Thelma and Louise Go To Malden: A Tale of a Good Mother, Part I

Apr 30, 2008

…Four boys she’d had, and she never gave a thought to what happened when they got behind the wheel; ah, but the girl…what can I say? 


This is a story about how mothers stay mothers forever, no matter how old their children get, how far those children have traveled, or how capable those children might have proven to be in taking care of themselves over the years.

It’s a brief story of my dear sainted mother, Lillian E. Thompson (1926-2002), who managed the Poplar Bluff city bus company for years until her retirement in 1996. It’s a tale that illustrates how that “lioness instinct” never dies—at least if you have a child you consider something of an egghead with little in the way of practical, real-world savvy. You want to protect that child with all you have—even if she’s been around the world and experienced earthquakes and terrorist bomb threats…Even if you’re 74 and on oxygen!

Several years back, I was thrilled to learn that a truly fantastic Brazilian guitarist, Paulo Bellinati, was coming to perform at the Bootheel Youth Museum in Malden. I had never been to Malden, and was only beginning to learn my way around southeast Missouri in general, having only recently arrived from some adventures in Taiwan.

I was not blessed with a stunning sense of direction, granted, but Bellinati is Bellinati—if he comes, I find him, plain and simple, no matter how lost I might get in the process. I got directions and, as always, looked forward to the best outcome.

But during the week before the concert, Moom was subtly maneuvering to find someone to go to Malden with me. I knew her well: Instead of my enjoying Bellinati, she thought I might get in a 12-car pile-up on the highway and die in a crumpled heap on the side of the road. Four boys she’d had, and she never gave a thought to what happened when they got behind the wheel; ah, but the girl…what can I say?

At the time, I didn’t know anyone here who liked classical or Brazilian music, so I thought I’d just go by myself. You can’t really “become one” with the music if your companion is committing Japanese ritual suicide in the seat next to yours. So I deflected Moom’s various suggestions as I went about my daily routine during that week, and she went about hers. All very nice, very just-so, you know.

Until the night of the concert. That’s when she was forced, by over a half-century of “mom-nicity”, to flat-out show her hand. Thirty minutes before I was to leave for Malden, she said, “Get my oxygen ready. I want to go hear some classical music”. It would have been much more believable had she said, “Get my oxygen ready. I want to be shoved into traffic on I-55”. Nevertheless, I razzed her royally and got her fixed up to ride shotgun on the trail to Malden.

“What’re you going to do if I have an accident, Moom?” I asked. “Race to my side of the car, bash in my door with your oxygen tank, lift me from the wreckage, then sling me over your back and sprint to the nearest farmhouse for help?”

Everybody’s a comedian,” was Moom’s succinct (and oft-used) reply.

It was going to be an interesting evening.


Please check back for Part II, the conclusion of “Thelma and Louise Go To Malden”, on Friday here at!