My mother was fun, she had to be, she had eight children. We had a summer farm house and we were each allowed to invite a friend to spend time with us up in Maine.
The summer after fourth grade I invited a friend who was a real daredevil, lean and lithe, and just a bit loud – she was from a big family, too.
It was pretty rural where we lived and we drove almost everywhere. Mama amused herself by taking corners so we could play squishy-wishy, or by speeding up over a hill and then quickly letting up in the accelerator so all or stomachs would feel like they were suspended in air for a split second and we all groaned, “Oh!”
The car was always loud, but one afternoon my mom heard my friend say, “I can run forty miles an hour. My dad timed me. I am so fast. No one can run faster than I can.”
My mother adjusted her rear-view mirror, “Really?”
We Brzustowicz children were silenced by that one icy word. We knew mama, and we knew when her radar was up.
My friend, clueless to this other mother’s cues, prattled on, “Oh yeah, no one can run like I can. I’m so fast! I outrun everyone in school, right Mar?”
“You are fast – fastest runner in our class.” I nodded both for her and for my mother, hoping for some sort of truce.
My mother stopped the car.
“Get out.” She said to my friend.
My friend looked at her.
“Get out and run. I’ll time you.”
To her credit, my friend although daunted, moved to get out of the car. She stopped with her hand on the handle. “I’m wearing my Dr. Scholl’s….”
“Run.” said my mother, “I’ll give you a head start.”
My friend ran. Her wooden sandals pounded on the tar softened by the summer sun. The speedometer marked reached five. The Dr. Scholl’s flew off my friend’s feet. Her long girl legs strained. My mother slowed the car; she let it coast to a stop.
My friend got in and mama backed the car up to where the Dr. Scholl’s had landed.
“Confidence is good, but never brag unless you can back it up. Now hurry up and get your shoes so we can go get some ice cream.”