious that someone had taped a trashy TV episode over a family treasure, and we slowly turned to the single member of our family who was a fan of the show. We held our tongues, for, after all, it was Mother’s Day. And no one loved her children with a more perfect balance of indulgence, respect and the courage to say no when real love called for it than Marianne.
Yes, she loses grade points for inadvertently deleting the bunny keepsake, but that has never altered the kids’ awe and appreciation for her care and discipline. This is especially true now that they’re grown and have witnessed some darkly different paths taken by acquaintances raised by less-amazing moms.
Between you and me, I am astonished, too, at my own luck, having escaped unscathed in what always will be known as “The Time Mom Erased the Frank and Bunny Story With a Trashy TV Program,” which, but for the grace of God, could just as easily have been a segment of “Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing” show recorded by yours truly.
But Father’s Day is just around the corner, and since I’m already clinging precariously to a C-, I’ll just keep that to myself, thanks.

David McGrath lived in Hayward for 29 years, is a frequent contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, is an emeritus professor of English for the College of DuPage in Illinois and is the author of “Siege at Ojibwa” and “The Territory.” Contact him at profmcgrath2004@ yahoo.com.

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