The gift

I wrote the following piece many years ago about a time my mother and I had lunch together. She didn’t want to eat and surprisingly the gift did the trick.

The Gift

by Madeline Sharples

Laura saw him standing quietly by the door. He turned and put a quarter into the vending machine.  The next time she looked up he was holding a white stuffed bear dressed in blue plaid overalls, a bow tie and baseball hat.

The brightly lit restaurant was almost empty except for the waiter, a woman sitting alone in the front booth, and Laura and her mother sitting across from each other in the booth by the window. Laura was in her mid 50s, slim with short graying hair and a look on her face that said, “I want to be any place but here.”   Her mother was so short her head of pure white whispy hair barely reached the top of the booth.

“I’m not even hungry,” the older woman said. “Nothing ever tastes good to me.”

“Mom, you look so pale, you have to eat something,” Laura said.

“What are you having?” she asked.

“The tuna fish sandwich,” said Laura.

“Yuk, how could you with all the goo? No, I’ll have the diet plate.” her mother said, though she had no need to be on a diet.

“Fine, but don’t complain about being tired.  It’s from not eating enough.”  Laura looked away. She knew arguing with her mother would get her nowhere. Her mother complained even if there was nothing to complain about.

Now, the man was standing at their table.  Laura looked up with a start — but, his wide, playful smile, the gleam in his eyes, crinkly crow’s feet, and his Tom Selleck mustache put her at ease. He turned to the old woman and looked into her watery sad eyes.

“Here, this is for you,” he said as he handed her the bear.

“For me!” she cried, smiling for the first time all day.  “No one has ever given me something just like that.  I love it.  Thank you so much.”

Not believing how quickly her mother’s face lit up, Laura, too, thanked him. It didn’t matter that the toy came from the quarter vending machine by the door. It did the trick. Her mother ate every last bit of her lunch.

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