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Melba Montgomery's song "No Charge" lists just some of the reasons to be thankful of mothers. How do you appreciate your mom? Share your comments below.
Monday, May 6, 2013
My father was not much of a music fan back when I was just a boy, especially that nutty rock music some people (like my mother) loved.
Occasionally, though, when driving the family to the store, he would pop in an eight-track tape of country hits from 1973, a blockbuster collection that included Jerry Reed’s “Lord, Mr. Ford” and Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s classic duet “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.” (“We get together every time we can!”)
The real country weeper on that tape, though, was a Melba Montgomery song called “No Charge,” in which a boy hands his mother an itemized list of fees for basic chores, such as mowing the yard, making his bed, taking out the trash and other sweatshop labor he has performed, all of which amounted to the low, low price of $14.75.
Instead of reaching for her checkbook, poor mama wipes her hands on her apron, turns the paper over and writes her own list on the back.
“For the nine months I carried you growin’ inside me, no charge/For the nights I’ve sat up with you, doctored you, and prayed for you, no charge”
And on it went through other motherly worries from “nights filled with dread” to the cost of college to “the toys, food and clothes and … wipin’ your nose,” all fretted over for free. After being guilt-tripped to the point of tears, the poor child writes at the bottom of his list, “Paid in full.”
As I think about the song’s words these many years later, I am still moved by its tender message of love, sacrifice … and just how cheap and emotionally manipulative mothers can be with their children. Come on, Ma! Kid wasn’t even asking for 15 bucks!
But seriously, as much as I love that song, I could come up with a list of things mothers do for their kids that’s more important than “the time and the tears that you’ve cost through the years” — although kids certainly put you through that.
Mama takes you to your first concert, even if it was the Village People at the Carowinds Palladium in the summer of 1979.
And she takes you to your second concert later that same year, which was the Eagles on “The Long Run” tour at the Roanoke Civic Center. (Not to mention the times she took you to see ELO, Hall and Oates and more than one production of “Beatlemania.”)
Mama sits through innumerable baseball games at the tee ball, little league, middle school, high school and college levels, even when your team is getting pounded and it’s raining.
She drives to the discount store to buy boxes of candy and snacks to sell at those games because your school does not have a concessions stand.
Mama practices catch with you the day before the teacher-student softball game even though she … well … throws like a Mom.
When you’re 6 years old and hit a weak foul dribbler down the first-base line, which is the first time you have ever made contact with a pitch in your life, she claps like you hit a home run.
She sews a handmade Spider-Man costume, complete with a mask, that isn’t just for Halloween.
She puts up with Dad’s country music eight-track tapes.
She works multiple part-time jobs so her sons can become the first people in the family to go to college.
She does all of this, naturally, at no charge.
Likewise, the mother I live with today performs most of her duties gratis. She separates the piles of hand-me-down clothes — which her child will not fit into for at least eight years — into boxes and hauls them to the attic. She buys groceries so that her family will not have to eat dad’s specialties of spaghetti and grilled cheese sandwiches for five consecutive days.
She juggles her schedule and two jobs so she can be home when her daughter gets off the school bus. She folds the laundry her husband conveniently forgets is in the dryer. She cleans up after middle-of-the-night nose bleeds.
She reads her child, and herself, to sleep, then wakes early to start the whole process over again. All at no charge.
What a bargain!
Happy Mother’s Day, moms everywhere! You don’t owe me anything for saying that.
Ralph Berrier Jr.’s column runs ev ery other Monday in Extra.
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