It's the Summer of 1968. I'm three years old.
I see flowers growing in a garden in front of my house. Mommy is tired from my baby brother or sister that's in her tummy, and she's crying about something on the TV. Maybe if I take her some of these pretty flowers it will make her happy again.
"Let's get some flowers for our moms," I say to my friend Michael. He lives across the street and we play together all the time. Sometimes he's bad, though. I saw him get his mouth washed out with soap once for saying "shit". That's a bad word. He didn't like the soap at all, but his mommy said, "Don't spit it out, chew it up and swallow it." So he did, or else she would have spanked his butt. Nobody likes getting their butt spanked, and Mike's mom is good at it.
We sit down in the dirt next to the flowers. I find the prettiest blue one and pull it up out of the ground. The clump of dirt at the bottom looks like the chocolate cupcakes that Mommy gets from the store. Mike picks a flower, then we each pull up two more. Mike goes across the street to surprise his mom, and I take my flowers upstairs to Mommy's room. I hope she likes them.
"Here's some flowers for you, Mommy."
She starts crying harder. Did I do something wrong?
That's where my actual memory ends. In the years since that day, my parents have filled me in on, as Paul Harvey says, "The Rest of the Story".
Mom was five months pregnant with my brother Eric, and was going through all the physical and emotional symptoms that this entails. On top of that, the events of June 5, 1968 were being rehashed on the morning news.
The assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
Suffice it to say, Mom was a wreck. Which is why her adorable, wonderful, loving, and most of all quite charming three year-old son was trying to cheer her up.
When she saw me standing there with a handful of flowers, clumps of dirt falling on her bedroom floor, Mom's emotional fortitude red-lined and she started bawling her eyes out. She gave me a big hug, put me down, and laid down in bed.
I went back outside to play with my Tonka trucks.
Unbeknownst to me, when our landlord Mr. Thomas got home, he was furious about his meticulously manicured flowerbed being uprooted and trampled by a couple of bratty three year-olds. He wasted no words in expressing his displeasure to my pregnant mother.
In her highly emotional state, Mom did not take this well. So as soon as my dad got home from work, she told him what happened.
Dad then went next door, threw a ten-dollar bill at Mr. Thomas and said something to the effect of, "Here's ten dollars for your fucking flowers, and if you talk to my wife like that again, we'll be settling up another way."
This exchange was overheard by Mrs. Thomas, who proceded to rip her husband the proverbial "new one".
"How dare you yell at a pregnant woman! Her darling son took her those flowers to keep her from being sad, and you're worried about how your precious garden looks? You're going to go over there and apologize right now!"
And he did.
Daddy and Mommy take me to King Kone for ice cream. I like chocolate the best. It's all melty, so it drips down my chin and I get some on my shirt. But Mommy doesn't get mad. She just smiles and wipes my face.