Finding A Voice
I attended a writer's group recently to get feedback on the latest
chapter in my book.
There were so many people there that evening that discussion was
limited. When I arrived home my thirteen-year-old son shrugged off
my disappointment and asked me to read the chapter to him instead.
So I settled into a chair and read, "Down The Avenue", a chapter
about spending my allowance as a nine-year-old child.
As innocent as it seems, the experience was a metaphor for how
choice and risk were handled by a child affected by alcoholism.
Each week, the trip "down-the-avenue" culminated at Woolworth's
lunch counter where I dreamed of someday ordering a banana split.
An umbrella with colorful balloons hanging from each rib was suspended
above the counter.
"Pop a balloon and pay 1 cent to 63 cents!" Imagine paying one cent
for a banana split! But I never had more than fifty cents. (And I
shuddered at the thought of Woolworth's calling my parents for more money.)
So I kept my wish to myself. I never thought to risk asking anyone
for more money. Risks were dangerous in a world where alcohol made even
benign choices subject to rage.
Frankie sat at my feet, listening intently, as I read the final
sentences of the chapter:
"I watched as others selected a balloon to pop and fantasized about
the opportunity to proudly take my chance. But it never happened.
Pink, blue, orange and yellow balloons called out to me, daring me,
taunting me and eventually, defeating me. In time, the waitress
strolled up to my spot at the counter and smiled, indicating that
she was ready to jot down my order. I mumbled, "I'll take a Coke
please," and turned the stool away from the umbrella. I didn't hear the
sound of balloons popping behind me."
Frankie was silent. He thought for a moment and said, "So you never
got the banana split?" A long discussion ensued and eventually he
seemed to understand that it was my own belief that limited me.
I never took the chance of voicing my wish. It was a pattern
that took years to break.
The next morning, Frankie casually announced that he was going out
for a little while. When I asked where, he smiled and said, "I can't
say. But when I get back, I'll need you to go upstairs for a few
minutes." Any further questions of mine were answered with a coy,
My mother's instinct told me he wasn't up to anything dangerous, so
I agreed. Frankie left and I busied myself packing for an upcoming
In a short time, I heard the back door open and Frankie's voice
yelling, "Can you go upstairs now?" As I walked up the steps I went
through a mental checklist. "Hmm, it's not my birthday, it's not
Mother's Day -- what could he be up to?" I brushed my hair and
tried to ignore the sound of chairs scraping, kitchen cabinets
slamming and muffled conversation. Soon my nine-year-old daughter
Sarah, a last minute recruit into the conspiracy, announced through
giggles that I could come downstairs. "Eyes closed - except for
stairs," she said.
Once downstairs, Sarah held my hand and helped me stumble my way
through camping equipment and eventually into the kitchen.
"Open your eyes!" Frankie and Sarah shouted in chorus.
I couldn't believe what I saw. The kitchen table was covered in a
pile of balloons. Frankie walked up to me and handed me fifty cents and
a fork. His eyes were lit with anticipation. "Pop one!" he urged.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I began to realize what he was doing. I
stared at the balloons in disbelief and then jabbed one with a fork.
Frankie and Sarah laughed as I let out a loud whoop when it popped.
A piece of paper fell out of the balloon. I opened it and
recognized Frankie's awkward scrawl.
"What does it say?" Frankie prompted. "Fifty cents," I whispered,
too choked up to speak loudly. Frankie got business-like and asked,
"Well, do you have fifty cents?" I handed him the two quarters he'd
given me moments earlier.
"Okay then!" Frankie walked over to the refrigerator, pulled out
a homemade banana split on a Tupperware plate and handed it to me.
Mounds of vanilla ice cream were covered in chocolate sauce, Cool
Whip and peanuts. Underneath it all was a banana, split in two.
My eyes stung with tears as I held the banana split Frankie
lovingly made to right an ancient wrong. I hugged Frankie hard
and kissed the top of his head, still sweaty from all the effort.
"Now you finally got to pop a balloon for a Banana Split, Mom."
Frankie beamed. I hugged him again, and then hugged Sarah, who
stood back and marveled at her brother. We took turns popping the
rest of the balloons and laughed when I finally got the one-cent
balloon. It was a long time coming, but well worth the wait.
Each spoonful of ice cream reminded me that the first step in
making any wish come true is giving it a voice.
[ Teri Goggin (firstname.lastname@example.org) -- from Heartwarmers, via 'Aiken Drum' ]
All Rights Reserved.