Several months after Gary and I celebrated our 40th birthdays and our 60th wedding anniversary, my mother rang in her “30th” birthday.
Don’t waste time re-reading that sentence. Don’t waste energy scratching your head. I call my life as I feel it.
In honor of our mother’s birthday, the 6’2” baby of the family — we call him Gerald — gave Mom flowers and a new toaster. The flowers were his idea; the toaster was hers.
Gerald also made a pineapple upside-down birthday cake from scratch. He did it the old-fashioned way: he baked the cake in a cast-iron skillet. You haven’t eaten a real pineapple upside-down cake until you’ve tasted one baked in a cast-iron skillet.
My brother knows the way to our mother’s heart.
A week or so after the candles had been lit and blown and the cake but a mere memory, my mother called.
“Did you send me these shoes? They were delivered just a little while ago,” she said.
“Shoes? I didn’t send you shoes. Are they tennis shoes or walking shoes or go-to-church shoes?”
“No, no,” said Mom. “It’s a pair of baseball cleats. You are the only person who has heard me say I need new ones. I know you sent them.”
My mother’s claims were true and false. True, I have heard my mother, who weed eats her WV hillside of a backyard, say she could use a new pair of baseball cleats. She has mentioned it to me at least one, two, or ten times.
The “I know you sent them” accusation was false. She had no proof. I haven’t shopped for baseball cleats since our son Trey played Little League. Scout’s honor. And I have never, as in ever, ordered baseball cleats by mail.
That Mom refused to believe me when I declared my innocence was my fault. I couldn’t contain my laughter: “Mom (haha), I (haha) did not (haha) send (haha) baseball cleats.”
In our family, laughing when answering an accusation of any degree is a surefire sign of guilt. But I could not help myself. Who receives baseball cleats from an anonymous anyone? Hilarious.
I could hear paper rustling on the other end of the phone.
“They’re Under Armour. Really nice,” Mom said. “Way too nice for weed-eating. Let me see if they are even my size….”
A pause. More rustling.
“They are! Size 8!” Mom said. Then, another pause: “Only you would know my shoe size.”
“Moooommmm, you are giving me credit for something I didn’t do,” I insisted.
She let up a little. “If you didn’t send them, it must have been Gerald. He’s the only other person I may have mentioned it to.”
“Call him,” I said, “and let me know when the mystery is solved.”
“Well, if he didn’t send them, it must have been the Cleat Fairy,” Mom said.
The Cleat Fairy? Who can blame me for laughing?
On that note, our conversation ended. Not until I crawled under the sheets that night did I realize I had not heard back from my mother.
By morning, the entire Cleat Fairy incident had been erased from my mind. And then a text dinged in with a photo of the most awesome pair of women’s baseball cleats I’ve ever seen.
Under the photo, Mom wrote, “Good job, Cleat Fairy. Thank you. I love you,” accompanied by smiley-kiss and heart emojis.
With all that love filtering through my phone, I so wanted to reply, “OK! Yes, it’s me. I’m the Cleat Fairy!”
But I’m not. And, based on the text, neither was Gerald.
Later in the week, Mom answered a call from Donald, the son she had not suspected.
“Hey, Mom, I forgot to ask if you received my late birthday present,” said Donald. “It should have been delivered a coupled of days ago.”
Donald: her son, my brother, a.k.a.”The Cleat Fairy.”
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