If my life were a movie I would fast-forward through junior high. My junior high years were painful. Like every junior high kid, I was dealing with awakening sexuality, and struggling with who I was and how I would make my mark in life. But I was sure I was alone with these strange feelings.
I was trying and failing in a number of things. I wanted to excel in athletics but had not yet figured out that that would never happen. I wasn’t academic enough to spell academic. (I’m a little surprised right now that I was able to spell that without the aid of my nifty little Microsoft Word spell checker). I was trying to gain a spot in the pecking order as a new kid in school. All the while, I remember suffering the rejection of most of my peer being cut from the basketball team, failing to play football that I so wanted to play. It was a time of questioning how girls saw me and wanting so much to be loved and accepted. To be loved and accepted seemed to me at the time something I could never, in all my life, achieve.
During that time I would go through the cafeteria line and eat alone, feeling unloved and unnoticed. As spring came, one day I was starting out the door and complaining that I had no one to eat with. Mom said to me, “If you want, you can come home for lunch.” That day, when lunch came, it was a beautiful spring day in the hills of central Ohio. The bell rang at noon and I bolted from the school and ran across the little village home to eat. I wondered if my mom would remember. When I got there, Mom was getting a little chicken pot pie out of the oven for me. It was a very humble lunch. It was just one of those four-for-a-dollar pot pies with little diced pieces of chicken, frozen peas and carrot in some chicken gravy.
Mom set a cloth napkin beside my plate at the end of the table just beneath the window. I sat at our humble kitchen table in our tiny, white rented home on Maple Street in Utica. Mom listened to me while I talked about whatever was on my mind. In about 15 minutes my time was up and I ran back to school.
That was in about 1972, thirty years ago. My mom at the time was in her early thirties. She seemed so old to me then and thirty-year-olds seem like children to me now. She sat across the table for about 15 minutes and looked at me and listened to me and three decades later I remember those times with fondness. She just paid attention to me. It’s a powerful thing to pay attention to people.
Now you know a little more about how I see home. Home is a place where you don’t have to sit alone and eat. Home is a place where people don’t ignore you and avoid you.
Home is a place where it doesn’t really matter that much what’s on the menu, simple things are sweet to the taste in an atmosphere of love and security and acceptance. Moms are people who listen to you when no one else is interested. And moms don’t ever think the small mundane things you do don’t matter. Moms don’t laugh at your dreams. Good moms pay attention. Great moms fix you something warm to eat and pay attention.
I’m not sure what was happening at the time but I know those little chicken pot pies were not worthy of a sprint across town. With the clarity of vision that the years bring, I now know that I needed a friendly place of warm acceptance for a few minutes a day. I didn’t need my stomach filled as much as I needed my emotional fuel tank refilled. And refueling an emotional fuel tank is a good mother’s specialty.