I had heard this story as often as the usual anecdotes that started with “did I ever tell you about the time”. My mom didn’t have to retell this one over and over in order for me to be able to recall, with vivid clarity, every detail. At the time of her ordeal I would have been too young to understand even if I had been awake, and not in my crib.
“Debbie has heard this before,” she began, pausing and giving me a glance that seemed to warn that maybe, this time, I was going to hear something different. She went on “But she won’t mind hearing it again.”
We were sitting at a small round table with two of her lady friends from church. It struck me as strange that here were two women she had known for twenty-five or thirty years and she had not told them her famous “near rape” story.
Or maybe she had and now, with their support, she could tell me the frightful truth.
“My husband was gone to a reserve meeting and I was home alone with the girls. I had just put Debbie to bed – the crib was still in our room – and I decided to put Diane in our bed so I could scrub the floor in her room. Well, I got distracted and found myself reading and before I knew it, it was too late to scrub the floor.”
My mom always laughed at this point and she did today, but the story was slightly off. Why wasn’t she telling what it was that distracted her? I remember it was a magazine article, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, and it was so interesting that she couldn’t put it down.
I glanced at the ladies, one had been my Sunday School teacher many years before, and they both had that questioning look that made it seem like they were ignorant of what was coming next in the story. My hearing felt sharper.
“So I went in our bedroom and reached down to pick up Diane and take her back to her own bed . . . and the bedroom door closed behind me and some man’s voice said ‘Don’t move, I’ve got a knife.’ And I squeezed Diane tightly . . . and she woke up and said ‘Oh, mommy, it’s just Daddy.’”
Mom quoted the exchange as if by rote, her eyes focused elsewhere, her hands clasping her purse.
“And I said with a sigh ‘Oh, honey, no it isn’t.’ I said ‘What do you want? You want money?’ And he said no. He wanted something else. So I just started talking.”
This is where always before she would tell how she had read an article by Dr. Crane advising women to keep a man talking so he couldn’t “get his motor running” as she put it. That had always seemed rehearsed to me. She left it out this time.
“So I kept him talking and he was trying to fondle me and kept backing me up. He got me as far as I could go, against the crib, so I said ‘Okay, I’ll give you what you want but you have to give me that knife.’ He said okay . . . and I told Diane to leave the room.”
Mom sighed again and her eyes refocused on her friends.
I knew what she would say next. She would say that she had no intention of giving him what he wanted. She would say that Diane wouldn’t leave the room and had started crying. The man would get flustered then and ask for money and my mom would tell him it was in the kitchen. He would follow her out there, she would dig in her purse and thrust all she had into his hand and as soon as he went out the door she would start screaming. That’s what she would say. But she didn’t.
“Oh, dear, that must have been horrible,” one of her church friends said, the one that had been my Sunday School teacher. Maybe she had heard the story before after all. She leaned over and patted my mother’s hand and said, “Did I ever tell you about the time that George was gone to Cleveland and I was alone for two weeks?”