My Mom-Vigilante Role Model
Single, Wronged Mom Gets Her Revenge
My parents split when I was six, and the split was not the most amicable. My mother had emigrated to America in 1970 after marrying a handsome American Vietnam Veteran in Germany and quickly learned English.
My parents had a bad divorce. My sister was two and as soon as my father left mom started her own upholstery business. She had been taking lessons from an old German Master Craftsman and had everything planned out by the time she told my father to move out. He did so very gladly, but I remember crying myself to sleep the night he left.
There was always drama surrounding child support money, and we were often recruited to ask dad for it. That is naturally a big entry into the big “What Not to Do When You Divorce” book, which hadn’t been written yet, because divorce was certainly not as common as it is today.
When the business began to pick up, however, mom became very busy. We were fortunate to live in an area heavily laden with IBM’ers who had lots of money to spend on upholstering and decorating their upscale homes. This was before the days of the internet, and my mother relied on word-of-mouth for her advertising needs and a simple business card that the “Upholstery is My Business.”
Mom set up shop in the garage and basement of our raised ranch. The sample books were kept inside the house, and she did the dirty work in the garage. The garage was a fun place-full of horsehair to stuff chairs, batting to soften cushions, Spanish moss for stuffing, lots of welting for making neat edges and a button machine. She often had me help her make buttons with that machine and it was fun to use.
Sometimes my mother had a neighborhood lady help her, or she would recruit people from the upholstery class she was now teaching at the adult center to supplement her income. Her usual complaint was that most people just did not possess the pizzazz needed to keep up with her pace, nor the common sense that helped her be successful in this business. She worked morning and night, whipping up beautiful furniture transformations. It was very interesting to hear her counsel people on the right fabrics to use on their chairs. She took the secondary role of helping people have good taste very seriously.
Mom was an independent woman with a successful business. She was a role model. She did things on her terms and the customers were always satisfied. She had a couple of caveats, however; she would not do slipcovers or curtains. She was very strict about this.
One day, however, things changed. She received a call from a guy who needed someone to re-do the cushions on his speed boat. Intrigued by the idea of a challenge, my mother told him to bring the cushions over and they would see what they could do.
The guy turned out to be a dashing French/American racecar driver, and I think he had my mother wrapped around his finger instantly. She eagerly took on the project, and for the next few weeks, they spent lots of time together, looking at sample books, working together to reupholster the oddly-shaped cushions, and talking about all of the wonderful and exciting boat rides that lay ahead for all of us. I am pretty sure he romanced her and it had even gotten to the point where she agreed to forego payment in exchange for lots of fun time together out on the water. He was nice to my sister and I, and I guess we all kind of had a crush.
When the cushions were finished, they looked beautiful. They had chosen an orange and white vinyl motif, which my mom had worked on meticulously day and night. The customer was very satisfied and eagerly took the cushions home, again promising exciting summer days filled with boat rides and at least maybe a chance at romance with this dashing and handsome man.
My mother waited to hear from him. She called and left messages. He did not return the calls. We asked about him and she said she hadn’t heard anything. After about a month, a raging anger took over and my mother started sending him bills in the mail, which he ignored.
My mother, angry for having been taken for a fool, decided on her course of revenge. It is one of the most vivid moments of my childhood. One Friday evening, she drove over to where he lived and parked somewhere where her SUV could not be seen. She then tiptoed into his yard and peered in the window. What she saw infuriated her. He was dressed to the nines like some playboy gigolo ready for a night out with the ladies. She could also see that the boat cushions were still in the basement and not yet on the boat.
Mom waited patiently in the woodsy yard until he left for the night. After he had been gone for about ten minutes, she carefully went up the back porch steps. The careless race car driver had left the sliding glass door open with only a locked screen door keeping my mother out. So she took a sharp little knife that she had with her and cut a slit in the screen. She went down to the basement, opened the back basement door and removed all of the cushions as quickly and quietly as possible. When the cushions were all out, she left him a note and told him that if he wanted his cushions, he would have to pay her. Then she went to the car that she had hidden, quickly drove it to his house and loaded the cushions into her car.
As she was driving home she realized that she had done a rash and crazy thing, not to mention the criminal act of breaking and entering. She didn’t quite think of it as stealing, since he hadn’t kept his side of the bargain, but she still felt like she had broken the law and did something that many people might not do. On the way home, she saw a policeman sitting in his squad car. She stopped the car near his and knocked on the window.
She told the cop everything; the amount of work it had taken to make the cushions, how he had promised us the world and never delivered, and that in her rage, had taken the law into her own hands and had broken into the house to steal them back and that she had left him a note, telling him everything and that she was now scared that he would come over and do something crazy.
The policeman assured her that he wasn’t going to arrest her, and he would be glad to do regular patrols of the neighborhood to make sure my mother would be safe. The next morning, mom told us everything. We were both excited about it, but also somewhat scared. She told us that he would probably come over today and that if he did we were to stay out of sight. That part was exciting. And when he finally came over later that afternoon, we hid in the deepest closet that we could.
There was no yelling, as far and we could hear. Upon the advice of the cop, my mother had driven her truck to the back of the yard so the cushions wouldn’t be sitting where he could easily snatch them back. From what I remember my mother telling me, he was apologetic, gave my mom a check, and then got the heck out of there as fast as he could. I am sure it is because he spied the patrol car hanging around near our driveway and decided to cut his losses and do the right thing. Naturally, the sexy racecar driver was never to be seen, nor heard from again. We never knew how his summer of boating had turned out, but we had the satisfaction of knowing our mother had her limits.