Thanksgiving dinner this year was a bit sedate for my tastes. My sister was not present to stir things up, it being her year to feast with my brother-in-law's family. The boys got to sit at the big-people table. Apparently, this was not so special a treat as they had anticipated. Both excused themselves quickly when they saw that dessert was not imminent, and retired to the family room to play video games.
I tried to appear interested in the financial planning conversation between my mother and Hick. Really. But it's not like either one of them was ever mistaken for E. F. Hutton. I finally asked if we could change the topic. Because I knew exactly how my students feel when I talk about igneous rocks. My eyes glazed. I wanted to pull my hair out. All of the bones in my body disintegrated, and I slumped over and put my head on the table. Make it stop. Please. Hick had to squeeze in a final comment on 401Ks. After drowning his pique in a slice of no-sugar-added pumpkin pie with sugar-free Cool Whip, he excused himself for a couch nap.
Mom and I sat at the table, our freewheeling conversation full of minutia that I have no time to share with her during our daily fifteen-minute phone call at 6:00 a.m. We talked through the valley of the shadow of hair mice, cat ice water, final will and testament revenge, snow days, college graduation programs, framed mirrors, and...the piece de resistance: Mom's Good Deed.
That's what she called it. "Did I tell you about my good deed at church last Sunday?"
"No, I don't think so."
"This old lady, a friend of Mrs. Regular Church-Goer, sat down by me and said, 'Don't you like these shoes? I just love them. But they're too big. I'm afraid I'm going to fall. Every time I walk, they almost come off my feet.' Mrs. R C-G went by and said, 'It's true. I walked in behind her, ready to grab her if she fell.'"
I nodded. What else are you supposed to do in the middle of a story like this? I was waiting for the good deed.
"I told her, 'Why don't you try a rubber band to hold them on?' And she said, 'Oh! Do you have one?' I fumbled around in my purse and found the one I use to keep my checkbook closed, and gave it to her. It was just one of those little skinny ones. She put in on and stood up and said, 'That really works! Do you have another one?' So I dug through my purse, but I didn't."
"What kind of shoe?"
"Just slip-on shoes. Flats. Not high heels."
"Wait a minute. You gave her a rubber band, and she put it around her shoe? Like, over the top of her foot, and under the shoe?"
"Uh huh. I asked her if she wanted me to go up to the office and see if they had another rubber band, and she said yes. But on the way, I ran into the choir director, and he said he had some. So he gave me two. And they were the BIG ones, the thick ones."
"What color were they?"
"Clear? They don't make clear rubber bands!"
"You know. The regular color of rubber bands. Kind of tan. Clear."
"Oh. Flesh-colored, you mean?"
"Well, I guess you could call it that. So I gave her the big ones, and she put both of them on, and said that was great, that she could walk now without her shoes flapping."
"You call that a good deed?"
"Uh huh. I helped her with her shoes."
"Wouldn't that cut off her circulation? I don't think rubber bands are meant to go around your feet. What if she got home from church and sat down in her recliner and forgot to take off her rubber-band shoes? And then fell asleep, and woke up with her circulation cut off, and called 9-1-1, and said, 'Help me! I don't have any feeling in the end of my feet!' What if she had to get the end of her feet amputated? All because you told her to put rubber bands on them? And then she could become famous for a new quote: I cried because my shoes were flappy, until I lost the end of my feet and they became really, really flappy, and not even a rubber band would hold them."
"Oh. I just thought I was doing a good deed."
"You were, Mom. You were."