My mom used to leave my brother and me home alone, living in squalor with nothing to eat and nothing to do except play with the knives and guns strewn about the house and in case we got bored, she’d leave us cryptic clues that would lead us on a scavenger hunt to a butt load of ammunition and a bottle of whiskey and, if we were lucky enough, a pack of low tar cigarettes.
I’m just messing with you. My mom reads this blog and I just wanted to give her a good old fashioned heart palpitation to start her day with a whiz bang. I know she’ll appreciate it once her blood pressure meds kick in because it means she now has a reason to call and chastise me and, in essence, get up this morning.
Hi Mom! (((waving furiously)))
She actually did leave us home alone while she was at work but we were teenagers and that just doesn’t have the same dramatic pull, does it? Anyway, she’d call in periodically to check on us and it didn’t matter if she had just called five minutes previously, she would always, without fail, respond the same way every time we answered the phone and it wasn’t with “Hello, it’s your mother” or “Hi, it’s Mom” or “Whatever you’re doing, stop it right now.” No, immediately upon hearing our voice, she would ask “Oh, are you home?” because the fact that we actually answered the phone in the first place was insufficient evidence. We should have just continued in a monotone voice advising her that no one was home to take her call at the moment but if she left her name and number, someone was sure to get back to her as soon as possible. That would have really freaked her out. Or, she would have left a message. It’s a toss up.
If someone threw Maude and Louise “Wheezy” Jefferson in a blender, it would spit out my mother but with better fashion sense. She has the gray hair and posture of Maude and the freakishly high arched eyebrow of Wheezy and a delightful combination of their “screw you” attitudes. She can still channel them both by raising that eyebrow and eyeballing you with an EAT YOUR TONGUE, WITHER AND DIE SOMEWHERE stare until you either pee your pants or just drop dead on the spot. And for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about because you weren’t lucky enough to experience 1970’s television – nevermind. Isn’t it time for your nap?
When I was younger, my mother and I did not get along. And I bet that’s pretty common with a lot of mothers and daughters, although I wouldn’t know first hand as a mom myself because my daughters and I get along famously. I have never been called THE WORST MOTHER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET and I do not have the awesome ability to suck the fun out of everything. I’m also the long lost identical twin of Halle Berry. Go head, look it up. I’ll wait.
So no, my mother and I did not get along very well and this lasted for about 21 years and then something happened and we started getting along. Coincidentally, this happened right around the time I wasn’t living at home anymore and to this day, I firmly believe that in general, the farther apart we are from each other physically, the better we get along socially. If I lived here and she lived in Australia, we’d be joined at the hip, figuratively, and my hips are up for the job, literally. As it is, we live 800 miles apart and we have great long distance phone conversations and when we see each other on visits, we actually enjoy each other’s company. We still fight occasionally but nothing worth a front row seat and a $7.50 box of popcorn. Except for that verbal smackdown last year at my aunt’s house. We were so busy yelling, flailing around and exchanging caustic glares that we didn’t even notice when everyone snuck back into the room, having never been aware that they had left it to begin with. That one was totally worth a $12.50 jumbo popcorn. Just ask Nate. I think he bought two of them and a bag of nuts.
Every time Mom and I are in a car together, regardless of who is driving, we become so engrossed in our conversation that we completely forget where we are going. Years ago we were on our way to pick up my brother from SUNY Cortland and we were half way to Buffalo before we realized that we should have been half way to Albany. Good thing we realized it when we did because otherwise, we’d be waiting in Niagara Falls wondering where the hell he could be, why the hell was he late and holy shit, when did Cortland get falls like these?
My mother really shines in crisis situations. She may cause me to gnash my teeth upon occasion but when the going gets tough, you want my mom on speed dial. She does not fret, she does not stress, she does not freak out, she does not rip out her hair in chunks, break out in a rash, hyperventilate, drown in panic sweat, double over from sudden migraine onset and yell to Nate to catch her before she falls flat on her face and breaks her neck, like some other people who shall remain nameless.
