Apparently I am missed there too. Namely, by the high school boys who came to my house for a special pie class this time last year. Their English/reading teacher, Ms. D, who is my BFF in Eldon, was giving me regular reports from home that the hip-hop loving trio—Terrance, Osha, and Isaiah—had been asking about me. I was so surprised, and so touched, that I wanted to not just tell them, but show them, that I was thinking about them too.
To put thought into action, I determined that I would send them some LA souvenirs. Athletic high school boys are easy to shop for. It was a no-brainer. I would get them LA Lakers’ T-shirts.
The trouble was, I was busy. Too busy to go traipsing around looking for affordable sportswear. Besides, shopping is one of my least favorite pastimes. (It would have been easy if my budget was higher, since a logoed T-shirt can cost upwards from $35.) My mom, who actually enjoys shopping and often shops for clothes for me, offered to take on the job. Yes, she’s a great mom. She also happens to be a huge Lakers fan.
She first drove to TJ Maxx and called me from the parking lot. No, nothing here, she said. She went to Marshall’s next. Nothing here either. She drove to another Marshall’s. She called me, quite excited, and said she found shirts. She bought them in the sizes I instructed. Unfortunately, as it turned out, she bought them in YOUTH sizes. “Oh, mom, those won’t work. These guys are like men. They are athletes.” So she got back in the car and drove 10 miles to another TJ Maxx location. Still no Lakers shirts. Not even a hat. She called, exasperated. “Don’t worry about it, Mom,” I insisted. “You don’t have to do this.” When she went back to Marshall’s to return the youth sizes she found a whole new shipment of T-shirts had arrived. They had the right sizes. They were good quality. And they were affordable. Success!
Success meant my mom had driven all over LA in heavy traffic to five different stores to make this happen. In spite of achieving the goal and feeling victorious, my mom sounded tired. I made a point to thank her profusely. “It means a lot to me, Mom,” I told her. “And it will mean a lot to the boys.” She doesn’t know these boys, or of their circumstances, so she wouldn’t know just how much the shirts would be appreciated. Not even close.
I wrapped up the T-shirts and wrote a card with each that said, “Thinking of you from here in California. I hope you’re still making pie. PS: Be nice to Ms. D!” and sent the package to Iowa. What I got in return was something that reminds me of what’s really important in life. I got thank you cards from each of them. Ms. D remarked at what an accomplishment this was. After all, they are in her class because of their need to improve their writing skills. “I’ve never seen them write this much. Or this well,” she said, clearly proud of their efforts. It was also a bonus that because the T-shirts were a result of Ms. D’s communication with me, her “rock star teacher” status would be further elevated. The boys’ own status was elevated when all three of them wore their T-shirts to school on the same day. It wasn’t just their fellow students who noticed. The coach asked Ms. D, “What’s the story behind those shirts?” He must have been surprised by the answer when she explained.
But the goodness of this effort reaches even farther than that. What means as much to me as any of this is what my mom wrote after I forwarded the photos taken by Ms. D. When my mom saw the boys posing like NBA stars in their new shirts, she got it. “Oh, Beth. Looking at these photos gives me a lump in my throat," she said in her email. Which gave me a lump in my throat.
It’s been sometimes hard and confusing to be gone from home for so long, to live between two places and miss the people who are in the place you are not. But I take heart in seeing how relationships can continue grow across the miles, and now, with my mom’s new connection to the boys, how those relationships can expand to include more people. My home in Iowa will still be there when I return, after the snow melts. Until then, as I move around LA and see Lakers logos everywhere, or watch Lakers games on TV with my parents—laughing as my mom yells at the screen when they miss a basket or lose the ball—I will be thinking about Terrance, Osha, Isaiah, and Ms. D, and realize that the warmth I feel isn’t just from the California sun.
|Hi guys. I look forward to seeing you in spring. |
PS: I'm planning on hiring you to work at my pie stand this summer.