Childhood memories with Mom, including getting stuck in a bathroom - "locked out" from Mom - and being rescued in a fun and neat way! Recounting the pain of separation from Mom at her death. Thanksgiving for all mothers. Picture: January 1960 - 1929 Broadway, New Orleans, LA, childhood home. In pic, left to right: David, Mom holding me and Helen.
“Mom, can I just go in the bathroom by myself for a few minutes before we leave for school? I always have to share it with David. And Helen always takes so long to comb her hair and other girlie stuff. Daddy reads the paper in there for a long time and you keep the door locked, so it is hard for me to be able to get ready for school and comb my hair like you always have to remind me about. Yesterday, I had to rush to the basement toilet in that dark area so I would not have to get redressed. Why do we only have one bathroom in our house?”
How can I forget those and many other challenging sentiments that I used to tell my mother as a kid growing up? Recently, I attended a “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” Conference and heard many other participants share some similar reminiscences of when they were kids, some with 10 or more siblings, and they had to share one bathroom. Maria and I are grandparents now but we had easy bathroom access when growing up compared to those big families.
Mothers have to have a special place in heaven, since they put up with so much from us and usually don't get much recognition other than once a year on Mother's Day. On this day of special acknowledgment and remembrance of our Moms, I recall a rather testy morning when my late mother, Mercedes Kleinpeter Horcasitas, had to endure another bathroom tantrum from me when I was about 8.
That morning, it was already a little past 7:30 AM when we had to leave in order to get to school on time. Sure enough, I had a hard time getting into the bathroom for normal things and was mad that David took longer than usual and had actually locked me out, as I am the youngest of three children. Dad had always told me not to use the lock, since it sometime got stuck – it was one of those old fashioned “skeleton keys” for the doors that most older homes had.
So after I closed the bathroom door that morning, I struggled but was able to turn and lock the door just as David was trying to tease me about something by coming in. Feeling rather over confident and bragging my independence both to my brother and sister, I gingerly combed my hair as Mom, who hardly every raised her voice, yelled, “It is time to go, Keith!!!”
Feeling a little trepidation yet knowing that at least I'd escaped the wrath of Dad, who had already caught the bus to work, I quickly attempted to turn the skeleton key to open up the bathroom door. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't engage the key properly and started to cry. By that point, Mom had had enough and needed to get David and Helen to school on time, so she got a neighbor's maid, Millie, to come stay with me till she came back from school.
I almost thought of another way out of the bathroom but was too afraid to try it. My late uncle, Mario Zervigon, who had lived in our mainly 2nd story house previously, was an engineer and had devised a neat chute-like fixture to the bathroom so we could easily deposit our dirty clothes downstairs where the washer and dryer were located. The chute was at a steep 45 degree angle and only about 2 feet wide with a sheet metal perimeter that went down about 12 feet, so I was too afraid to take that plunge – although many times David and I had dreamed of doing something like that!
By the time Mom got back, I had tried and tried to get the key to turn and even used some tricks that Millie had suggested, like rubbing the key with soap, but to no avail. Finally, desperate to get her son out, Mom called the Fire Department, which came promptly to our house in one of those bright red trucks. The Firemen used one of the cherry picking ladders to position next to our shower bathroom window. I helped by raising the window and loosening the screen latches. The Fireman had a great disposition, so he calmed me down and made it fun!
I got a cool ride down with the Fireman using the swinging mechanical ladder only to get a swift swatting on my backside by Mom that I knew I truly deserved – but I'd cried so much in that crisis and had so much fun with the Fireman that no more tears came out. When Mom brought me to school late that morning, the word had spread quickly and everyone greeted me with a hero-like welcome and cheers. My English teacher told me my writing assignment was to tell about what had happened.
Thank you, Mom, for being there for me when I locked myself in the bathroom and many, many other crisis times all through my life. Everyday, I realize more and more how much you carried me through life – not to mention the 9 months when I was tied umbilically to you! Being Catholic, you used to tell me that I was a “welcomed surprise.” As I like to tell my wife when she complains about my lousy dancing, “I was born 'out of rhythm!'”
However difficult it was, it was a privilege to be with you when you gave your last breath at the hospital and others were there to support me. It was difficult to face the prospect of being “locked out” from you at that moment but you appeared to be so at peace. As I love music and certainly sang some mournful tunes with you as you were dying, the Holy Spirit gave me the “Kyrie,” which includes the lyrics, “Lord, Have Mercy,” and I added “on us.” After Mom had died and I was given support by one of the hospice social workers who was with me, I realized that I'd called her by her nickname, “Mercy.”
So I thank all Moms this Mother's Day and will always treasure the memories I have of my own. “Lord, Have Mercy on us.”
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, May 1, 2011.