You think your Mom is great? I’m sure she’s a lovely woman, but I hate to break it to you – my Mom deserves the Mother of the World award. Hands down. Don’t believe me? Need proof? Well, for starters, she’s still sane. No small feat given the fact she had to deal with my brother and me.
If you’ve been to this blog before, you’ve probably caught some of the questionably shameful entries about the terrors my brother and I would inflict on each other and the world around us. But they were just the tip of the iceberg in our quest to break our mother’s sanity. We really tested the ‘kids will be kids’ adage on a daily basis. In our case ‘kids will be evil little, unpredictable, heart attack-inducing devils.’
I’ve been reflecting over our childhood as Mother’s Day has been looming and thought of some more examples of the things we did that, now as a parent, have me shaking my head and wondering how my Mom was able to keep it together.
For instance, on one of our many trips to visit our grandparents in West Virginia, my brother decided one day to just wander off. That might not be so bad except he was only about three years old at the time. A group of cousins were supposed to be watching him and apparently they didn’t take their job seriously. The consensus was, he followed the family dog, Coco, down the shale-covered road past my Grandparents’ barn and off into the woods. And just like that, poof, he was gone. Swallowed up by the fields. I know, I know. Sounds like the start of a not too great-ending fairy tale.
Of course everyone went on a mad search, looking for him. Another set of cousins, twins, who were probably 6 years old at the time, were the evil entities in this horror story…every horror story needs at least one, right? As everyone searched, they kept following my mother around calming whispering truly evil nothings into her ear. Things every mother longs to hear in a situation of this sort, things like: “he’s gone,” “yep, he’s never coming back,” “we’ll never see him again I bet,” “oh, he’s long gone by now.“
My brother eventually came back. Coco the dog, who, through it all turned out to be a better babysitter than the older cousins, had decided to return home, and my brother, who was still in hot pursuit, followed along. I can only imagine the roller-coaster of emotions my mother went through on that day. From her desire to kill the naysayer twins who were following her around planting seeds of doom to the wave of relief that swept over her when her little boy returned both mixed with her internal criticism of how she would never let him leave the house ever again. I bet she wanted to laugh, cry, yell, and jump all at the same time. Speaking as a mother myself, I know I’d probably lose it once it was all said and done. And maybe she did, but she recovered because she lived to deal with a hell of a lot more shit from us.
Not to be topped by my brother’s little disappearing act, I decided my next escapade needed to involve more gore. So when I was about 5 years old, I ran through a glass storm door and sliced open the major artery in my wrist…quite deeply. I didn’t want to of course. It was my cousins’ fault. Our storm door never latched on its own. We never had to actually touch the doorknob to go through the door, just push on the door and it would swing open. I was pretty used to doing this when I wanted to go outside. It was like this since forever. Can you see where this story is going already?
When my cousins were over for a visit, someone (I blame them although it could’ve been my aunt or uncle as well) pulled the door shut so it latched firmly. Damn their conscientious souls. Sure enough, later that day I was running out of the house at top speed, expecting to simply push the door open in mid-flight. Instead of the door flinging open, it held fast and I ended up running right through it. Chaos, predictably, ensued. I was rushed to the local firehouse (which would’ve been cool had I not been spurting blood everywhere) and then to the hospital. It was pretty bad. I still have a serious scar and some damage.
Of course I didn’t have any concept then, but being a parent now, I can well imagine my mother’s fear and anxiety as her daughter lay splayed out on the porch, bleeding out, and then later listening as the doctors’ explained the damage. And miraculously, her sanity held.
I could go on and on – for instance, I could tell you about the night my paternal grandparents’ house caught on fire when my brother and I were little. Oh, but that wasn’t the highlight of the evening. The highlight of the evening was that while my parents were gone to help, my brother and I were left with my maternal grandparents – and during a round of roughhousing, my brother promptly fell (with no assistance from me, mind you) down the steep wooden stairs of their old farmhouse. Now, right smack at the bottom of the stairs was a cabinet, against which his head made a satisfying thump as he landed. Can you imagine coming home from the chaos of such a crisis only to be faced with a son who might have a concussion? Yep. That was my mother’s life.
Sadly for her, our foibles also spilled out into the public domain. Now, we never engaged in any active warfare in public (Mom wouldn’t have allowed it) and we never went missing while chasing after errant dogs or collided with clothes poles or fought with storm doors while out and about in the world, but we did offer up other embarrassments for her. We were glad to do it. It was sort of our forté.
On payday, we’d go out to eat as a family – it was my mother’s futile attempt to show people that we were functional members of society (or maybe it was just the one time she was able to take a break), but rarely did my brother and I cooperate. There was the infamous mushroom incident of course. But in addition to that, there was one time when I was very young – before I realized the ways of the birds and the bees and how women’s bodies worked – that I discovered the “napkin dispenser” in the ladies room of one particular restaurant we used to frequent. I don’t see them much anymore, but back in the day these were a regular thing. Well, at this restaurant they were ripping women off by charging 10 cents per “napkin.” Can you imagine!? Something usually set out on the table for free, women had to pay for in the ladies room of this snooty place! My little 6-year-old self was outraged!
Well, back at the table, my parents were discussing the prices on the menu and me, who didn’t have a quiet bone in my body when I was little, shouted out indignantly, “Yeah, well, that’s NOTHING! In the women’s room, they charge 10 cents for NAPKINS!!” The whole restaurant heard me. I bet the whole block heard me. I can only imagine my mother’s dismay and desire to suddenly become invisible.
Pretty audacious, I know, but my brother always had a flair for the dramatic and he did trump me on that story. In another restaurant there was a jukebox that made a rat-tat-tat noise when it switched records. One night, we’re all sitting in a booth enjoying our dinner out and minding our business. The place was quiet. You know how that happens? When there’s that one instance of total silence amongst a crowd? Well, in this one moment of silence, the jukebox just happened to switch songs and made its usual rat-tat-tat sound when out of nowhere my brother clutches his chest and screams “ACCKKK! You GOT me!!” in his best classic-Hollywood gangster voice. He slammed back against the booth as if he’d been shot and then slowly slid down the seat in his rattling death throes to the floor. Dinner AND a show ladies and gentlemen! It was quite impressive. I’m not sure my mother appreciated his talent, but that’s probably because she had all the drama she could take from us at home.
My mother raised us well and she tried to keep us safe, from ourselves and from each other. We just weren’t very cooperative. And quite frankly, it’s a wonder my brother and I weren’t ever put up for adoption by a mother whose nerves just couldn’t take anymore. THAT is worthy of an award and I can think of none better than Best Mother Ever. The fact that she loves us more than anything despite our attempts at putting her into a straight-jacket is just icing on the cake.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I’m glad to call you my mother as well as my friend.