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SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: SEASON 3

by Steve Timmons


Episode 13: More Birthday Surprises

I was up early enough on Saturday to allow for a good morning run and still leave time for a leisurely breakfast with my parents before heading over to Susan's for the usual weekend mowing and trimming work.

I already knew that Susan would not be there due to her chaperon duties for the freshman class field trip. Frankly, I had very mixed emotions about that. After the amazing events of Friday afternoon, the place would certainly be dull without her there but, on the other hand, having a little more time to process it all might be a good thing.

Breakfast was the usual Saturday morning fare and I always did look forward to Mom's pancakes. We were just about finished when Mom dropped her bombshell. Now, I could see that she had been preoccupied ever since returning from her two-day stay at State college. She had spoken fondly of the trip on several occasions during the week. But even so, her announcement came like a bolt from the blue when she said, "Jack, John... I have been thinking about how to say this all week and I don't know any other way than to come right out and say it: I want to go back to school and finish my degree!"

Without missing a beat, Dad, in his usual understated manner replied, "Well Jenny, then that's what you should do. Don't you agree, son?"

Doing my best to match Dad's nonchalance, I answered, "Yes, I think that's a very good idea."

Mom, who had probably rehearsed a whole string of arguments, appeared momentarily confused before saying, "You do? You really do?"

Dad and I both assured her that we did and then we listened as she poured out the story of her visit to her old college: how she had talked with her old sorority sister, Donna Stewart, who was now Ann's house mother; how Donna had taken her to see the Dean of Admissions, who was yet another sorority sister who had assured Mom that her old credits were still good and that with just a normal course load, she could have her degree in two years; how she and Donna had then visited a lovely boarding house just off campus but still in walking distance where Mom had found the 'perfect' suite of rooms; how the Dean was holding a place for her in the junior class until the first of May, and so on.

Then, almost immediately, came the rush of second thoughts: who would look after the house? Who would take care of Dad and me? Who would do the cooking? Wouldn't we be lonely without her? Wouldn't she be lonely without us? etc.

Dad and I reassured her on everything and insisted that she call the Dean first thing Monday morning.

Then Dad casually announced that the two year schedule should work our perfectly because that way they would graduate together. We both looked at him in surprise and listened in amazement as he explained that he had been taking extension courses through a college in California called Pepperdine. When he first signed up to pursue a business degree, they had reviewed his resume, and based on his accomplishments they had awarded him over two years worth of credits. With the course work he had accomplished so far, he was confident that he would finish at the same time as Mom. When we asked him why he hadn't told us before, he answered that he wanted to be sure that he could complete the requirements before he said anything.

I have always looked on my parents with a level of respect that perhaps bordered on wonder and awe for what they had accomplished, in all facets of their lives, but now... Well, this was certainly turning out to be a weekend full of surprises!

The mail brought a flood of birthday cards and checks which moved me even closer to my goal of buying an automobile.

By Saturday evening, a cold front had arrived bringing much needed rain but my lawn work at Susan's was finished and I was home again, safe and dry.

Mom went over to Alice's house where they would be playing Bridge with Bonnie and Linda leaving Dad and me to our own devices. Many times in the past I had suspected that my father was a mind reader. This was another one of those times. In his usual forthright manner, he started the conversation with, "Well, Son, it looks as if you and Susan Ames have become pretty good friends over the last couple of months."

"Yeah, well I've certainly had worse bosses," I replied, trying to sound blasť.

"Uh huh. Seems to me that she might be more than just a boss."

"How so?"

"Well, after last Saturday, I kind of had the impression that you might be carrying a torch for that young lady."

My old man doesn't miss much. So now I had to decide which way to jump, deny or admit. It didn't take long to figure it out.

"Dad, you don't miss a trick. I guess it's fair to say that I do have a pretty big crush on her right now and she is awfully sweet."

"That she is and your feelings are perfectly natural. Reminds me of the huge crush I had on my freshman home room teacher."

"Really, I didn't know that."

"Oh yeah, but that was well before I met Jenny. Of course, it was all day-dreams and fantasy in my case. I have the feeling, however, that maybe you have progressed beyond that point."

