Disclaimer: Some things are guaranteed to never be in my life and ownership of the Thunderbirds and the Tracys are just a couple of those things. They belong to someone else and I'm merely borrowing them. The saying that is in this one-shot didn't mention an author but whoever it was deserves all credit. Also, I don't own the Salvation Army as they are a real organization in the U.S.A and one that my children drop lots of loose change into the red buckets during the month of December.
A/N: A friend sent me the poem/saying that is in this one-shot and I just couldn't get it out of my head until I had written yet another story.
When You Thought I Wasn't Looking
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.
"Mommy!" Three-year-old, Scott Carpenter Tracy raced towards his mother when his preschool class had ended. A sheet of blue construction paper was held firmly against him as if he were afraid it would blow away in the spring breeze. Lucy knelt down so that she could hug him when he threw himself in her arms. "I misseded you, Mommy." Peering in the stroller next to them, he could see his sleeping brother, Virgil. Sighing expressively, he looked up at her. "Why Virgie always hafta be sleepin'? I wanna pway with him."
"Your brother had a doctor's appointment this morning and was in need of a nap, Scotty." Standing up, she held out one hand for him to hold and pushed the stroller with her other hand. "I missed you today, too. Did you have a good day with your friends and teacher?"
Nodding his head excitedly, he started telling her about his day. "We pwayed on the pwayground and Mrs. Chwisty pushed me in the swing. And then we gotted to paint and I painted this for you, Mommy."
Stopping again to give him her full attention, she took the painting from her first-born son and held the painting up to study it. His handprint was painted red and a small poem was handwritten to the side. It was obvious to her that he'd worked hard to keep from smudging the print. "Thank you, Baby. I'll always treasure this." They continued on their way home. Later that afternoon, Virgil and Scott were playing in the family room. Lucy had gone to the kitchen to get some juice for them when she spotted the painting lying on the table. Picking up the paper, she centered it on the refrigerator and placed a small magnet on each corner. She didn't see or realize that her first-born had seen her. Feeling proud, he had hurried back to the family room to play with Virgil all the while thinking that he couldn't wait until preschool the next day and hoped that he'd get to paint another picture for his mother.
Years went by and Scott was no longer a little boy but a father. And the day came when his son, Luke, came running to him with a sheet of construction paper firmly grasped in his small hands. Memories of long ago flooded him and he remembered the day he'd given his mother his own masterpiece. And how he couldn't wait to paint her another picture so that she could hang it on the refrigerator below the first one.
"You didn't know I was watching, Mom. I didn't understand then but I do now. Every moment with Luke is special and every painting is a gift. Thank you for teaching me that."
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a
stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
Spending summers on the Tracy Farm where his grandparents lived, Scott knew that stray animals were all part of farm life. Watching his grandmother one morning, he saw that while she had been collecting eggs a stray cat kept brushing against her legs, mewing loudly. "Just where did you come from, girl? Did one of your friends tell you that you'd have it good here on the Tracy Farm?" Reaching down, Grandma stroked the cat's fur, smiling. "You'll fit in nicely with the others." Taking the eggs back to the kitchen, she set them down and chose an old bowl and poured some cat food in it. Another old bowl held some water. Both bowls were placed just outside on the patio for the cat to enjoy. Sitting down on the steps, Grandma watched the cat eat and smiled when she heard the loud purring. "Like that, do you?" The cat looked up, licking around her mouth. Grandma laughed, "I'll take that as a yes."
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.
With four older brothers special achievements have to be spectacular. Not just great. Head hanging low, I slipped up to my bedroom with the folder from school that held my first ever "A+" on a spelling test. Not that I'm stupid because I'm not. I just have better things to do than to study a stupid, boring list of words. Later that evening, Mom called us down to dinner. I listened to my brothers' chatter but didn't join in. How would I ever measure up to any of them? Why couldn't I have been second or third born? At least then I would have had a chance to stand out a bit more.
