This is a guest post written by my mother, Vicki O’Neal many years ago. ~ Karissa
There I was in the darkness of my daughter’s yard, wielding a flashlight while raking through piles of leaves. Cars slowed on Lane Street, and I could feel eyes staring at me from the dimness.
My daughter appeared briefly in the doorway of her house, accompanied by her pampered little pooch. She stood looking at me with a dubious expression. “Find them, yet?” Karissa asked in a hushed tone—conscious of the fact that this was a respectable neighborhood, unaccustomed to rakish episodes after dark.
“Not yet,” I said. “Just a purple pen and a pack of Smarties. But no keys.”
Karissa sighed and said she would search through my purse, again; then she and the dog disappeared into the house.
I couldn’t blame her for ducking back inside. The poor girl had a fine reputation to uphold. Having a countrified Mama digging around in the yard, at night, certainly wasn’t going to impress her prestigious clientèle. Professional women, they were—multimillionaire directors of a famous cosmetics company. Karissa designed websites for women with names like Candice Hawthorne Grant and Vivian LaShay Trendsetter. Women who wouldn’t rake a yard at night—not for a million dollars or a pink Cadillac.
Wearily, I raked leaves a while longer; then, feeling cold, I gave up and headed for the house. Inside, I found my daughter going through my purse, item by item. “This is a suitcase, not a purse,” she said, “and it’s a disaster zone. No wonder you can’t find your keys!”
I’m used to her lectures. She’s always fussing at me, telling me to get myself organized…to stop chewing on ice…to use this beauty product or that one—the skin cremes from her beloved cosmetics company, of course. She was at it, again, going full-tilt when suddenly she stopped. “Mother! What is this creme in your purse?”
“Oh, that’s just my under-eye stuff,” I said. “It helps shrink baggy skin. Women have used it for years.”
“What?!” The expression on Karissa’s face had turned to one of horror. “This is hemorrhoid cream! And you put it on your face?” Her eyes were wide, almost pained. “Mother! How could you…!” She fell silent, looking utterly stunned—even betrayed..
No one but a cosmetically-correct woman could understand her feelings, I suppose. Those lovely women with tinted lips and arched eyebrows. Oh, how those perfectly-plucked eyebrows would raise if only they knew of the heresies I’ve committed!
No doubt about it. I was in serious trouble.
Karissa had recovered her ability to speak, now, and she lit into me with a vengeance—all the while rummaging through my handbag. The fact that she soon discovered my missing keys hidden there amid the mess, only added to her indignation.
In the next half-hour, a lot more than my purse was up-ended and thoroughly sorted. Both the contents of my hand bag and my entire life were scrutinized, categorized, and officially declared unacceptable. My daughter went so far as to carry my hapless purse to her bathroom scale.
“Five whole pounds, Mother!” She pronounced the words like a death sentence—a fitting punishment, I’m sure, for a crime of such proportions. “This pack-rat business has got to stop,” she said, tapping the perfect tip of her index finger against the table. “Tonight, I’m going to help you put your life in order, and…” she paused for added emphasis, “and you are never going to use hemorrhoid cream on your face, again. It’s for your fanny, Mother, not your face. Understand?”
I nodded wordlessly—unwilling to risk another verbal onslaught. But if I thought the worst was over, I was mistaken. My make-over had hardly begun.
With her pampered little dog tagging at her heels, Karissa marched into her office with me in tow. Her office was a showroom, filled with the evidences of her success—a pink display of all that was perfect in her life. Certificates, awards and diplomas were on every wall. In the first 23 years of her life, my daughter had managed to accumulate more accolades, than I had in an entire lifetime. Her clientele included national directors from every region of the country and from England, as well.
I felt duly chastised by the pictures of the prestigious women on her walls. They looked down on me disapprovingly. Me, with my bulging suitcase of a purse. Me, with the dreaded hemorrhoid cream on my face, and the pieces of dried leaves in my hair.
Karissa began giving me terse instructions. Tonight, I would learn the keys to success; I’d learn what it takes to become a woman of the 21st Century. My old, slovenly life was over. Understand? Over!
I could only look at my daughter with wonder and a hint of consternation . This was my offspring. I had created this model of perfection. It didn’t seem possible.
For the next few hours, I was subjected to a bewildering barrage of lessons about computers, e-mails, websites and more. I knew it was hopeless—I felt totally out of my league. But then, Karissa mentioned something called a Motherboard, and I felt somewhat mollified. I do know about Motherboards—better known in my world as the Board of Education. They come in handy when dealing with unruly children. I seriously felt the need for one, right now, but unfortunately my daughter was just too big to spank.
With her nostrils flared, she was eyeing me narrowly. I tuned into her words just in time to hear her say: “So—do you think you can handle that, Mother?”
“Certainly!” I said, gathering the last shreds of my dignity about me.
Karissa sighed and picked something out of my hair. She took the glassful of ice tea out of my hand. “We’ll see,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m creating a website for you and your published articles. I’ve made you an e-mail address and business-cards and labels…and what else?” She paused. “Oh yes….”
She left the room and came back a moment later, carrying a laptop computer. It was incredibly thin and light. High tech. Top of the line. I was impressed by its sleek beauty.
“Here,” Karissa said. “I’m going to lend you this laptop. It’s ancient and heavy, of course, but it will have to do. It’s been in my attic, gathering dust for ages.”
Wordlessly, I accepted the ancient laptop. Wordlessly, I got ready to leave. It had been a long, difficult evening—but I’d gotten through it, somehow.
Feeling the need of fortification, I sneaked a chunk of ice from my tea glass, when Karissa’s back was turned—then bending down, I picked up the only evidence of disorder in the entire office. A doggy snack, left by the pampered pet. I was standing there with the dog treat in my hand when Karissa turned back around.
I don’t know how it must’ve looked—me, standing there holding a doggy treat while crunching something between my teeth—but I do know it had a very bad effect upon my daughter.
The expression on her face was the worst I’d seen all evening. It was one of those Tell-me-it’s-not-so expressions. A look of utter despair. “Mother!” she said. “You aren’t eating a doggy snack, are you?”
I started to laugh, then, as all of my pent-up emotions came rolling out. I laughed till I cried—till my bladder nearly overflowed. I had to sit down on one of Karissa’s prissy chairs.
My daughter’s consternation only deepened. “Stop it, Mother!” she said, pulling me to my feet. “Don’t wet on my chair!”
At that point, she hustled me to the front door and out of her house—handing me my purse as I went out. She and the pampered pooch stood in the doorway, watching as I weaved a bit unsteadily toward my locked mini-van. I was still under the influence of inordinate mirth as I stood there, delving into the dark recesses of my handbag.
It was fitting, I suppose, that the night should end this way—with me digging through my bloated purse—spilling its guts out all over the pavement. The newly-made woman, the Sophisticate-Wanna-Be, kneeling in the leaves at the dark curbside while a car cruised slowly down the street.
I heard Karissa’s door go shut with a decisive click, and I found myself alone. Alone, again, without my keys—kneeling in a pile of leaves…. Just me and my five pound purse.
A stray cat paused in his haunts, eyeing me strangely for a moment; then, he circled widely around me and disappeared into the shadows. A wailing siren went off somewhere in the night, and I sighed.
If it was an omen, it certainly wasn’t a good one….