As I opened my mouth to speak, Dad cut me off as he went on, "No need to answer that, I'm just waxing philosophical. The way I see it, you're seventeen now and pretty much an adult in most every meaningful way. You've always shown good sense in everything you've done and I expect that you'll keep your head on straight now, as well. But, man to man, I'm well aware that there's a certain excitement in living out the old story of the inexperienced teenage boy learning about the mysteries of sex under the tender guidance of a beautiful older woman."

"What I'm saying here is that, given your age, it's only natural to want to stretch your wings, so if you and that pretty young teacher are going to be 'playmates', so to speak, I'm not going to censure you. You should keep a few things in mind though. First, be discrete. Second, be considerate. Third, be realistic in your expectations. Fourth, don't get so wrapped up in your dream world that you miss a real life opportunity when it comes your way. Finally, be a gentleman. Do all that and, when this thing ends, hopefully you will be able to move on without leaving a trail of debris in your wake."

Then looking me in the eye, he asked pointedly, "Is my message coming through or am I beating around the bush too much?"

"Yes, Dad, I'm reading you loud and clear. And, you're right. I am sort of living a dream right now and I do realize that, but how should I put this without being indiscreet... I'm really learning a whole lot of interesting things!"

Dad laughed. "I've no doubt of that at all and, just between the two of us, I envy you your teacher!"

"Better not let Mom hear that!"

"You're right but I'll tell you something else, my age and my status as a very happily married man notwithstanding, there is nothing wrong with my eyesight!"

"Mine either," I joked.

"Well, I've said my bit and I hope you don't mind me butting in."

"No, Dad, not at all and I'll keep my head on straight, rest assured."

"Good, now one more thing. Watch out for your sister and your mother, they're up to something."

"What now?"

"Well, from the bits and pieces I have been able to pick up, they're concerned about what they see as your excessive shyness when it comes to the opposite sex, which, in view of our conversation here, seems a tad misplaced to me. In any event, you know that your mother can be a bit of a schemer and your sister, in addition to inheriting the spanking gene, has inherited her mother's 'scheming gene', as well and I'm fairly sure that they have already involved your pretty young teacher in their plans."

You got that right, I thought to myself.

"So," he continued, "a word to the wise here, watch your back because they're bound to be hatching some plans for you."

"What have you heard?"

"Just a little here and there. Parts of phone conversations and a little of their chatter when the three of them were together here last week. You should expect the unexpected, especially tomorrow."

"Oh yeah, what's happening tomorrow?"

"Well, they've cooked up a little surprise birthday party for the afternoon and Susan's been invited. Whatever you do, don't let on to your mother that I've tipped you off. She's been itching for a chance to use that sorority paddle on me again and I don't want to give her any excuse."

"Has Mom done that often?"

"No, but every now and then she gets that gleam in her eye and she starts dropping hints."

"Well, with all you've told us, I wouldn't have thought that you would necessarily regard that as a bad thing."

"Usually not but sometimes she gets a little carried away with her fun and then I have to sit very gingerly for a few days."

"Don't worry," I told him, "I know how to act surprised. So, is there anything else I should know?"

"Just that the three of them are in cahoots and I think that their consensus is that you're girl shy and that Susan is just the right person to teach you the ropes. Tell you the truth," he said leaning a little closer, "in your place, I think I'd be willing to take the class. Just remember what I said, okay?"

"Okay."

Later on, as I thought it over, it seemed to me that whatever 'surprises' were in store, I was just going to have to go with the flow which, truth to tell, was not really an unpleasant prospect.

By late morning on Sunday, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared. The temperature was a good twenty degrees cooler, however, and that also was a good thing. The remnants of the Wilson family spent the day quietly, mostly reading and watching a little TV. Right after lunch, Dad, acting on Mom's instructions, suggested that he and I head down to the local lanes and bowl a few strings so she could, "get some things done around here without having you two to distract me." My first inclination was to take a pass but when I saw him give me a subtle little wink and nod, I knew what was really going on, so I quickly agreed and we headed out with a promise to be back around five.

Once in the car, Dad confirmed that this was all part of the plot. We actually did go bowling, something I hadn't done in a while, and had a good time although Dad, who is in a league, handily won all three strings. While we were there, he had another surprise for me when he told me that his long practice of matching the money that I saved towards the car each month would also hold good for any of the birthday money that I saved, including the check from Mom and him. In other words, he was doubling their gift! Doing the math in my head, I could see that it was about time to start visiting the auto dealers in town to see what was available in the way of a good used car.



© Steve Timmons
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