She held down the fort when my dad had bypass surgery and heart valve replacement surgery, she took care of my aunt after her heart valve replacement surgery, and she did not feed into my paranoia about having something pig-related inserted into my own body sometime down the road. She stayed with me when I had both of my daughters, she got up in the middle of the night to help me with feedings, she ducked for cover when I threw a hairbrush in the midst of hormone-induced meltdown while dealing with my first and only lice encounter. She came up to be with me when my first husband (doesn’t that make me sound like some wickedly drop dead gorgeous chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out kind of woman? With no cellulite?) decided to leave for greener pastures (and doesn’t that make me sound like a cow?) which left me desolate, depressed and wasted pile of air. She allowed me a couple of days to wallow in self pity before telling me to get over myself because I simply did not have the luxury to fall apart as I had a three year old daughter counting on me. My mother is always good for a reality check and I really don’t know if I could have gotten through that time without her.
God help me, but my mother just recently got a cell phone. This is the same woman who cannot scroll on the computer, cannot find the On button on any digital camera and has been watching the same channel on her kitchen television for the last five years because she does not know how to change it. But she was excited at the prospect of being able to call anyone at anytime and she was absolutely ecstatic that she could now call me long distance and, thanks to Verizon’s wireless network, not pay anything to subtly tell me how to run my life. She programmed my cell phone number and my land line into her phone and now every time she calls my cell phone, she gets my land line and vice versa and this is a constant source of irritation for her and something akin to medieval torture for me.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
Me: Hi Mom.
Mom: Oh, are you’re home?
Me: I’m not home right now to take your call, but if you leave your name and number at the beep, I’ll return your call as soon as I can.
Me: Get it, Mom? It’s a joke. Mom? Are you there?
Mom: I was waiting for the beep.
Me (big sigh): Nevermind.
Mom: I thought it was strange that you have an answering machine on your cell phone.
Me: Actually, it’s called voice mail these days but it doesn’t matter, since you called me on my land line.
Mom: No, I didn’t. I called your cell phone.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure you called me on my land line since my cordless phone is currently pressed to my ear and I’m talking to you with it.
Mom: GOD – DAMN – IT. I swear to you I dialed your cell phone. Hang up, I’ll call you again.
Me: Land line again.
Mom: GOD-DAMN-IT-ALL-TO-HELL. Hang up.
Me: Land line.
Mom: SHIT-ON-A-STICK. What is going on?
Me: I don’t know. You must have programmed your phone wrong.
Mom: No, I did not. I AM NOT AN IDIOT. Hang up.
Lather, rinse, repeat over and over ad nauseam.
Mom: I HATE this thing. It’s got to be defective. I’m going back to the store and have them fix it. Damn it to hell and back. Do you know how many times I’ve been there already? That nice young man there is so helpful. I’m like his grandmother, did you know that?
Me: No, that is definitely news to me.
Mom: Well, I am.
Me: What color is the sky in your world, Mom?
Mom: Never you mind. I’m going to call when I get back and you better answer on your cell phone.
Me: I will if you call me on it.
I’d try to argue with her, but how do you argue with a woman who insists on sneaking a cigarette in the morning every now and then under the guise it helps her with her bowel movements?
Regardless, she’s a pretty great woman. She threw caution to the wind, dropped everything and went on a spur of the moment trip with Zoe and me to Disney World eleven years ago and suffered through a three hour time-share seminar in exchange for discounted tickets to MGM Studios. She spent ten hours at Magic Kingdom and helped me literally drag a sleeping Zoe out of the park at closing time because some miscreant stole our stroller. Who steals a stroller from a three year old, leaving her stranded with a senior citizen with a bum hip and a thirty year old woman with arm strength equivalent to that of Gumby? A piece of shit miscreant, that’s who, may he/she rot in Disney hell.
She stood up for me when I married Nate, she cried when Nate gave Zoe a beautiful cross during the ceremony, she kisses him first when we visit and she constantly reminds me that I better keep him happy because she’s likes having him around.
She loses about an inch of height a year and she’s a walking dictionary and encyclopedia and the best Scrabble player I have ever known and just once, I wish she’d let me win and not let me know that she let me win.
She’s the one I call when I’m happy, sad or just need to scream at the unfairness of it all and she knows exactly what I’m talking about right there. She’s my go-to person for recipes and medical advice and world history facts.
I am the woman I am today because of the woman she has been for 77 years.
Hey mom … call me. My cell phone is charged and I just found the cordless under the couch, so roll the dice and dial my number and we’ll bet on which one rings first.