MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Now that school's out, commentator Julie Zickefoose has been spending time at home with her kids. She enjoys filling them in on their early childhood, showing them photos and telling stories and answering their questions about life. This story was inspired by a conversation with her young son.
JULIE ZICKEFOOSE: It was a quiet morning and my son and I were getting our breakfast. Liam, age 9, was spreading peanut butter on toast. As usual, he had forgotten to get a plate. But he hadn't gotten any peanut butter on the counter. I had to grant him that. Mommy, what is the most mad you've ever been in your whole life? Ooh, I had to think about that one. Most of the thoughts I could dredge up aren't ones I really want to revisit while packing a lunch. But one event rose like curdled cream to the top.
Oh, I've got it. Yeah, this is definitely it. You were just a tiny baby and I had you asleep in your detachable car seat in the top part of my shopping cart in the Kmart parking lot. I was unloading shopping bags and getting ready to put you in the car, and I heard a roar and squealing tires, and this old, beat-up pickup truck came skidding into the parking space right where we were standing at what seemed like 40 miles an hour.
I threw my body over you and then whirled around and glared at the driver. There in the front seat were two teenage boys, the skinny kind with long hair down over their eyes, and they were laughing about something.
Well, a haze came down over my eyes, and my head started buzzing and I leapt at the truck. I'm afraid what I said wasn't very nice. I demanded to know what they thought they were doing driving that fast in a parking lot. And were they aware that this is my infant son right here, one foot away from their speeding junk heap? And did they have any idea what it meant to speed in a parking lot at night when there were people and children everywhere you look?
The driver sneered at me, trying not to look taken aback or sorry in the least. Chill, lady, chill, he said. Then he sneered at me again and laughed in an uncomfortable way, like, what a freak. She's off her nut. At that, I leapt on the hood of his truck in one smooth move, like a mama lion, began to beat on the roof and windshield with my fists. The beats kept time with my words.
You want me to chill? This is my child's life here. You will not, you cannot understand what you have just done until you have children of your own, and I hope that is a long, long time from now and I hope you remember this moment for the rest of your sorry life.
I looked at Liam, who was standing, peanut-butter-smeared knife hanging from his hand, his eyes wide, mouth open in a mixture of awe and delight, 9 years old, still growing and thriving, still here on this earth, still mine to love and protect.
So, Liam, that's the maddest I've ever been in my whole life, the maddest I ever hope to be, and I will jump on top of a truck to protect you because that's how much I love you. And don't you ever speed in a parking lot either.
BLOCK: Julie Zickefoose is an artist and writer living in Whipple, Ohio. She's the author of "Letters from Eden: A Year At Home in the Woods." If you have an opinion about her essay, you can comment at the opinion section of npr.org.
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