Donna Reed, Eat Your Heart Out This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 10, 2011
She’ll impersonate a dead cow with all fours up in the air on my bedroom floor to get me to smile. She refuses to dust, explaining how it adds character to the house. Her cure for a broken heart is a bag of M&Ms and pint of Ben and Jerry’s. She considers Donna Reed definite dartboard material. That’s Ma for you.

I grew up in a circle of three. Day-to-day living with Ma and my sister Jess taught me the fundamentals of life. Even then Jess and I were close – a special bond connecting us. Ma played the part of the struggling single parent while Dad was off finding himself. Money was always tight and times were tough.

Although Ma graduated from Columbia University, she worked second-rate secretarial positions. Those things didn’t matter though. What mattered to her was enough scrimping and saving to give us the basics of life. Food was basic. Books were basic. Simple Christmas presents were basic. I easily developed a fetish for peanut butter and ramen noodles in exchange for these few pleasures.

There were no stifling ballet lessons or tedious piano practices, but I learned to dance in the rain and play in the snow. Therapy sessions were in the form of whipped cream fights. Ice cream was always a possibility, and Sunday afternoons were spent baking anatomically correct bread people.

Ma raised us without raising a hand. Non-violence was taught as a way of life. She taught us always to be tolerant of others; all have a right to existence. We learned not to be prejudiced against others. To hate was unintelligible to me – especially on the basis of race, religion, beliefs or opinions.

Ma wasn’t like other mothers. She never tried to be, nor did I want her to be. I knew she fell into a class all her own and I was glad. Standing out has always been one of Ma’s best points. There were times, however, when I wish she had blended in a bit more. Then I realized she should do anything but. Ma is Ma for who she is. I’m not embarrassed by her and I wouldn’t ever want her to change.

With Jess going to college this year, Ma’s had more time to write. She’s a newspaper woman, belonging to an almost extinct but elite class of reporters who write with heart in their headlines and soul in their stories. Ma has never ceased to be the most amazing woman I know.

It is because of her I am ready to take on the world. Ma will be right behind me, I know. She’ll be riding that Harley she’s always wanted, wearing one of her big, floppy hats and letting her long, red hair fly out behind her. If ever I should lose my way, she’ll simply throw all fours in the air and point me in the right direction – second star to the right and straight on till morning.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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