Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

The Day Mama Got Lost

Sharlene Spires


It became a tradition in our house, when our oldest child began grade school, to share our day’s events—the good, the bad, and often the hilarious, much to the delight of our three children, who loved the stories and soon began sharing some of their own.

But I had begun to notice that sometime over the past year and a half, my stories were not being received with as much pleasure as they had been in the earlier days. My children were often distracted during my tales, playing with their food, climbing up and down from their chairs, even asking to be excused.

My husband’s stories, to the contrary, continued to border on the outrageous, often questionable side of things, and were full of such wonder and adventure that even I sat in awed silence wondering where on earth he came up with such things. I couldn’t imagine he actually lived them. He was an accountant, stuck in an office all day.

I asked him about it one day, but he just laughed and said, "Emily, we need to get you out more."

But as a stay-at-home, work-at-home, mother of three small children, the opportunity was about as rare as snow in Florida.

"Well, Peter, what-do-ya-say, my boy? Got any good stories for us tonight?" My husband asked, as he usually did, trying to get things started.

Most nights it was Peter bouncing with impatience to tell his story, but tonight was different. Tonight, Peter was sulking.

"Peter’s mad at Mama," Caroline spoke up, always full of such information.

My husband looked at me and raised one eyebrow. I smiled but didn’t say a word.

"Now why is that?" my husband asked, bewildered.

"Mama overslept and we were all late for school and Peter forgot his backpack and his lunch was in it and Mama wasn’t at home to answer the phone when Peter tried to call and then she was an hour late picking us up from school and Peter said he wasn’t gonna talk to her till tomorrow." Caroline finished this last bit of information with a little sigh, as though that were the most difficult of all, the not speaking to someone for an entire day. And for our little Caroline, this much was true.

"Well, Emily, what do you have to say to that?" My husband asked with his most serious of voices, though I could see the grin sparkling in his eyes. He was looking for a story, or ready to give a story, I honestly couldn’t tell which, but Peter spoke up first.

"She was probably out gallavantin’," Peter said sarcastically.

"Don’t make fun of Mama. She can’t help it if nothin’ excitin’ ever happens to her," the youngest, Katie Ann, said with a little pout to her bottom lip.

"Yeah, but she’s home all day long," Peter snapped back, rolling his eyes. "What’s she expectin’ to happen?"

And they were right. Nothing exciting ever happened to me. I led a boring life, but it was a hectic one where spare minutes were about as common as priceless rubies and losing one about as devastating.

I contemplated their words while taking another sip of the iced-cold tea, remembering how hot and thirsty I had been stranded out there on the side of the road, with no cell phone, and no other sign of life in sight. I had never felt more lost, more alone, and at times frightened to my wits end. But, funny, looking back on it now it wasn’t so frightening. It was peaceful and relaxing and about as quiet as church services on a Sunday morning.

"So, what happened to you today?" My husband finally asked.

"Oh, I got lost."

"Yeah, right!" Peter huffed.

"Oh, poor, Mama!" Katie Ann whimpered.

"Why didn’t you tell me?" Caroline whined.

I took another swallow of deliciously sweet iced tea and smiled. Yes, it was good to be home.

"I overslept."

"And that’s why you got lost?" My husband’s voice was beginning to get that edge to it.

"Not exactly, but it’s what started it."

"Ah, come on Emily. Out with it! A guy can only take so much."

"All right then." And so I told him, all of them, the story of my adventure. How I had overslept because he had failed to reset the alarm clock. How I had forgotten that the fuel gauge on his old beat-up pickup was stuck on half a tank. How I had gone to market and took the scenic route home.

"Because she loves the rollin’ hills," Caroline interrupted.

I smiled, then continued telling them how the truck had sputtered up the hill and the engine shut off coming down the other side. It rolled to a stop on the side of the road and refused to start up again.

"And then what did you do?" Peter asked, sounding as much worried as excited. Peter lived for adventures.

"I got out of the truck and started walking." I couldn’t help but smile when I said it. Partly because it was so unlike me to do something like that, and partly because Peter was so enthralled in my story that he was actually speaking to me again.

