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Front Porch: OK, Mom, just don’t call the cops

The readers of this newspaper are pretty special people – particularly those who read the Voice section, and most specifically, those who regularly make their way through the Front Porch column. I know this because I’ve heard from an awful lot of you, and I am grateful.

Oh sure, sometimes you take me to task for something I’ve said or how I’ve said it and sometimes you challenge me on the facts or the feelings about some point of view I put forth. But by and large, you’re courteous and thoughtful about it. Sometimes you make me chuckle and sometimes you make me think anew about one subject or another that I was pretty sure I already had a handle on. The best part, the very best, whether you agree or disagree, is that you share your own stories about whatever the topic is.

A few years ago I began writing about a feral chicken who adopted us for a time. So many of you have shared with me stories of your own pet chickens or other memories about chickens from your past. As a city girl, I had never thought of chickens as anything other than dinner, but I came to see a whole world in which chickens have a huge following. Who knew? I have loved your tales and am pleased, though still surprised, when I receive an email on any of a number of other topics, to find a P.S. tucked in at the bottom asking how Miss Chicken is doing.

Recently I wrote about being a mom, with the theme that once a mom, always a mom. Here I am with sons in their 30s and I still fret, worry, rejoice and focus on them – though more and more from the sidelines, which, I suppose, is the way it’s supposed to be. Because I wrote about this during a time when my youngest son was experiencing some medical problems, I was in a very hands-wringing state of mind.

And then Sandy Tarbox sent me an email.

Tarbox, who makes a living with her Greencastle Soap Co. at arts and crafts shows, lifted my spirits and made me laugh out loud and also shed a tear. With her permission, I’ll tell you about it.

Seems every September she traveled from Spokane to a show at Wallowa Lake in northeast Oregon, stopping to visit her parents in Lewiston on the way. As cellphones became more prevalent and pay phones began to disappear from the landscape, one year she wasn’t able to find a phone anywhere near the show to let her worrywart mother know she’d arrived OK – and there was no cellphone service at the lake. So she let it go.

Bad idea. “Saturday afternoon I’m in my booth busily peddling soap when two police officers approach,” Tarbox wrote. “They saw my look of panic (I have two kids and aging parents) and quickly assured me all was well – except, could I please call my mother. I had to ask another artist to watch my booth while I ran a quarter of a mile to the little store nearby and phoned my parents. Keep in mind I’m nearly 50 years old.”

There are two takeaways here. First, when the officers were explaining that they were responding to a worried-mom call, Tarbox had customers at her booth. One mother turned to her teenage daughter and said very pointedly, “See!” They all had a good laugh before Tarbox scooted out to reassure her own mother. Old or young, mothers are cut from the same cloth and they need to know their children are safe.

Second, back at her parents’ home in Lewiston after the show, Tarbox laughingly took her mother to task, telling her she expected that the only way her mother would ever stop worrying about her was when one of them was dead. “And sure enough, that’s just the way it was. Mom passed a couple of years later, but even now I silently check in with her whenever I’m off to a show.” Old or young, near or far, we are always connected to our mothers.

So thank you, Sandy, for lifting my spirits, for helping me not to feel so much like a lone, gray-haired, crazy mother holding myself back from leaping in to try to cast a protective net of impenetrability around my offspring (not that that’s possible exactly, but the urge to try certainly is). Apparently there are many of us out here, and we manage to pass as reasonably normal. And I’ve been contemplating Tarbox’s mother’s tactic of calling on law enforcement when in doubt, though I haven’t resorted to that.


Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at