When I was a kid, my mom had a very strong opinion of RIGHT and WRONG. I write those words in caps because, that’s the way I heard them.
“Teresa, this is RIGHT.”
“Teresa, that was WRONG.”
I remember a couple of really harsh lessons she taught.
One of them was after discovering my coat pockets stuffed to overflowing with stolen candy. (“That is WRONG!”) Taking a half-dozen kids to the dime store was no treat for my Mom, so when we arrived home and she came across my misappropriated sweets, I’m sure the last thing she wanted to do was The Right Thing. But, she loaded us all back up in the station wagon, drove us into town and made me go in and apologize profusely to the manager of the store.
Another time my little brother, J. and I were riding in the back seat of our old brown station wagon. When we were a half mile from home, he decided, against all previous indications of my mother’s hatred for people who litter (“That is WRONG!”) to toss his soda can out of the open window. Mom yanked the car to the shoulder of the highway and screeched to a halt. She demanded that he get out of the car and go pick it up. While he was searching through the tall grass in the ditch, she drove away. When he made it home, he apologized profusely.
These lessons made a strong impression on me, so, last week, when my neon-green hi-lighter flew out of my hand and hit the sleeping woman next to me on the plane, I knew my mother would have wanted me to apologize profusely.
Was it my fault that the woman didn’t realize what had happened? Or, that she was unable to hear me apologize over the music blasting through her ear buds? Or, that she ignored me and went back to sleep? No, Mom, it wasn’t.
And yet, the words from my childhood continued to ring in my ears. “Teresa, that is WRONG.”
Okay, so I…sorta didn’t give you the whole story. The marker that flew through the air didn’t, uh…exactly, uh… have a cap on it and…when it hit the woman’s forehead, it sorta… left a neon-green bindi dot. And I let her walk off the plane without telling her.
Now I’m waiting for my mother to pull up in our old brown station wagon and drive me to the woman’s house so I can apologize profusely.