Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Helen (A Mother's Pride - continued)

Helen likes writing at home in her own time. During class time, after she reads out loud, she likes to just relax while the other seniors write and then listen to their stories when they are done. She is very patient. When the other seniors write, she and I just talk softly, most of the time about her kids and grandkids, and always, always about how caring they are. Actually, now that I think about it, I have never heard Helen complain about anything in her life.

Helen is so shy but so proud when she pulls out her filled notebook every week - and she doesn't disappoint, she always has a good story to tell. Some people go to years of school to construct storylines like hers, storylines arcing from intriguing beginnings to satisfying endings. But she is a natural. Her writing and her voice - or is it a combination of the two? - when she reads out loud to us, she pauses at every punctuation mark as though to reflect on her own writing - always leaves something in the air even after her stories end.

This one is about her son Trevor.
Some of my happiest moments are when I’m reminiscing about happenings in the past.

It all began when my younger son entered kindergarten. He walked over to an aquarium and there was a hard-shelled turtle! Trevor was fascinated by the turtle. When school closed for summer vacation, he brought it home with him.

As years passed, Trevor bought a rabbit, long and short haired guinea pigs, hamsters, chameleons, white rats, and a cat. Eight hard-shelled turtles were collected from nearby countrysides.

The one thing that I had specifically forbidden him to bring home was a snake. One day, I was in the kitchen when my son came home from junior high school. Instead of coming into the kitchen, as he usually did, he stood in the vestibule with one hand in back of him. I called to him and asked what was the matter. He didn’t answer, so I walked to the vestibule. Tears began to run down Trevor’s cheeks. I asked to see what was in his hand. It was a boa constrictor snake. I told him to take it back to the pet shop immediately. My husband walked in at that moment. I knew he was on his son’s side (because he had also liked pets as a boy) but he didn’t say anything because he knew I was deathly afraid of snakes. Trevor pleaded and pleaded. Finally, I relented when he promised to keep the boa in the basement in an aquarium.

Trevor kept the boa through high school and college, two years of ROTC, marriage, and two children. While the children were in their teens the snake caught pneumonia and died.

I neglected to say that Trevor also had three large bee hives at the back of his yard. He had joined a national bee organization. At first he bottled honey for the family, but some people actually asked to purchase some. It’s surprising the influence that a hard-shelled turtle had in shaping the career of a little boy upon entering kindergarten.

In college Trevor majored in Biology. Later, he became Personnel Director of Wyeth Laboratories.