I’m not an early morning riser, but I’ll give it my best shot, as I meander down the stairs; thinking about things I’d rather be doing today. However, my Mother insists I run errands with her, which translates to, whatever she does, I have to do.
Reviewing her daily checklist, Mother announces, “Ashley. We have much to do today. I hope you didn’t make plans.”
“Not anymore.” I know the sound of defeat.
Glancing out the window and back again, I started observing her meticulous nature with sorting through the food packed boxes that cover the dining table. We haul the boxes into the van and take leave. We approach the Grange Hall where my Mother heads up the community dinners, a monthly fundraiser, and where four other volunteers are waiting.
“Yes, Ashley. All this stuff is for baking cookies.”
After organizing our ingredients, I wandered through to the main hall. There are folding tables standing upright side by side, each holding several pastry containers spanning the entire table; my thoughts reverted to [i]Wow, we have to fill all of these?[/i]
Mother tosses me an apron, and she begins measuring the dry ingredients. I have the task of blending all the wet ingredients: eggs, vanilla, butter … until thoroughly mixed. I secure the bowl in its socket, resting my hand on its edge, and I turn the switch to high speed. The beater grabs the loose string from my bracelet and pulls it into the mix. I start pulling back, as it wraps itself around. I try to break loose, but the force keeps dragging me in. Finally, the tension breaks the string from my wrist, and I flip it to off. Almost shy of a hand, I stare at the mess I’ve made, and thankful it wasn’t my neck. In the disarray, Mother seizes the opportunity to explain.
“Thank goodness. Start on low.”
At the moment, I fail to understand how this is fun. Starting over, I make as many batches of dough as my supply allows. After cooling, we fill each container leaving the chocolate crinkles for the dinner fundraiser, and the chocolate chips are loaded into the van. Although, my mishap almost had the better of me, I know it won’t be for nothing.
“Time for lunch soon, we can eat at the Jesus Center.”
“Homeless people eat there.”
Her insistent glare at me begged the question, [i]how self-centered are we?[/i] As if pleading for any acceptable excuse. I turned the radio on, but I could still hear my stupidity. Once we arrive, I unload the boxes, and try to make myself useful. I focus on the tablecloths, displaying the cookie tray, and the drinks. I heard Mother’s voice, “Oh, Pastor Dave, nice to see you.”
“She is your daughter?”
“Yes. Ashley,” she said.
“How nice, that our youth would want to spend time here.” Pastor Dave said.
I forced a smile, shook his hand and scattered for a place to hide. My Mother accommodates me in providing an excuse, “I’ve been working Ashley hard today.”
I retreat back to making meals, measuring out cups of potato salad and washing the fruit. With everyone gathered around the island sink, Pastor Dave takes the lead in saying a prayer; however, mine resembled something similar to a confession. The doors open, and everyone in line walks through. I’ve never seen any of these people around town, and some look well kept.
“Is this your first time?” The volunteer said.
She continued on, “You’d be surprised. Being homeless can happen to anyone.”
I remember the gloves and turn to put them on. I turn back around to start serving.
“Tracy,” I shouted to her embarrassment, or maybe mine.
I try to speak with her, but she buries her eyes downward. Her father gestures with a nod, accepts the food, and they both walk to the tables. I remember my Mother’s glare in the car, and my shame went to an all new low. I excuse myself to find her. I notice her cleaning the beverage table.
“Thanks, Mom.” I squeeze her with much love and gratitude. She fixes my hair with gentle strokes, and gives me a warm smile. To convey her understanding, she offers encouragement.
“Helping people who need our support is rewarding,” she speaks firmly.
“I know. So is working in the kitchen.”
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