Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Night Mom Saved Me From Vincent Price

The photo on the left shows me in the best seat in the house--my mother's lap. In her lap, I was assured of as many hugs as I was willing to give and receive. In her lap, I listened to many a story. In her lap, I haltingly read aloud many of my first books. In her lap, I watched countless episodes of "Lassie", "Sky King" and "Fury". In her lap, I had innumerable cuts, scrapes and bruises doctored. And sometimes I was in her lap "just because" that's where we both wanted me to be.

There was something magic about that lap of hers. I was completely miserable trying to fight off the measles the winter I was eight. My temperature had soared to 103 degrees. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. In desperation, Mom asked me if I wanted to come into the living room and lay in her lap for a while. Of all the things she'd tried to do for me, this is the one thing that felt right. I was very weak and wobbly, but I made it out to the living room. Mom sat in her recliner, and I climbed aboard. Mom said that I was sound asleep in less than thirty seconds. Mom sat there, holding me close, roasting in the heat of my fever, until she couldn't do it any longer. You see...I grew very rapidly when I was a child, and although I was only eight, I was almost as tall as my mother.

My mother sat in a chair holding on tight to someone almost every bit as big as she was for three hours. When she reluctantly woke me, my fever had broken. She gave me a sponge bath, put me in clean pajamas, and put me to bed where I immediately fell back to sleep.

My mother's lap could work miracles.

But this isn't the time I wanted to tell you about. The night that sticks like duct tape to my memory banks happened a few months later in the summer. I happened to find out that the Late Late Show was going to broadcast my very favorite scary movie, The House of Wax, and I didn't care that I'd see it at least a dozen times, I wanted to see it again!

I made sure that all my chores were done. I helped Mom in every way that I knew how. I spent all day polishing my halo because I wanted to see that movie. And all day long my mother slaved away cleaning the house from stem to stern, weeding the garden and flowerbeds, doing the washing and ironing, getting groceries, cooking up a storm. By the time supper was over, (as she would say) she was "too pooped to pop." All she wanted to do was go to bed and sleep the sleep of the bone weary. But she had this daughter who kept looking at her with huge puppy dog eyes.

"Cathy, there's no way I can stay awake to watch the movie!"

"Mommy, I don't care! You can sleep if you want. I just need you to be in here with me while I watch it!"

I can remember that she looked at me rather strangely.

We both took our baths and got into our pajamas. Mom stretched out on the couch with me up there glued to one of her legs. I don't think the opening credits had finished before I heard my mother's deep even breathing. She was out for the count. I wasn't. My eyes were glued to the television screen. When that eery music started playing and the hideously deformed face and body of Vincent Price limped through the dark foggy streets chasing the innocent heroine, I got a death grip on Mom's leg.

Mom kept right on sleeping.

For some reason, this movie can still scare the bejabbers out of me. If I were to watch it today, I'd be Denis's second skin. That night, while Mom slept, I was her extra layer of epidermis. While Vincent Price sent his henchmen (one of whom was a young Charles Bronson) out to collect beautiful women, I was safe. When Vincent Price rose from his wheelchair to clobber the hero senseless, I knew that the hero should never have tried it because Mom wasn't there to watch his back.

I was one very scared and satisfied little girl when I woke my mother up to tell her it was time to go to bed. Once again, she'd saved me from the monsters, and I could go to bed and watch the moonlight cast shadows of tree branches on my bedroom wall. Only they weren't really tree branches, were they? That's what they wanted me to think. I knew that they were really Vincent Price's twisted claw-like hands from The House of Wax. All I had to do was shout for Mom, and she'd come in and kick his creepy butt.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there from one little girl who had a Mommy with a Monster-Proof Lap. A lot of times you don't have to do anything special to be a "Monster-Proof Mommy". Sometimes you don't even have to be conscious. All you have to do is Be There. Remember that.


  1. What a wonderful story and nice tribute to the unflinching dedication of your Mom! I love that movie and yes, it still scares me too! Happy Mothers Day!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely story about your mother.

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your mother. I can tell she was a very special lady. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. This is an awesome story, thank you for sharing it. (I love the title of the post too -- so funny!)

  5. Sending virtual hugs from Australia!

  6. Your story is the best one today of all the tributes to mothers. Very touching story and beautifully written.

  7. Great story Cathy, and what a great memory to have.

  8. Suzanne--it's good to hear that someone else is scared by House of Wax!

    You're welcome, Beth and Kathy!

    Kim--I'm glad you liked the title. I felt that was exactly what she was doing that night!

    Thanks, Susan. I love hugs!

    Thank you so much, Margot!

    Bernadette--Thank you. I have so many wonderful memories of her.

    Thanks, Terri and Diane!


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