The Family Carrot

My father pretended to be furious when my mother gave away the family carrot. Mom had purchased the small plastic carrot for two cents at a flea market, thinking of friend who coordinated a puppet show for children about healthy eating habits. It took my mother at least three months before she got around to delivering the carrot, and in that short time it literally became part of our family.

Funny how it had a way of turning up in coat pockets, or in purses and book bags, in the centerpiece on the dining table, in the coffee pot, and in various other obscure places that one would never expect to find a plastic carrot. It was my father who started mischievously hiding the faux vegetable, and then my brother, sister and I joined in. We hid it everywhere; it was fun to annoy my mother.

Each time the carrot was found in some unexpected place, my mother would give us a look as if to say “what a nuisance you all are.” She’d beg us to leave it alone, it was meant for her friend. When she finally delivered the carrot to its intended recipient, we all followed my father’s cue, feigning disgust and disbelief. “How could she give away the family carrot?” he said, shaking his head. We all shook our heads with the same dismay.

For several years my father would bring it up. “And what ever happened to the family carrot? My siblings and I would nod along with him. We let my mother know that it was a tragedy to have lost the beloved plastic vegetable and how betrayed we felt. It was awful that she had simply given it away.
Yet the tradition of the family carrot was restored. Once I found a small stuffed cloth carrot in a novelty shop, which I purchased as a birthday present for my mother. My sister found a wooden one at some yard sale and bestowed it upon my mother. Then my brother sent a carrot-shaped magnet to her one mother’s day. Over the years, any and every carrot of any material or function (except the real deal) has been acquired and presented to my mother.

These days she’s in the mood to clean things out, preparing for a time when she will leave her house of more than 50 years. I’m visiting, so I’ve been enlisted to help. Today we tackled the study, one of the rooms that has collected the most memorabilia of her life, throwing out papers and magazines, telling stories, remembering some celebrated event and laughing about the strange objects we end up holding on to for so many sentimental years.
“Mom, where are all the family carrots?” I ask, thinking about the dozens of carrot gifts that we’ve bestowed upon her over the last three decades. She gave me the look, the same one I saw her give my father hundreds of times, a look of “okay I’ll indulge you but you’re really wearing this one out.” Then she pointed toward the kitchen.

Why is it always so much fun to annoy your mother?

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