Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Call That Came at Midnight

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Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Well Sunday is Mother’s Day. And let me tell you, I think moms everywhere deserve to be honored, pampered, loved, and get lavished with lots of gifts. Hey, I like gifts. But seriously, I can honestly tell you that there is no job as difficult as being a mother. You look at those little humans and know they are watching you to learn how to live. It’s a scary thought, and it always makes me want to be a better person. And it makes me appreciate my mom, too.

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to post a personal experience piece I wrote almost twelve years ago. And I’m warning you upfront, it’s not funny. You might recognize it. The story was the leading essay in the Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 2 in 1995. I’m also running a contest, with nice prizes, see the prizes at the bottom of the blog. (See, I feel bad about not being funny.)

And one more thing: My non-fiction writing partner, Faye Hughes, and I have just launched our new website, http://www.writewithus.net/. Not only will the website have information about our speaking engagements, our workshops/online classes and upcoming projects, it will offer writing tips and information—from how-to articles to examples of synopses that have sold books. We plan to house even more articles and information at the site’s Yahoo! Groups.
If you get a chance, please stop by for a visit . . . and tell your friends!


“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” Margaret Mead

The Call That Came At Midnight

We all know what it's like to get that phone call in the middle of the night. This night’s call was no different. Jerking up to the ringing summons, I focused on the red illuminated numbers of my clock. Midnight. Panicky thoughts filled my sleep-dazed mind as I grabbed the receiver.


My heart pounded, I gripped the phone tighter and eyed my husband, who was now turning to
face my side of the bed.

"Mama?" I could hardly hear the whisper over the static. But my thoughts immediately
went to my daughter. When a desperate sound of the young crying voice became clearer on
the line, I grabbed for my husband and squeezed his wrist.

"Mama, I know it's late. But don't say...don't say anything, until I finish. And before you
ask, yes, I've been drinking. I nearly ran off the road a few miles back and..."

I drew in a sharp shallow breath, released my husband and pressed my hand against my
forehead. Sleep still fogged my mind and I attempted to fight back the panic. Something
wasn't right.

"And I got so scared,” she continued. “All I could think about was how it would hurt you if a policeman came to your door and said I'd been killed. I want...to come home. I know running away was wrong. I know you've been worried sick. I should have called you days ago, but I was

Sobs of deep-felt emotion flowed from the receiver and poured into my heart. Immediately
I pictured my daughter's face in my mind, I recalled the light raspy sound of her voice and my
fogged senses seemed to clear. "I think---"

"No! Please let me finish! Please!" She pleaded, not so much in anger, but in desperation.

I paused and tried to think what to say, before I could go on, she continued. "I'm pregnant,
Mama. I know I shouldn't be drinking now...especially now, but I'm scared, Mama. So

The voice broke again and I bit into my lip, feeling my own eyes fill with moisture. I
looked at my husband who sat silently mouthing, "Who is it?"

I shook my head and when I didn't answer, he jumped up and left the room, returning
seconds later with the portable phone held to his ear.

She must have heard the click in the line because she continued, "Are you still there?
Please don't hang up on me! I need you. I feel so alone."

I clutched the phone and stared at my husband, seeking guidance. "I'm here, I wouldn't
hang up," I said.

"I should have told you, Mama. I know I should have told you. But when we talk, you just
keep telling me what I should do. You read all those pamphlets on how to talk about sex and
all, but all you do is talk. You don't listen to me. You never let me tell you how I feel. It is as
if my feelings aren't important. Because you're my mother, you think you have all the answers.
But sometimes I don't need answers. I just want someone to listen."

I swallowed the lump in my throat and stared at the how-to-talk-to-your-kids pamphlets
scattered on my night stand. "I'm listening," I whispered.

“You know, back there on the road, after I got the car under control, I started thinking
about the baby and taking care of it. Then I saw this phone booth and it was as if I could hear
you preaching about how people shouldn't drink and drive. So I called a taxi. I want to come

"That's good, Honey," I said, relief filling my chest. My husband came closer, sat down
beside me and laced his fingers through mine. I knew from his touch that he thought I was
doing and saying the right thing.

"But you know, I think I can drive now."

"No!" I snapped, my muscles stiffened, and I tightened the clasp on my husband's hand.
"Please, wait for the taxi. Don't hang up on me until the taxi gets there."

"I just want to come home, Mama."

"I know. But do this for your mama. Wait for the taxi, please."

I listened to the silence in fear. When I didn't hear her answer I bit into my lip and closed
my eyes. Somehow I had to stop her from driving.

"There's the taxi, now."

Only when I heard someone in the background asking about a Yellow Cab did I feel my
tension easing.

"I'm coming home, Mama." There was a click, and the phone went silent.

Moving from the bed, tears forming in my eyes, I walked out into the hall and went to stand
in my sixteen-year-old daughter's room. The dark silence hung thick. My husband came
from behind, wrapped his arms around me, and rested his chin on the top of my head.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks. "We have to learn to listen," I said to him.

