My mother, whom I called “Ma,” and I were often at odds with each other. Funny how you get a different perspective on these things many years later.
(A slightly altered passage from the book)
A few weeks before my eighth birthday, Ma, Bertie and I were walking through McCrory’s Five and Ten, and I saw a cute big boy doll sitting on a counter. As we walked by I said, “Oooh, what a cute doll!” I was just running off at the mouth, as I often did when we went to stores together. When my birthday arrived, I was amazed and chagrined that Ma had bought the boy doll for me. I hadn’t really wanted him, and I felt cheated because she had never asked me what I actually wanted. I felt like she was just clutching at straws to figure out what to buy me, because she really didn’t know me or care about what I might really want. I named him Robby, but soon tired of playing with him. One day I tore his clothes off and carelessly threw him on my bed. Later on Ma came into my room and saw him lying there in the nude, legs akimbo.
“Look at the way you treat that nice doll I gave you!” she yelled. “Don’t let me catch you leaving him like that ever again!”
After that I put Robby away in the closet and didn’t play with him any more. Many years later, recalling the Robby fiasco, I realized that Ma had really thought I wanted him, and she had filed that thought away in her memory, making a special trip back to McCrory’s to buy him just for me, ungrateful little wretch that I was.