by Than Pence
One of my earliest memories involving my mother.
|It is late summer outside, nearing 7:00am; the rising sun warming the landscape that will be my playground.
My mother pours me, a chubby 5-year-old, a modest bowl of Cheerios. She uses the last of the milk for me but she knows that she has four other children to provide a quick breakfast for, so she starts to gather up her purse and keys, hoping a quick trip to the store won’t hinder her morning.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” was quick to come out as she’s grabbing the knob.
“When’s that?” I ask just as quick, hoping I can keep her to myself just a little longer, before my brother and sisters wake up and take her time, forcing me to share.
She pauses, looking at me with a squint. “What?”
“When’s ‘a few?’”
“Like, a couple minutes, honey.”
I look at my Cheerios for a second, enjoying her attention. “What’s the difference between a couple and a few?”
She pauses and doesn’t look at me, but looks at the wall above my head as if she has never put much thought into it for herself.
“Well, ‘a couple’ is two minutes, tops, and ‘a few’ is three minutes or more.”
“More? Like, seven or eight minutes?”
Smiling, she says. “Could be, but probably not. I’ll be back. Love you.”
I smile, putting a spoonful of Cheerios in my mouth as that’s one way a 5-year-old can tell a mother he loves her: with milk and food dribbling off his chin.
She’s gone and not a moment later, my older brother comes down the stairs, rubbing sleep from his eyes. We’re barely a year apart. “Mom gone?” he asks, quietly.
I nod, shaking soggy Cheerios in my mouth.
“When she coming back?”
Swallowing, I say, “A few minutes.”
He goes to the cabinet, fills a bowl of Cheerios, and goes to the fridge to find that there’s no milk. He looks at me and says, “You took all the milk?”
I suppress a smile as I fish around in my bowl for a Cheerio that has eluded my clutches. I then slide my bowl over to him. “Wanna use mine?”
Looking disgusted, he grabs the orange juice, intending to use that in place of milk. I snicker as I start to slurp at my own used milk.
When he puts a spoonful in his mouth, regret is evident, like he might even wish that he’d taken my secondhand milk. He takes his time and my mother comes back with milk in hand. She sets it on the table with the gallon already sweating.
She looks at my brother. “What’re you eating?” she shouts.
I can’t contain myself anymore and I begin to hoot and laugh.
Looking at me, my mother knows that I chose not to tell my brother that she was coming back with fresh milk for everyone’s Cheerios. Looking back at him, he looks like he is going to cry.
Then, to me, she says, “You’re grounded.”
My laughing subsides as I gasp. “For how long?”
“A few days.”
My eyes widen for I’d just learned the hazy definition of “a few.”
She peers at me with the hint of a smile on the corner of her lips.
“A couple,” she concedes as she reaches for my brother’s bowl of Cheerios and orange juice to replace it with a better combination.
I then run upstairs to change out of my pajamas and prepare for a day of indoor-activities, destined to remember the day I learned the difference between “a couple” and “a few.”
Word Count: 600