He pulled me around to face him. "We'll learn. You'll see." Then he took me into his arms,
and I buried my head in his shoulder.

I let him hold me for several moments, then I pulled back and stared back at the bed. He
studied me for a second then asked, "Do you think she'll ever know she dialed the wrong

I looked at our sleeping daughter, then back at him. "Maybe it wasn't such a wrong
number." Somehow, I was sure this had been some kind of a wake call for me as a mother.

"Mom, Dad, what are you doing?" The muffled young voice came from under the covers.

I walked over to my daughter who now sat up staring into the darkness. "We're practicing,"
I answered her question.

"Practicing what?" she mumbled and laid back on the mattress her eyes already closed in

"Listening," I whispered and brushed a hand over her cheek.


Okay, what I’d like to hear from you guys now are stories of being a mom, maybe stories of your mom. Come on, it’s Mother’s Day, let’s share. And because it’s mother’s day, I’m doing a contest. Some lucky poster will receive an ARC ( Advanced Reading Copy) of Weddings Can Be Murder, a Sexy, Suspenseful and Seriously Funny Tee-shirt, and a pack of my note cards. So post away guys!

Happy Mother’s Day

Crime Scene Christie, AKA, Mama


Terri Osburn said...

Man, I need some tissues. These are the moments that make life so incredible. And you're an angel.

Becoming a mother is the best thing that ever happened to me. My daughter is my greatest accomplishment and always will be, no matter what I do in the future.

When I decided to move from AR to VA, my ex decided to keep my daughter so we couldn't leave. For two weeks I tried everything to talk him into giving her back. For ten days he wouldn't even let me talk to her on the phone. The last time I heard her voice she sounded scared to death and to that point (she had just turned 5) we had never been apart that long.

I'm still not sure how I didn't end his time on this planet. It wasn't easy for a long time after that, but our lives are so much better now I can't even put it into words. I like to think that's the universe's way of paying us back for all we went through.

Christie Craig said...


I know what you mean about being scared. Thank God things came out okay.

Crime Scene Christie

Anonymous said...


I love this! Such a great inspirational story. And Terrio, I'm glad that things turned out okay for you and your daughter. Your experience sounds really scary.


Lucy said...

Wow. Last week you have me laughing so hard that those not behind my closed door think laughing gas must have been sprayed in my office. Today you have me crying...and the door is OPEN.

All I can say though is Wow. Seriously, we've got to spend time together.

Christie Craig said...


Thanks for stopping by girl.

Happy Mother's Day girl.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...


Thanks girl.

Hey, I gotta make you cry every now and then so you will appreciate the humor.

Crime Scene Christie

anne said...

Loved this story which is emotional and lovely. Mothers do deserve credit since their contributions to society are important, in other words, productive and worthwhile individuals.
I wish that I had the chance to say the many things that I should have said, when my mother was alive. Now it is too late and there are regrets. Lack of appreciation since the young think that they know more than anyone out there is certainly at the top of my list, and not being aware of the importance of how meaningful it is to have someone there who is caring, loving and supportive.
I enjoyed the quote before the story. thanks for this great blog.

Christie Craig said...

You're welcome, Anne.

And your post is good lesson to us all. Don't wait to say, I love you.


Crime Scene Christie

Terri Osburn said...

Anne - It's never too late to tell her. She's right there with you. Just talk to her. :)

Terri Molina said...

That's a beautiful story Christie, it's no wonder it was the leading essay with Chicken Soup.
Having lost my mother when I was young, I don't actually have any stories about her.
As a mom of four, I've pretty much had to raise my kids by trial and error. Luckily there haven't been too many errors. hah
I've been lucky in that my children 'choose' to talk to me (probably because I constantly talk to them about all life's issues.) In fact, my daughter, who is 14, was sitting with her girlfriends and somehow the topic of sex came up. My daughter's friend was pretty clueless about everything so my daughter said, "Didn't your mom ever give you the 'talk'?" The girl said, "no'. My daughter's eyes grew large and she said, "Oh my God! My mom gives me that talk ALL the time!" haha

Happy Mother's Day, hun!!


Keri Ford said...

What a sweet story! Being a mom is tough work and I've only be at it for 13 MONTHS!

Motherhood is not at all what you expect when you're pregnant and still naive about a lot of things. Now, as I watch tv or read of a mother with her kid, it's like I've been let in on the 'inside joke' so to speak. I didn't understand why mom's were tearing up on what I had thought to be the dumbest littest things...now I do!

Anonymous said...

I've never been a mom, but I'd be lost without mine. I love my dad, but when I was laid up last year with the Broken Ankle from Hell, Mom's the one who slept on the sofa in the living room for months so she could hear me yell in the middle of the night if I needed her. In the good times, we both love hitting antique/junk stores. :)

Christie Craig said...

Hi Terri!

Thanks so much for stopping by.

I'm laughing at you giving the talk to your daughter. I pretty much did the same. My son got to where he would start reciting it to back to me. Ouch!

