A short story by Judy Gerlach published in the anthology My Mom Is My Hero (Adams Media)
Mom smiled and shook her head as she observed the way I stared at the metal lock box on the shelf. Even though I was only fourteen, she always seemed to know what was on my mind. From the way I ogled that box one would think it contained the most valuable treasure in the world. And as far as I was concerned it did. Mom knew that, and the whole treasure chest thing tickled her to no end.
“Do you want to open it to see if it’s still there?”
I sprang from the sofa like a jack-in-the-box. “Yes!”
She chuckled as she went to get the key. She’d given the lock box to me especially for my cherished treasure. She used to say that half the fun of being a mother was the opportunity to experience joy vicariously through her children’s happiness.
“Only twenty more days!” I squealed, bubbling over with enthusiasm as she handed me the key. “If you count today, that is.”
“That’s right,” she said, glancing at the calendar. “Today’s the first day of August.”
I turned the key and slowly lifted the lid of my treasure chest. My heart skipped a beat as my eyes fell on the coveted item that my mom had ordered for me two months earlier. No, the treasure didn’t glitter like gold or sparkle like diamonds. In fact, it was just a small piece of paper—a ticket bearing the words “The Beatles, Crosley Field, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 20, 1966.” My “ticket to ride.”
Mom had helped me organize a small party of my star-crossed friends and, after collecting the money from each Beatle maniac, she’d ordered our tickets for the concert. She had even offered to drive us to Cincinnati ninety miles away. Then for the rest of the summer, she patiently endured endless hours of “Twist and Shout,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “She Loves You”—yeah, yeah, yeah. Unlike some parents, she even got into the music with us girls. But when we tried to get her to do the twist with us, well . . . that’s where she drew the line.
When the big day finally arrived, she loaded us all up in the station wagon, and off we went, Beatles or bust. We left early in the afternoon even though the outdoor concert was scheduled for evening—didn’t want to take any chances with the unknown such as traffic jams, wrong turns, etc. Our physical bodies may have been inside the car but our heads were in the clouds. Mom acted like she was as excited as we were and never once did she try to stifle our state of euphoria. She even made us laugh when she shared her own personal feelings about “dreamboats” from her younger days—Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, and Cary Grant to name a few.
“It seems girls really don’t change that much from generation to generation,” she said insightfully, “only the objects of their affection.”
As we approached Cincinnati we paid no attention to the darkening sky. Mom found a place to park at Crosley Field and walked with us to join the long line of fans waiting for the gates to open. She had her camera ready and took pictures of us posing with our posters and other Beatles memorabilia, all the while masking her concern about the threatening clouds overhead. She was careful not to let her fears rain on our parade, allowing my friends and me to remain lost in the thrill of the moment.
The gates opened, and the mad rush to find our seats commenced with frenzied girls (and guys) surging forward, pushing and shoving and bumping into each other. Mom waved to us before heading back to the car with yet another concern—the worry that one of us girls would get trampled in the stampede.
With one hour to spare we found our seats. We remained oblivious to the weather until the first drops of rain fell on Ringo’s drums, which had been draped with a clear plastic covering. Then reality settled in as heavy as lead. Mom was sitting in the car feeling the same way. Two agonizing hours went by, and the rain showed no signs of letting up. The announcement that the concert was rescheduled for noon the next day offered us very little consolation knowing that my mom wouldn’t be able to make the trip again.
In stark contrast to our entrance, the exit was more like a funeral procession. Mom was waiting with open arms to comfort me. She said she’d been on the phone all evening calling my friends’ parents and nearby hotels. There were no vacancies. And, as I suspected, she said she couldn’t possibly drive us back to Cincinnati in the morning. I pleaded and sobbed as we walked to the car but she sorrowfully replied, “That’s asking an awful lot of me, sweetheart. We’ll be getting home so late, and we’d have to get up so early. I just can’t. I’m sorry.” Though I questioned it at the time, I know now she was as brokenhearted as we were.
No one said a word on the way home. Except for an occasional sniffle, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. At home I cried myself to sleep. The next morning I awoke to bright rays of sun filtering through the window shade as if to mock me and the whole disastrous affair. Then, lo and behold, Mom burst into my room, grinning from ear to ear.
“Get up, Judy! We’re going to Cincinnati!”
I think she’d literally been up all night wrestling with her decision to not make the trip and apparently had a change of heart. I wasn’t sure what had happened, nor did I care. I just knew that Mom was determined to not let a little rain turn this memory into a nightmare. That’s my mom. What a trooper!
We hit the road again singing “It Won’t Be Long,” none the worse for lack of sleep. We repeated the same routine we’d gone through the night before, but now the sun shone gloriously in a clear blue sky. While Cheryl swooned over George and Rosie sighed for Ringo, my heart went pitter-patter for Paul. And Mom, bless her heart, took a walk, got something to eat and waited anxiously to see our glowing, happy faces when the concert was over.
Years later, when my own daughters swooned over New Kids on the Block, without missing a beat, Mom seized the opportunity to tease me. “Payback will be so sweet,” she remarked, winking. I told her I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I thanked her for being such a great mom—for creating such wonderful memories.
Oh, and Mom . . .
“P.S. I Love You.”