Sloan Column: The best Valentine’s Day gift ever
It was the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. How do I know this? Because momma said so, that’s why. And momma, of course, is always right.
It was better than candy or flowers. I might even go so far as to say that if given a choice between my gift and a little blue box from Tiffany’s, she might have still chosen mine. She loved it that much.
Try as you may, your Valentine’s Day gift will not top the one given to my mother on February 14, 1995. It stole her heart and earned me the biggest smile and hug that dear woman ever gave me. And all it cost was a measly $25.
And what was this extraordinarily spectacular all-time perfect Valentine’s Day gift? It was a pig.
That’s right. A little pink squealin’ oinker I bought from a hog farmer in Lumberton, N.C. I forked over the $25, reached down into a pen full of piglets and picked one up by the ham hock. It made the two-hour drive from Lumberton to Albemarle in the floorboard of my Ford Ranger. It could not have weighed more than 10 pounds.
Destiny was on that little piggy’s side that afternoon. In one fleeting moment, the puny porker’s future changed from a near certain fatal trip to a Smithfield slaughterhouse to what one could easily describe as Hog Heaven. I mean, literally, Hog Heaven. Any pig that dies and arrives at the pearly gates will not be treated with more kindness, love and care than that pig received at the hands of my sweet momma.
It wasn’t a surprise. Momma knew she was getting a pig for Valentine’s Day. I called her just before I went to the hog farm because I wanted to make sure she was serious and had not changed her mind. She had not.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, are you really sure?”
Mom replied with a most emphatic, “Hell yes, I’m sure.”
Back in the fall momma had mentioned she thought it would be wonderful to have a pet pig. Not one of those tiny little teacup pigs that were all the rage for a while, mind you, but an honest-to-gosh pig. Where she got this notion, I haven’t a clue. She grew up in the suburbs of Asheville, N.C., not on a farm. She and my stepdad Hal did live out in the country, though, and had plenty of room in which to build a suitable pen. I stored this little nugget of information away and it just happened to resurface in February. Being the good son that I am, I decided I would make momma’s dream of piggy ownership come true.
As expected, mom was standing at the front door waving as we pulled into the driveway. She stood on the front porch and hollered, “Do you have him? Do you have him?” as I stepped out of the truck.
During the two-hour ride I had decided it would be fun to try and convince mom that I wasn’t able to get her little piggy and that she would have to wait. She bought my sad story and I saw momma’s unbridled joy do an abrupt about-face and quickly change into extreme disappointment. The sadness lasted only a few brief seconds, though, because the tiny squeals coming from the floorboard of the truck caused her to push me aside and race for the passenger door.
Folks, I kid you not. Momma cradled that little pig in her arms like a newborn. A new mother glow emanated from her face. She was as happy as I had ever seen her.
In that moment I knew I had done good, real good. I also had no clue as to the impact that singular moment would have on our lives.
As soon as mom walked in the house, the pig squirmed out of her arms. It rolled about for a second before getting to its feet and scurried over to Hal, who was smoking his pipe while sitting quietly by the fireplace. Without missing a beat, Hal leaned over and picked up the piglet that was staring up at him. To my astonishment, the little swine I had rescued just a few short hours before curled up in my stepfather’s lap and went to sleep.
That night momma gave her new pet its first bubble bath. There would be many more to come. He quite willingly made the transition from pigpen to penthouse. Later that night momma got him ready for bed. I remember he wore an old red t-shirtas pajamas. He slept in theirbed curled up at their feet.
In the morning he joinedthe dog and cats for theircustomary breakfast –bacon! Hal would always fryup a pound of bacon andshare it with the animals. Idon’t think the pig understood what - or maybe who –he was eating. I told mom Ididn’t think that was right, butshe just shrugged it off. Thepig didn’t seem to mind.
Before l left to returnhome, mom gave me a bighug and kiss. She told meshe was so thankful for herValentine’s Day present, thatit was the best Valentine’sDay gift ever and that I wasthe best son ever. It was avery sweet moment.
Then she held out the pigand asked if I wanted to givemy brother a kiss goodbye. Itold her I’d have to take apass.
Next week: Mom’s newpig does what pigs do – it getbigger and bigger.