Thanks for stopping in.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...


Happy Mother's day girl!

I'll bet you are a wonderful mom.

Thanks for stopping in.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...


I'm sure your mom thinks you walk on water. And I know what you mean about them "being there." Even today, when I don't feel good, I want my mom to be there.

Thanks for stopping in.

Give your mom a big hug for Mother's Day.

Oh...I love antique shopping too.

Crime Scene Christie

ruth said...

Thanks for this amazing story and the blog subject which is timely. Mother's Day is a tough time when there is no mother around, but I do appreciate my grown daughters whose values and kindness over the years has made me it all worthwhile. We hope to instill in them the principles which are important. That is our legacy to the next generation.

RM Kahn said...

That was a great post!

Being pregnant was easy. Getting to the point of getting pregnant required numerous surgeries.
But 11 1/2 years ago I had a boy and he has been my pride, joy and grey hair ever since! I have always known I would have a boy. Probably because I was terrified I'd have a girl just like me!

The joke around here is my husband gets to deal with the blood, stitches and broken limbs (of course when I am out of town) and I get to deal with the questions.

When he was three he said, "Mom, you don't have a penis."
"No. Girls don't have those."
He thought for a moment, 'Maybe you can go to the penis store and get one."
It took everything I had not to fall over laughing, but I managed a smile and tried for a reasonable explanation that he might understand at that age. Those questions don't get any easier either.

I have had a hard time watching him grow up and the little boy disappear. It was really tough when he hit double digits and more of those questions came, along with his failing belief in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. (I absolutely refuse to let go of Santa). But I would not trade any of it for the world and truly look forward to what the next many years brings us with this adventurous lovable boy. Being a Mom has been the best job ever.

Happy Mother's Day!

Anonymous said...

I marvel at my mother in raisng me and my twin sister at how fair she was with each of us. Having children of mny own, I tend to do more for one than the other since one is a daughter and the other is a son and he lives closer to me than my daughter. I don't do it intentionally, just that when one is around more than the other it just is more natural.
Now that I have two grandchildren, I try to be fair with them too.

pearl said...

Getting married was a step that I was looking forward to when I was young, but having children was something that I felt I was never ready for, at any age, so I kept postponing the inevitable. Thank goodness I did not wait forever as I know now that I would have missed out on the most gratifying, unique and soul touching experience of all. Having two sons has opened up a new world and they have taught me so much about life, relationships and their own wisdom has given me much to ponder. Great blog which resounded with me.

ellie said...

I can now fully appreciate everything that my mother used to say many years ago. Unfortunately I did not take it to heart and now that she is not here I cannot say how right and wise she was. She did tell me one thing that I still remember well. Being a mother will change your life forever. It will leave you with an emotional wound so deep, you will forever be vulnerable. Yes, that is true and much more. Emotions are at the surface, joy and exhilaration are so powerful and strong that they derail you daily. I don't think that we ever recover from this special experience.

Christie Craig said...


Great post. I know I watch my daughter who is now married and I think she's one of things I did best in my life.

Thanks for stopping by.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

rm Kahn,

Okay...I had a good belly laugh over your son's advice. Too funny!

And I know lots of women who it took years before they got pregnant. I'm so glad it turned out great for you and you got your boy.

Thanks for posting.
Happy Mother's Day.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...


My two children are years 11 years apart, but I still worry if I'm doing more for one than the other. And yes, it does turn out that way sometimes, because each child is different and each comes with a different set of needs.

Happy Mother's day and Grandmother's Day.

Thanks for posting.

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...


Children are a blessing. Yes, they do drive you crazy and turn your hair gray and make you poor, but with one smile, one hug, one whispered, "I love you, Mama" and it so worth it.

Thanks for posting.

Happy Mother's Day

Crime Scene Christie

Christie Craig said...

Wow, that was profound and beautifully written. Are you a poet?

But it's so true, having a child changes everything. You look at life differently, you want differently, you behave differently, and you love differently.

Thanks for posting. Your words will linger in my mind.

Happy Mother's Day,

Crime Scene Christie

Cheryl said...

What a truly wonderful gift you gave that young girl and her mother that night - another chance. I always knew my mom was there for me but I never truly appreciated her or knew what she went through for us and the sacrifices she made for us until I became a mother myself. It's the hardest job there is but also the most rewarding. A smile from one of my kids at just the right moment can erase all the troubles of the day.

Cheryl S.

Christie Craig said...


Those smiles are worth millions.

Thanks for posting.

Crime Scene Christie

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Geez - thanks for the reminder! I just sent my mom flowers. Egypt has it's mother's day in March as does England and by now I sort of feel like I've already "done" that holiday. Not sure my own mother would agree!

Great essay, Christie. But now I want to know what happened next...

RM Kahn said...

Thanks for making me the winner! I received the great gifts today and am already diving into the book.

You rock!

Anonymous said...

I, love this story Christie im so glad you posted in on killerfiction. hope to see you in the near future.