Mother’s Day wasn’t invented for my mom, but she definitely earned her stripes raising the three of us. I can’t speak for my younger brother or older sister, but I’m sure that if Mom were here, she’d tell you that I was probably the most adventurous.

In that respect, my mom deserved more than a Mother’s Day, I think. She should have received some kind of combat pay. Not that I was a total heathen, but I wasn’t exactly the angel she often portrayed me to be to others. I was a rascal, a rebel, and a wiseguy, inadvertently discovering pathways that often led to the land of mischief.

Like the time when I was six. I decided for the morning that I’d be mister gas station attendant, so I wiped the windows of my mom’s car and filled up her gas tank with water. I knew I must have done something wrong soon after I heard her car sputtering to a stop when she later took off down the road.

Or the time when I was not much older when I went into the bedroom with the brand new green carpet that I was told was off limits. But I just had to investigate the contents of a funny-shaped little bottle sitting on her desk, a kind I had never seen before, labeled “Red India Ink.” Some of the longest hours of my childhood I spent that day waiting for her to come home.

Of course, no kid grows up without running away from home at least once, and in my case, once was enough. Whatever the reason that weekday afternoon, I decided to bolt, and hid nearby in a secluded grove, while neighbors and friends scoured the countryside into the evening. Consequently, my return a few hours later was met with such formidable disapproval and widespread reprimand, I never ran way again.

And I did try like other children to avoid school by being “sick.” Mom knew all the tricks, of course. Once when I complained of the proverbial fever, she had the doctor come over and give me a shot with the biggest needle ever made. I never turned out to be an “A” student, but I rarely missed a class afterward.

Despite all my shenanigans, and there were many more, I have to say my mom was always there for me. And I grew to appreciate that, even when there were times when she could try my patience as well. Call it payback. Like the time she tried to cut my hair with what were probably pinking shears, and accidentally lopped off the top of my left ear. The blood and tears flowed until a doctor’s advice was applied in the form of a Band-Aid that remedied the situation, but left future haircuts to the barber.

Or the time when I was about to leave for the airport to meet my dad to go river rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon. My brother appeared with a bag of balloons he couldn’t blow up, but when I did, my ears popped and my mom thought I was getting the mumps, so the trip was canceled.

I never knew what the day would be like with my mom, from the time she would dance into my bedroom always too early in the morning, fling open the curtains while singing, “Oh, it’s going to be such a beautiful, sunny day!” while I was hoping for, but knew I was never going to get, any more sleep that kids always think they need. Must you always be so positive, so bright and cheery, so full of life, Mother, especially so early in the day?

Of course, she didn’t know what I was talking about because that’s just the way she viewed the world, from morning until night. She was incessantly curious, with an intense love of literature, music, history—especially that of California and Native Americans—and politics. She played the piano and played with puzzles when she wasn’t planting the gardens she grew. But it is her laughter I’ll remember the most, along with her spirit, which got us through some pretty tough times.

It can’t be easy for a mother to treat a child with polio, or to see the same son off to war. But she handled such hardships with grace, dignity, courage, and kindness. For that, and for all my adventures, I am grateful.

And if I am still somewhat of a wiseguy, I’m OK with that, too. Because I know where the wisdom came from.

:: King Harris