"Scott and Virgil, would you please clear the table while I bring out dessert?" Mom asked, interrupting my internal dialogue. It took a moment for me to realize that the dessert Mom had made was my favorite cake, German Chocolate cake. "Congratulations on the A+, Allie." My head jerked up and I stared open-mouthed at my mom.
"Way to go, Al," Scott said.
"Any time you want me to help you study just ask, Alan," John said.
Gordon grabbed me in a headlock and gave me a noogie, "Awesome job, little brother."
"I knew you could do it, Allie," Virgil said.
I blushed at my brothers' words and tucked into the special treat Mom had made for me. I didn't do anything brilliant but Mom thought it was pretty special if she took the time to make my favorite dessert. And the warm glow I felt within from my brothers' praise was something that I'd like to feel again.
When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.
"Dear God, please watch over Dad and Mom. I know they understand that I have my life with Lucy and the boys but that doesn't mean that I don't worry about them." Clearing his throat, he continued, "I can't thank You enough for giving me such wonderful parents. Thank you for watching over us and providing us with what we need to survive. Amen."
Standing just outside the kitchen door, a dark-haired boy listened as his father prayed. Feeling that he was intruding, he quietly backed away and went to the family room. Sitting on one of the chairs, he thought about what he'd overheard and decided that if his dad could talk to God then he could too. Especially when he just needed to talk. Having brothers and parents to listen was great but sometimes he just needed to vent or talk and well, it seemed that God could handle that.
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each
Five active boys, housework, garden work, and preparing meals never stopped Lucy from being compassionate and caring of her neighbors. As each had helped her and Jeff at one time or another. Friends were treated almost as if they were family in the neighborhood. Virgil sat on a stool watching his mother pull out one of her favorite cookbooks and choose a meal to prepare for Old Man Jones who lived down the road and had scared more than one Tracy brother not to mention most children in the neighborhood.
"Mom, why are you making something for him? He's mean to us," Virgil asked. Propping his chin on his hands, he continued to watch as his mother made homemade chicken noodle soup.
"Mr. Jones is feeling a bit under the weather and has nobody to look after him, Virgil. As a neighbor it is the least I can do to help him when I can. And if he's mean to you it's just because you and your brothers have trampled his garden. Or in Gordon's case broken a window with a wayward baseball." Soon the soup was done and packed along with a thermos of hot tea. "Would you like to go with me, Sweetie?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Virgil mumbled, "I guess so."
Smiling at him, she handed him the thermos. Before they left the house, she paused by the family room where John, Gordon, and Alan were watching a DVD. "John, where is Scott?"
"He's upstairs, Mom." Seeing the container of soup and the thermos, he stood up. "Where are you going, Mom?"
"Virgil and I are taking Mr. Jones something to eat and drink as he is ill. Would you like to join us?"
Shaking his blond head, he sat back down next to Gordon and Alan, "No, that's alright, Mom. We'll just stay here and wait on you." Gordon and Alan nodded in agreement.
"Will you tell Scott that we'll be back in a little bit?" She asked John.
"Yes, Mom," he answered. He and the youngest Tracys turned their attention back to the television as Lucy and Virgil slipped out the front door. The walk to Mr. Jones' house was short and Lucy was soon knocking on the old man's door.
A wrinkled hand pushed the narrow curtain aside and a hunched form peered out. "Hello, Mr. Jones." Lucy's gentle voice called out and to Virgil's amazement, a smile spread across the old man's face. A few locks clicking and the door opened. "I heard you weren't feeling well so I brought you some homemade chicken noodle soup and some hot tea."
"Come in, Mrs. Tracy," he wheezed. A handkerchief in hand, he dabbed at watery old eyes. "This darn weather got me." He shut the door behind them and led them to the living room. Feminine touches graced parts of the mostly masculine room. A picture above the television showed an elderly couple. Virgil quickly recognized Mr. Jones and guessed that the woman had to be Mrs. Jones. Though he had never seen her. Mr. Jones noticed, "That's my Emmy Sue. She was taken from me by cancer about ten years ago." His voice softened and again the handkerchief appeared to wipe his eyes.
