I am so pleased to be hosting Diane Skelton on my Freestyle Fridays’ guest post . I can easily relate to this story but not sure I could write it quite so well. She describes much of her writing as “fluff” and insists the world needs more laughter. Samples of her fluff can be viewed at her blog, The Gumbo Diaries; her more serious topics include reviews on Trip Adviser. A native of Mississippi and longtime resident of Texas, Diane and her husband Danny moved to Florida five years ago to be closer to grandchildren. She encourages anyone interested in writing to find a community of writers for encouragement.
Walking through the Safeway grocery store in Tyler, Texas, my youngest son Nick greeted people on practically every aisle.
At age three, Nick, who strolled cheerily alongside the grocery cart as I pushed it, knew more people in the store that day than I, though I had been shopping at Safeway long before he was born. Nick’s “hellos” started upon entry when the bakery chef greeted him by name and handed him his complimentary chocolate chip cookie.
In the canned goods aisle, a striking woman with dark hair in a Cleopatra cut smiled and said “Hello, Nick.” He flashed back a big smile and said “hi” as she passed by our cart. I asked him how he knew her, and he answered simply “from choir.” Nick didn’t sing in a choir, but as I pictured her face atop a maroon choir robe, I realized she did sing in our church choir, but I didn’t know her.
At the intersection of canned goods and dairy, a mother and a young boy around Nick’s age passed us. Both of them both said “hello” to Nick, but not to me. At this point, I realized that I was now officially “Nick’s mom.” Though we had two older sons, I’d never been completely shut out from their world. I knew their playmates and parents, but this son was different. He marched to the beat of his own drum — in his own world.
The oldest, Shannon, was dubbed “Number One Son” by my father, who delighted in the Charlie Chan idea of having three grandsons. I never felt my identity was that of “Shannon’s mom” until he entered high school. We both started at Robert E. Lee, a high school of 2400 students, the same year. He as a freshman, I as a freshman English teacher. By the time he was a senior and “big man on campus,” I was in a new classroom, but still teaching freshmen. My students knew me as Mrs. Skelton, but the bright-faced freshmen girls, always interested in handsome “senior” men, would ask between giggles, “Are you Shannon’s mom?”
I eased into being the mom of Number Two Son, Colin, following his easy-going lifestyle. Not until he took on a new identity did I realize that I was, indeed, “Colin’s mom.” I first met my future in-laws the night before the rehearsal dinner. Colin was marrying into a warm and gracious Filipino family in Jacksonville, Florida. I entered their home and was greeted by dozens of smiling Filipino faces, all welcoming me in delightful accents as “Coe-Len’s” mom.
When the boys were all young men and I was no longer recognized as “mom,” I landed a job interview with a prestigious textbook publisher in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For years, I had been successfully teaching and advising student publications in high school and college, but I dreamed of working in publishing. According to the job posting, I had all the skills. But because I was nearing fifty I knew I had to really sell myself. I practiced answering mock questions before the bathroom mirror for days. The day of the interview, I arrived fully loaded with a four-inch-thick portfolio overflowing with credentials, writing samples, published pieces and letters of reference.
The Human Resources officer stared at the bulging notebook in my lap and asked one question. “What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?”
I flashed a big smile and never skipped a beat, “Raising three sons.”
I never got a second interview. And never once did I regret my answer.
Thank you Diane for this beautiful story!
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