"You started walking?" My husband didn’t sound too thrilled with the idea. "Where was your cell phone?"

"You have it. Yours fell in the lake."

"Ah, yes, the lake." He was silent for a moment but then spoke up again, as though trying to make sense of how I could have possibly gotten lost. "What about other cars, people, houses along the way?"

"There were none. It was that long stretch of road where there was nothing but rolling hayfields and farmlands."

"Mm hmm. I know the place."

"Yeah, well after today so do I and quite well, I might add." I took a moment to take a few bites of pecan pie, wondering if they would even notice the food, that the cooking was not my own, but so far none of them had said a word about it.

"So you just started walking?" my husband asked.

"Yes, I walked, first across the hayfields, then through a meadow, but somehow I got turned around and lost my way, so I sat down to rest in a nice little shaded spot with the softest green grass and ate some of Peter’s lunch and then took a short nap. I woke up when I felt something slide across my leg and when I sat up I realized it was a snake, but of the prettiest combination of orange and red and yellow. I watched it slither off through the grass, its movements ruffling the tall blades as though it were nothing more than the wind."

"You mean you weren’t even scared when you saw it?" Katie Ann wished to know.

"No. Not at all. I felt as though I had been given a gift. That only I knew what was hidden beneath that tall grass making that soft, whispering sound."

"So what did ya do next?" Peter asked.

"After that I packed up what was left of the food, put it in your backpack, which you, thankfully, left in the pickup, and threw it over my shoulder. In the distance I could see a trail of dust stirring and as I got closer I noticed it was a tractor plowing up a field so I headed in that direction. It took a long while and before I was even close enough to motion for help, it started to rain, so I ran toward a cluster of wild trees growing out in the middle of the field.

"I know, I know, Caroline, I should never stand under trees in a lightning storm, but there was no lightning, and it wasn’t much of a storm, just a nice rain. I can still remember the way it fell on my umbrella of trees, and the rustling sound it made, like music."

And when I closed my eyes, I could still smell it, that rain, and how it smelled of wet grasses and freshly-tilled soil. And I remembered standing there and how a thousand days of my childhood came rushing back to me. Sweet days, full of laughter and play. Simple times. Times I had forgotten in the hectic rush of my daily life.

"So did you stand there till someone found you?" Katie Ann asked.

I opened my eyes and realized I had drifted and that everyone was watching me, even my husband. It was nice.

"Oh, no. It eventually stopped raining. I made my way close enough to the tractor for the driver to see me and he turned it around and headed my way, only I was surprised to learn it was a woman and not a man driving the tractor."

This got a startled cry from around the table.

"Oh! A woman? What was she like?" Caroline was the first to ask.

"She was old and gray but with a kick in her step that made her seem much younger. We became good friends on the ride back into town."

"You rode on her tractor?" Peter sounded astounded.

"Not just rode, I actually drove her tractor."

"That’s way cool, Mama," Peter announced. "You should get lost more often!"

"Yes, maybe so," I returned with a grin.

Everyone stood to carry their dirty, but empty, dishes into the kitchen, but Katie Ann stopped and turned around.

"Mama, I’m glad you didn’t stay lost for good."

I smiled. "Mama is too."

Later that evening, after the kids were sound asleep, I found my husband standing outside in the dark, staring up at a scattering of stars.

"I’m sorry, Emily," he said softly.

"For what?" I took a few steps closer. "You mean because I broke down or because I got lost?"

"Neither, well both." He turned toward me and reached for my hand. "I’m sorry that it took getting lost for you to find it again."

"Find what?"

"That sparkle. In your eyes. I saw it again while you were telling your story."

I smiled but didn’t say a word.

"If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you enjoyed getting lost today."

"Can’t say that I did, can’t say that I didn’t," I returned playfully. "But I do know one thing."

"And what’s that?" he asked, pulling me closer.

"The next time I do, I’m taking you with me."

***

Sharlene Spires lives in a small town in North Florida, along with her husband and three daughters. She has had articles published in Adoption Today and Roots and Wings Magazine.

© Sharlene Spires

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012