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Madness and Memories

By 1999, the world in general seemed to be spinning out of control. The year Jon and I married there was an attempt to bomb the World Trade Center. The Oklahoma Federal Building bombing happened while I was carrying Katherine. Throughout the decade, reports of terrorist attacks overseas escalated in frequency. Violence in the workplace became a common news item. Then, there was Columbine and a few months later a shooting that hit home with the Wedgewood Baptist Church incident. These things affected the business world on several levels. Of course there was the impact on the economy which affected job security. On a deeper level, the fear of each other began to emerge. The quiet person in the office, once thought of as a little bit odd but harmless, may now be thought of as dangerous. Everyone still said good morning and shared pictures of their kids but things started to have a different feel.

On a personal level, I prayed more, I looked for more opportunities to show kindness, and I cherished every moment with my family. Susan and Stephen were approaching adulthood at the speed of light which made me painfully aware of how childhood is very short-lived and that Katherine would soon join the “taller than mom” club. I gathered memories and hoarded them in my heart. As Susan and Stephen lived out everything you have ever learned about teenagers, I would often think of them as smaller children and how they brought so much light to earlier life as a working mom. When I was working at Eggs-on, Susan was 11 and old enough to be alone with Stephen for a short time. I arranged for someone to take them home after school to do their homework on the Nintendo game until I got in from work. One evening, they presented me with a surprise dinner. I opened the door to our little house to find Stephen standing in shirt and tie with a ragged dish towel from the kitchen draped over his arm. He presented me with a hand-crafted menu and ushered me to my seat at the dining table. There followed much whispering from the kitchen after which I was served a glass of water and given a paper napkin. The menu stated “Kooks Family Restaurant” followed by “Dinner for our Little Mommy is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and bread. Love, Your Little Trolls” All of this was served with much formality before they joined me at the table wiggling with excitement and anticipation of my reaction. I could barely speak from the lump in my throat. I knew they would think I was nuts if I cried so I smiled and exclaimed over and over how wonderful everything tasted. Then I said “You know, there are people in this town with millions of dollars who drove a very expensive car home to a very expensive house but opened the door to emptiness, or maybe unhappiness. I want you to know that coming home to you guys and this house and this dinner is worth more to me than millions of dollars.” Susan, money-minded and direct from birth, raised an eyebrow and said “Mom, the meatloaf is not that good; I would take the million dollars.” These and other special memories burned brighter in this working mom’s heart as they grew older and caused me to look deeper for similar things with Katherine.

Katherine made me cry with rocks. Every day when I picked her up after work, I gave her some little treat. I would tell her “put your hand in Mommy’s jacket pocket, I have something for you because I missed you and I love you.” She would put her little hand in and draw out the piece of candy, tiny or toy that I put there. One day, before I could offer my treat she said to me “Mommy, I have something for you.” She pushed her little 4-year old hand deep in her pocket, drew it out, and opened her fist. There rested a pretty rock, carefully selected from the dirt on the playground. “I missed you and I love you too,” she said. After that, a rock was presented each day. Today, they rest in the bottom of a glass jug in our den. Looking back over the years as a working mother, these memories warmed my heart and made me think that maybe I did an OK job. Of all things I hoped to instill in my children, love of God and kindness were at the top of the list along with the desire to make a happy spot in someone else’s day.

As 1999 drew to an end, the fear of “The Year 2K” was on everyone’s mind and fear of terrorism and insanity was overshadowed with fear that planes would fall from the sky and cell phones and cars would cease to function at midnight New Year’s Eve 1999. The business world was in prevention mode amid the deluge of interesting theories, scary articles, and, in some cases, radical behavior.

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