Every day, when I came home from school, my Mom was at home waiting for me. It was a simple fact, like the sun rising in the morning. I never gave it much thought back then. I didn’t realize the value of that gift.
As I recall those afternoons, it is never winter, but always just on the verge of summer – one of those warm spring days when the chill of winter is forgotten and the promise of summer is tangible. I’m riding home on the school bus, knowing someone is waiting for me. The bus windows are open and I’ve removed my jacket on the ride home. I have no homework, but I’ve brought my books home just in case I want to study. Of course, I won’t study. I won’t touch the books until the next morning when it is time to get back on the school bus again.
As I get off the bus and walk across the yard, my collie meets me with a wagging tail. I drop to my knees and bury my face in his long coat, grass cutting into my bare knees. He whines, excited to see me after spending a day alone. I promise him I will be back out to play. And I will keep that promise.
Before I reach the house, I can hear the television through the screen door. My Dad was a long-distance truck driver, so my Mom was always home alone during the week. Once in a while, on a Friday afternoon as I got off the bus, I might be surprised by the sight of his semi in the drive. But normally, he wasn’t home until late Friday night. So it was usually just me and my Mom after school.
When I walk in, carrying my books and jacket, my mom is sitting in the living room. I walk through toward my bedroom and we exchange greetings. I drop my books and jacket onto my bed, glad to be home. Changing out of my school clothes, I put on old clothes that are good for playing outside.
I return to the living room where my Mom is watching Guiding Light. I make fun of her for watching the show. It seems so silly to me. Always a crisis. Always an improbable love story. I am too young to realize that real life is full of crisis and improbable love stories. Perhaps it was part of the necessary distancing that comes with age. As my teen years approached, the differences between me and my parents magnified, particularly those between me and my mother.
Years later, though, after giving birth to my son, I also started watching Guiding Light. At the time, my husband and I only had three channels on our television and Guiding Light coincided with my son’s afternoon bottle. I came across it one day while feeding my son and started watching. It became a habit, watching that silly show, and soon Mom and I were discussing episodes. We talked about improbable storylines and favorite characters. She’d fill me in on their history and I’d shake my head in astonishment. “She used to be married to him! You’re kidding!”
That show ended up becoming something we had in common. It was a shared experience. When I watched it, I imagined discussing it with Mom. Sometimes, I’d call her right in the middle of the show. “Can you believe that?” We’d talk during the commercial and hang up quickly as soon as the show returned.
Looking back, I realize I didn’t watch Guiding Light because I enjoyed the storyline or characters. I watched it because of the way it made me feel when I heard that familiar theme song and saw those familiar faces on the television. As if it was always a warm spring afternoon with summer right around the corner. As if that old collie would always be there to greet me. As if my mom would always be right there waiting for me to get off that school bus.
This story originally appeared in Memories of Mom and Dad: An Indie Chicks Anthology
Cheryl Shireman is the bestselling author of several novels, including Broken Resolutions, the Life is But a Dream series, and the Cooper Moon series. She is also the author of ten books for toddlers including the eight Let’s Learn About series focusing on different animals and I Love You When: For Girls and I Love You When: For Boys.