Unsure of what to say, Virgil glanced up at his mother. "Mr. Jones, is there anything you need? I can call Jeff and have him pick any medications or food stuff that you may need up at the supermarket."
Patting her hand with his old, worn, and gnarled hand, he grinned at her. "This soup will see me through until I'm better. Thank you much for your generosity and kindness."
"We best be going but I want you to come and have dinner with us when you feel better and the weather is nicer," Lucy said. "There is always plenty of room at our table."
Virgil watched as the old man's face brightened when Lucy gave him an impromptu hug. He no longer looked like the scary old man who glared at him and his brothers. "Thank you, Mrs. Tracy."
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of
your time and money to help people who had nothing,
and I learned that those who have something should
give to those who don't.
Dragged to another charity event, the Tracy brothers sat stiffly at the table that had been reserved for them and their parents. Lucy and Jeff were mingling with the other society members that found that giving back to those who had very little if anything was good. Neither Lucy nor Jeff was interested in accolades. They simply wanted to help others as they now had the means.
"Mommy, why do we have to come to these things?" Alan whined from his chair. It was getting closer to his bedtime and he was getting grumpier.
"It is important for those of us who can help less fortunate to do so," she answered. "That is why we come to these things. We're giving back when we can, Alan."
Several days later, Alan and Jeff were out picking up some groceries that Lucy needed. Leaving the store, Alan heard and saw a bell ringer for a charity. "Daddy, what's that for?" He asked, pointing to the red bucket next to the bell ringer.
"That is the red bucket for the Salvation Army's holiday drive to raise money for those less fortunate," Jeff explained.
In his pocket, Alan had two dollars that he'd earned. He looked up at Jeff and then back at the bell ringer. "Daddy, stay right here, okay?" Before Jeff could answer, Alan ran towards the red bucket and quickly shoved his two dollars into the narrow opening.
"Thank you, young man. And happy holidays." The old man ringing the bell smiled down at Alan.
"Happy holidays to you, too," Alan replied, grinning. His blue eyes sparkling happily.
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.
Saturday mornings in our home were spent cleaning. Well, we were expected to clean our bedrooms and to help Mom dust and vacuum or help Dad with chores did most of the cleaning during the week but to better help us respect and appreciate what we had, she and Dad decided to hold us responsible for our personal belongings. Mom never complained about cleaning but it couldn't have been easy with five of us boys running around. She always knew where a stray shoe was or a missing jacket was dropped. When we each became old enough to help with cleaning our rooms and being responsible for our belongings, we started to understand what it meant to take care of what is given to us as it may not be replaced if lost or broken. And that included looking after one another and protecting what was ours…brothers, Dad, and Mom. They were the most important and as such warranted the most care.
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn't
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.
Sniffling, Lucy wearily slipped from her warm bed and padded downstairs to start breakfast for her sons. Jeff was on yet another conference or meeting or something, she wasn't too sure at the moment. And really didn't care except that she could have really used his help since she was feeling a bit under the weather. After washing her hands, she expertly prepared French toast and sausage. She had just set five food laden plates at each of her sons' chairs when Scott walked in. John and Virgil followed moments later. The Terrible Two followed next, arguing over who was the best sports celebrity. Gordon was adamant that Michael Phelps was the greatest given his eight gold Olympic medals. While Alan was equally adamant that Dale Earnhardt was with his many wins in NASCAR. Lucy rubbed her forehead, wincing.
Virgil caught his mother's actions and quickly cuffed both of the younger Tracys. "Shh, Mom's not feeling well and doesn't need to hear your bickering." Scott grabbed the milk and juice from the refrigerator and poured it for his brothers and himself. Virgil and John stood on either side of their mother. "C'mon, Mom, you go back to bed and we'll get ourselves off to school."
She tried to argue but soon found herself outnumbered. "Okay, I'll go lie down on the couch but if you need me come and get me, okay?" Not even believing the nods of agreement she received, she sighed and headed for the family room to lie down. The five brothers ate their breakfast and cleaned up afterwards all before hurrying out the front door to catch their bus. The only stop they made was to give their mother a kiss on her cheek. Sound asleep she didn't even move when the door locked behind the boys.
