Mother's Day Mania
Every year around Mother's Day, it seems we Americans must be subjected to an endless stream of insidious, tear-jerking, soft-focus advertisements aimed at getting us to rush out and make a massive display of guilt-ridden spending on dear ol' mom.
Now don't get me wrong, moms are great. And it is altogether right and proper that we should have a day to honor them. It's just that my mother is insane.
Well that's not exactly accurate. I would never say she's loony-bin insane, more like benevolently psychotic, or perhaps functionally deranged. In other words, your typical mom.
So this year, instead of some saccharine tribute about why my mother should be given the Nobel Prize for Nurturing, I thought it might be fun to instead focus on a few poignant moments during my upbringing where my mother delivered life-lessons in a somewhat unconventional manner. The following stories are absolutely true, but not necessarily recommended for use in your own home.
Dazzle Them with Confusion (or the Story of the Third Eye)
I mention this one first, as despite my being an infant at the time, it has remained part of the family lore.
It seems that one summer evening in the early 1970's, a neighborhood boy who was a good friend of my sister's, although not particularly gifted in the frontal lobe, came to our home in a somewhat agitated state. He claimed he had taken "acid," otherwise known as LSD 25/Purple Microdot or any other number of cute little underground brand names. Since my mother was the "cool mom" that all the kids could talk to, the boy told her what he'd taken.
My mother, whose antennae for weirdness are always running at peak efficiency, decided she didn't believe him. Nevertheless, she decided that she'd one-up his story by making him actually think he was hallucinating. So taking carefully measured steps she "floated" backwards up the stairs and came down again with me in her arms. According to my sister, my mother had taken eyeliner and eyeshadow and painted a very good "third eye" smack dab in the middle of my forehead. The boy was somewhat upset but apparently wasn't high enough to fall entirely for this weird trick, so nothing bad happened.
Revenge is a Dish Best Served Creamy
Still in my early youth, and back in the freewheeling fad-diet days of the 70's when Tab cola ruled the world and people ran around in polyester jogging suits with weights strapped to their ankles, my mother decided to follow some magazine recipe for low-calorie homemade mayonnaise. (Apparently, this was back before Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean and discovered mustard).
In any case, one Saturday she labored all morning long on this concoction, mixing ingredients like a mad scientist and running our blender from "chop" to "blend" to the unheard of "frappe" with all the skill of an NASCAR driver shifting gears. It was a sight to behold. By midafternoon, the mixture was almost complete; a triumph in the name of fad dieting.
Then the phone rang.
Now, I did not see what happened next, but from the subsequent shouts and screams, I managed to piece together an idea of what transpired. When she turned her back to answer the phone, our pet cat, Fred, must have jumped up on the counter to sample what was surely a delectable feline treasure. My mother, returning to her low calorie chemistry experiment, found Fred with his snout in the sauce, and decided then and there to do something drastic.
She creamed the cat.
Over shouts of "if you want it, then you can HAVE IT!" my normally sedate mother coated Fred from the top of his head to the tip of his tail in mayonnaise. She then picked up the cat, coated an inch thick in goo, and threw him head first out the front door into the yard. I know this, because I was walking up to the house right at that moment, and was somewhat confused to hear my mother's cries, followed by the bizarre sight of a cat slathered in sauce flying through the air next to my head.
The only kink in my mother's revenge, however, was that the cat seemed to enjoy the experience. After regaining his balance, Fred did what only came naturally: he started licking himself. In fact, within a few hours he had other cats licking him, too -- that is, until he started to smell like rotten eggs. Then he pretty much kept to himself for a few days.
It's the Thought that Counts
One thing which I surely inherited from my mother is a distinct dislike for shopping malls. This is especially true at Christmastime, and so I supported my mother when she made the announcement that she was simply going to do all her future holidays shopping from catalogs. Under normal conditions, this would be fine, except for the fact that my mother subscribes to catalogs sent by aliens. Indeed, this is not J.C. Penney territory; we're talking about catalogs from firms like "The Jelly Barn," "Johnson's Bizarre New England Knick-Knacks," and "Hickory-Smoked Everything."
So it was not a complete surprise that two years ago I sat beneath the Christmas tree unwrapping the two finest Christmas gifts a son could ever hope to receive from his mother: a five pound bag of maple sugar and a lint brush.
Need I say more; it's the thought that counts.
Don't Let Little Problems Stand in Your Way
Speaking of Christmas, holiday visits to relatives always took on a certain expeditionary tone. Never was this more true than one memorable Christmas Eve, when my mother and I set out on a journey to our cousins' in Augusta, Georgia -- a distance of about 375 miles.
We'd not been on the Interstate for too long when we noticed a problem with the headlights And by problem I mean they went out completely. Of course, finding an auto mechanic at 9pm on a moonlit Christmas Eve somewhere near the Florida/Georgia border wasn't really an option, and so my mother did the right thing: she pulled off at the next exit.
But if you're thinking she pulled off the road to find a hotel, you are entirely mistaken. No, she pulled off the Interstate so she could get on a back road where there was less chance of running into a policeman. She then let it be known that not only did she think the moonlight was perfectly adequate to continue driving, but also that our intended route would follow a succession of rural Georgia roads known only as the "Woodpecker Trail." I suppose somewhere there are some old moonshiners or hunters or toxic-waste dumpers who know about this trail, but I'd never heard of it.
Nevertheless, armed only with an outdated road map and a warbling 8-track, my mother drove on through the pine forests and swamps of Georgia to our cousins' without incident. The strange part in all this was that I thought it was entirely normal. In fact, my cousins (who still talk about this with awe) continue to avow that there's no such thing as the "Woodpecker Trail." But I know better.