I was one of 13 readers for Listen To Your Mother 2015: Little Rock held at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market district of Little Rock, AR. The video will be available after the season ends nationally — probably midsummer.
The text of my reading follows:
My mother Alice Valley is a loving, kind, wonderful woman, who was either born without a filter or saw no need to filter a conversation. She owned a beauty shop that was usually filled with ladies coming both for hair care and good conversation, because Alice Valley always had a story to tell.
As a fifth grader, I would often go to the beauty shop after school to get junk food out of the vending machine. It was common for ladies to point at me and ask, “Mrs. Valley, is this the one you were talking about?” She would often reply, “No, ma’am. It was one of the older boys. This is one of the twins. Let me tell you what he did… Come here, son, so the ladies can see you.” And so an embarrassing story began fill the room.
I really believe that having a starring role in a beauty shop story was far worse than any other punishment she could give to a child.
Here’s one of my stories. Apparently, I missed her sex education class that happened right before my sister’s wedding. You see, my sister was a bride who was “great with child” and we had a wedding in our living room on New Year’s Day to make sure she was married before the baby came. The next school day, I went to tell my good friend Randy all about the weekend. Somehow in my explaining things, I said, “Now, I just cannot figure out how the stork got her pregnant before they got married. Maybe he already knew that they were in love and wanted to get them a baby as close to the wedding as possible. Because, well, you already know the stork brings babies from heaven to married people who are in love.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” my fifth grade classmate replied to my utter shock. Somehow my ignorance spread like a wild fire.
My mother knew of this incident by the time I got off the school bus.
As she was cooking dinner, she told me to get the World Book Encyclopedia.
I asked, “Which one…” She said, “S.” I said, “Got it! Volume 17 S-Sn. Here you go.” She replied, “No, sir. Open it up. Turn to ‘sex.’ Study what it says for an hour and then come tell me about it.”
My. world. stopped. I don’t think a 10-year old could have been more horrified than at that very moment. I was wrong. That was just the beginning of this tragedy. This scientific quest for enlightenment was as equally interesting as it was disgusting. And there was not one mention of the stork bringing the baby from heaven. My life has been a lie up to this point.
The clock was ticking faster and faster. I memorized all that I could to go have the talk…
In the living room, my mother gathered my siblings together in a circle. I figured that this is either the end of my life or the start of my public speaking career. She looked at me and said, “OK. son, tell us about sex. Listen, now! Tell us everything you know. And if you have any questions, your brothers and sisters will answer them.” A bolt of panic filled the room as they had no clue why we were gathered together nor that they would be called on as sex experts for their dumb kid brother.
For what seemed like an eternity, I rolled off facts awkwardly until my Mother was satisfied that I had a grasp on subject. As the circle disbanded, I put back Volume 17 S-Sn of the World Book Encyclopedia. I mumbled, “this is the worst day ever…” to which I heard an older brother whisper, “Nope. You have plenty of horrible days ahead.” He was right.
A couple of weeks passed. I went to the beauty shop after school to raid the vending machine only to hear the familiar, “Mrs. Valley, Is this the one. Is this the one, Alice?” from one station. And her reply from across the building, “Yes, ma’am. That’s the one. He can tell you all about sex. Go ahead and ask him a question.” The nice lady respectfully declined and I was so thankful.
To this day…I hate storks.