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it's all right to cry.
Lobo had been our faithful German Shepherd/Husky mix from my earliest memory. He just always seemed to be there. Protecting us boys from whatever he thought was a danger even if it was ourselves. How many times did he nip at each of us while we were roughhousing, I'll never know. No matter where he was in the house, he always seemed to know when one of us had a bad day and just needed a cuddle from our furry protector. Gordon and Alan could always be found lying with his head on Lobo's side after they'd gotten into some sort of trouble.
Being boys, we never really thought about crying because that was so obviously something girls did. Not rough and tumble boys. And most certainly not men. Especially Tracy men. Or so I thought until one morning, I'd crept out of bed and made my way downstairs. Something gave me pause and I stopped midway down and peered through the posts of the railings. I saw you holding Lobo but he wasn't moving. I was worried but not scared. Yet. Not until I saw the tears falling from your eyes and into Lobo's fur. Mom stood behind you, crying as well. Then I knew that even adults cry. Even Tracy men.
When you thought I wasn't looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
Punishments for playing the part of the jokester in the family were the bane of my existence. And it was one that I accepted as I loved to make others laugh. As well as to keep others from trying to truly understand me. It was a defense mechanism that I used and used well or so I thought. My parents and brothers all let me live with my little delusion that they weren't aware of what I was doing.
Another call home from school and I was again sent to my bedroom. I'm not the perfect child. School bores me. After a short wait, I'm called down to Dad's home office. He and Mom are already sitting in there but not behind the desk. They have brought another chair in and are both sitting on chairs facing another one. One that I'm meant to sit in. Tensing, I await for the disappointed looks, the lecture, and finally the punishment. Instead, Mom and Dad reach out to me and ask what is bothering me. What can they do to make things better for me as they understand that the continued acting out is just an act. A defense to keep others from getting to know me. How can I tell them that while I get along with most everyone, I'm really only comfortable with my family? And school forces children to interact with others.
"Gordon, school is not only a time to learn and educate yourself but also to prepare yourself with life in the real world. It's about learning how to interact with others regardless of your comfort level. We all must do things that take us out of our comfort zones but it helps to make you a stronger person."
Mom smiled at me and added her thoughts, "Try and find something that you have in common with in some of those you feel comfortable around. Swimming, soccer, or just enjoying life, Gordon. You're not alone in how you feel but you have to reach out and find those other people."
Mouth agape, I leaned back in the chair expecting more of a punishment. "That's all?"
"Son, punishing you is only going to do so much. We care too much about you to let you drift like you have been. You need sound advice not another punishment. Though if it keeps up, punishment will be handed accordingly."
A jokester I may be but I'm not stupid. "I'll try, Dad and Mom. I promise." With much to think about, I dash out of the office. Maybe with the care and love of family, I could grow more comfortable around those not in my family and not just be known as the Tracy jokester or troublemaker.
When you thought I wasn't looking I learned most of
life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.
For every action or decision we made, we learned a lesson from it. Watching you and Mom, we learned what was expected of us to be productive individuals. Listening to others older and wiser than us, we learned that appearances aren't what they seem. Beneath the most wizened face can be the most loneliest of souls, just waiting for someone to reach out. Tears aren't a sign of weakness; they're a sign of healing, compassion, or grief. Charity isn't just giving money but also of one's time. Even the smallest of creatures need love and care.
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for teaching us all we need to know to care for not only our loved ones but those that are down on their luck. And for showing us that it's okay to lean on family and God to make it through life.
When you thought I wasn't looking I looked at you and
wanted to say, 'Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn't looking.'
Five heads bowed as final prayers were said for their father before he was laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Lucy. Sadness and pride mingled in their hearts as they remembered the lessons that their mother and father had taught them without ever being aware. Each brother had learned the lessons that had been silent but none-the-less important to help shape them into the men they had become.
A/N: Christy, I finally managed to write you into a story. lol