“Mommy, I want some ice cream,” whined three-year-old Matty.
“You know we’re going to have supper soon,” Jeanine Anderson answered wiping her hands on a nearby towel. “Besides we don’t have any ice cream.”
“I want ice cream,” the toddler said defiantly stomping her black patent leather shoes on the while kitchen vinyl.
“Matty, do you want to be sent to your room?”
“Even so, I’ll still want ice cream,” she said arms laced across the pink sleeveless dress.
“Why do you have such nice clothes on anyway,” her mother asked trying to change the subject.
“I’m playing church,” her daughter answered. “And after the preaching, we’re going to eat ice cream.
“You just won’t give up, will you?” her mother said laughing. “I really don’t have any ice cream.”
She watched as the three-year-old began twirling around the kitchen. “Look Mommy, I’m a mixer. I’m going to make some ice cream.”
“Stop that you’re making black marks on the floor,” Jeanine said raising her voice.
“If I can’t have ice cream then I want to eat supper,” the toddler announced.
“We’ll eat as soon as your Dad gets home.”
“But, I’m hungry now.”
“He should be home any minute now,” her mother answered. But inside she had no idea when her husband would be home or where he was for that matter. He could be working late. No probably not. He would have called if he was working late. Maybe he went out for coffee with some of the office gang, Sam and George and . . . Lilly. The very idea made her blood boil. She knew she had no reason to think that John would be interested in the recently divorced office secretary, but circumstances like that always make wives wonder, don’t they? Or maybe he was in an accident and went over a big embankment and down a hill and no one knew where he was and. . . She shook herself and came back to the present.
Her daughter was tugging at her pants leg. “Is it any minute, yet?” the green-eyed girl asked looking up at her mother.
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you set the table and you, Buddy and I will go ahead and eat so you can get your bath and be all ready for bed on time.”
“I don’t want to go to bed,” the curly, blonde-haired girl protested stomping her feet again. ”I want to eat supper.”
“That’s what I said we’d do, isn’t it?” Jeanine said with a scowl on her face. “I said we’d eat because I don’t know when your dad will be home.”
“But you said he would be home any minute now,” Matty said still whining. Matty plopped down in the middle of the floor and began to cry. “I don’t want to go to bed. I want to eat supper.”
“As long as you’re down there in the middle of the floor you can take your shoes off and set them over by the door,” Jeanine said trying to keep her cool and get her daughter’s mind on something else. “They’re making black marks all over the floor. Then you can set the table.”
Matty got up slowly being careful not to scrape her shoes against the floor. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” she said taking off her shoes. “I’ll set the table.”
Now she was being the obedient child her mother knew she could be. But she also knew Matty was being compliant now because she was getting her way, she was getting something to eat. How did that happen? She had been totally manipulated by a three-year-old and didn’t even realize it at the time.
Jeanine glanced at Matty who was humming Jesus Loves Me as she sat the table. Her
green eyes sparkled as Jeanine sat the spaghetti, salad and garlic bread on the table. “Spaghetti, my favorite!” she exclaimed.
“Go call your brother and we’ll go ahead and eat,” Jeanine said. “It’s almost 7 as it is.”
Matty skipped off in search of her 8-year-old brother, Buddy. He was a nice big brother, as big brothers go. Sometimes he would let her play with his legos or his hot wheels cars. He’d let her come in his room when no one else was around. But when his friends came over, it was off limits to all girls.
Buddy’s room was at the end of the hall, next to her room. The door was open, but Buddy wasn’t there. “Buddy, Buddy, where are you?” she called just in case she hadn’t spotted him under a pile of clothes somewhere hidden in the room.
The bathroom door was open and her brother wasn’t inside. He wasn’t in the living room watching TV or in the family room playing video games. She opened the back door and called for him again.
“Buddy,” she shouted as loud as her three-year-voice would allow. “Where are you, Buddy?” Then she waited, but all she could hear was the sound of traffic on Lindell Boulevard, the next street over. The quiet had an eery feel to it. It made Matty feel all alone.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” she cried running into the kitchen. “I can’t find Buddy anywhere. He’s lost. He’s lost for sure. Something terrible has happened to him, I just know it. Buddy’s gone and Daddy’s gone and there’s no one else here. We’re all alone, Mommy, we’re all alone.”
Matty ran full force into Jeanine’s arms and it seemed the little girl’s entire body was sobbing. Giant, wet tears rolled down her face and dripped off her cheek onto Jeanine’s shoulders.
“Hey, Baby, it’s all right, really,” her mother soothed. “I’m sure Buddy is here somewhere and Daddy will be home any minute.”
“But, Mommy, you said that lots of minutes ago and Daddy isn’t home and now Buddy is gone. What will we do?”
Jeanine sat down in a wooden chair at the kitchen table and held her daughter. Gently she rocked her back and forth. As she rocked she began humming Matty’s favorite tune, Jesus Loves Me. In a few minutes, Matty’s sobbing had stopped and mother and daughter simply sat holding each other.
“It’s prayer time at church, Mommy. I’ll lead the praying,” Matty announced continuing on without stopping. “Dear Jesus. Bless Daddy and Buddy and keep them safe and bring them home for supper right away because I’m really hungry. And, Jesus, could you send some ice cream, too?”
Jeanine smiled at her daughter when she finished her prayer and gave her a bear hug. In only seconds, Buddy burst through the kitchen door. “Man, am I hungry. What’s for supper?”
Matty jumped down from her mother’s lap and with her hands on her hips, addressed her brother. “And just where have you been, young man?” Then, softening, she ran to him and hugged him around the waist, “I was so worried about you. I prayed for you and Jesus answered my prayer.”
“Hey Sis, Chill,” he said grinning. “I was just playing ball with the guys down at Adam’s house.”
“Next time, let me know where you’re going,” Jeanine said. “We were concerned about you.”
“Wow, spaghetti, let’s eat,” he said pulling out a chair.
“Surprise!” a voice boomed out from the kitchen door. All three Andersons jumped and turned.
“Daddy,” Matty said running to him. “I’m really glad you’re home. I missed you and Mommy and I prayed you would come home safely.”
“You did, Pumpkin,” John Anderson asked smiling. “That’s really good because there was a really bad accident on the interstate. It had traffic backed up for miles. I had to turn off and take a different route home. It just so happened it took me by Baskin Robbins and I couldn’t help but stop for some…”
“Ice cream!” Mattie screamed.
“A peace offering perhaps,” Jeanine said.
“Perhaps,” he said kissing her lightly on the cheek.
“I tried calling. The phone was busy.”
“I haven’t been on the phone all day,” she said with a puzzled expression on her face.
Matty looked down at the floor.
“Matty have you been playing with the phone?” Jeanine asked.
“I was making important phone calls, Mommy. I was calling for the ice cream delivery man. But God sent him instead when I prayed.”
“Wow, you must have really been praying hard today,” Buddy said. “You prayed for me, Dad and ice cream.”
“Yep,” Matty answered. “I did. And God heard me, too, and answered all my prayers. Amen.”
“Well, young lady,” her dad said swooping her up in his arms. “You and I have to have a talk after supper. I have a few things I’d like you to talk to the Almighty about for me.”
“Anything for you, Daddy,” she said smiling. “And I’ll even pray for Mommy and Buddy’s bequests too.”
“I just have one ‘bequest’ right now,” Buddy said rubbing his stomach. “Could we please eat supper?”