The Adventure Continues

My parents’ 57th wedding anniversary is tomorrow – June 15th. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I think this might be the first year that I haven’t confused the date. It fell on Father’s Day one year, ages ago, and for me, I’ve equated the two ever since, making me perpetually late in wishing them a Happy Anniversary. Father’s Day changes every year, you say? No matter. You underestimate my ability to be wrong about something.

Hey, did you know there are traditional gift themes for each year of wedded bliss? First year is paper. Fifth year is wood. Twentieth year is china. Well, as far as I can tell, by year 57 all the ideas have been used up. By that time only the anniversaries ending in 0s or 5s get a themed gift. Seriously. On the list of “traditional gifts” the years skip from 55 right to 60.

My guess as to why that is: maybe whoever made the list felt that people grinding out 55 to 60 years of holy matrimony are too busy trying to not kill each other to really celebrate the honored day. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe by that point, not trying to choke each other is a gift in and of itself. “I didn’t suffocate you with a pillow this morning sweetie, Happy Anniversary! Want some breakfast?” Personally, I think 57 years of marriage—murderous thoughts notwithstanding—is one hell of an accomplishment.

The lists of traditional gifts often give an alternative modern gift for the couple who want to stay hip and with the times. For example, the first-year anniversary’s “modern” take on the traditional paper theme is clocks. How the two are related completely escapes me. Now while there isn’t a traditional gift for 57 years of wedded bliss, a modern alternative my parents have for celebrating their anniversary is a glass or a mirror. A glass, particularly of the decanter variety, I can understand. Giving each other something to hold the sweet nectar of alcohol or caffeine I can see as being invaluable to such a lengthy marriage. Sadly, my parents can have neither. So that’s a firm no on the glass option.

Mirror, it is. But really? A mirror? All I can really see my parents doing with a mirror is holding it up within an inch of the other’s face and saying, “SEE! I told you there was a smudge on your face! You just couldn’t believe me, could you? Noooo…of course not.” I’m not sure I want to be the purveyor of such a contentious gift.

Despite their individual secret schemes on how to plan what can only be described as the perfect murder, in real life my parents do what they can to keep each other out of the ground for as long as possible. Which is particularly good news for my dad. If anyone was going to kill an old man and get away with it, it would be my mother. That woman is nothing if not thorough.

I’ve often wondered what the secret is to a long marriage such as theirs. In an age when a marriage that makes it five years can be seen as “a good run,” there’s got to be something special to keep two people together for close to SIX decades. I believe that my brother and I were maybe that special ingredient in the glue that has bound them. No, not because their love for us created an unbreakable bond.  It was more than that. I think they decided years ago that whichever one of them asked for a divorce, they had to be the one to take the children.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, my parents loved us…still do for some crazy reason. It’s impressive really, given what we put them through. It’s just that together, they were strong enough to counter my and my brother’s daily foolish antics. They could commiserate late at night and bolster each other’s mental stability – “Did you SEE what that boy did? Just look!” “Oh well, that’s nothing on what the girl tried to get away with today…let me tell you!”  Ahh, there’s nothing like having a common enemy to keep people together.

At its essence, having each other’s back is their mainstay – their rock. Sure, they may squabble and they may pick at each other, but my dad still makes my mom her coffee (decaf these days) every single morning before heading out to the backyard to feed her feathered friends – I mean, hey, she needs company while she sits on the deck, having her morning cup of joe. In return, she makes sure his meds are always in order and that he has his fishing hat when he goes out on the water so his shiny bald head doesn’t burn.  And god help the outsider who speaks ill of either one of them.

 

To Mom, with Love

I’ve apologized and I’ve waxed somewhat poetic and throughout it all, I’ve tried to be completely honest about my hand in the plot to drive my mother insane.

my mother’s look from 1963 on

Oh, she did get me back for some of my shenanigans, although it may have taken a few years…but her curse worked. Worked very well, indeed.

Despite our demonic childish antics — and indeed, those that have continued into our adulthood, my mother has loved us through it all, my brother and me. And you know, I don’t think it’s because she had to. I think she just liked us. Still does, apparently. I can tell. I’m just not sure why.

Motherhood is the only job where your subordinates can do everything in the world to undermine you, yet you still excel in your career…still have a passion for your work…still have pride in your venture. If that’s the case, then my mother deserves some kind of a service award. What will she get on Mother’s Day? Us. She gets us. Maybe cake. Definitely a houseful of love.

When the Elderly Attack

Ah, the world of phone scammers.  Surely, they think when they hear my sweet mother’s voice on the phone, this will be an easy target. I mean, who wouldn’t? Butter wouldn’t melt in that woman’s mouth.

Not so fast, imposter account manager from India, Nigeria, Kalamazoo, or wherever you are!  My mom may have a senior citizen discount to IHOP, and she does in fact know every word to the Hokey Pokey, but make no mistake.  She’s nobody’s fool.

To clarify, my mother does in fact shop at physical stores and use an archaic form of payment known as a “check.”  She actually visits her bank in person, and knows the tellers by name.  She doesn’t shop with those newfangled “online” gizmos everyone else uses.  So from the very beginning, the scam is pointless.

Tired of receiving multiple phone calls daily from “Microsoft” or “Windows” representatives who inform her in heavily accented voices that her computer is sending out “illegal signals,” my mother decided to have a little fun of her own.  She knows that these scammers only want access to her computer to pull out any financial information they can.  I told you, she may have seen Elvis in person (good Elvis, not bloated Elvis), but she isn’t stupid.  My mom is far from demented.  She is slick as an oil spill, but now, phone scammer from India or Nigeria, you made her mad.  You won’t like her when she’s mad. Trust me.

As soon as one of these calls comes through these days, my mom just pours herself a cup of coffee and sits out on the porch to feed her minions wild “pets” while she talks to the oh-so-helpful con artist on the other end of the line.  Little Miss Sugar Sweet has a backbone of steel and wit as sharp as a Ginsu knife.

A typical phone call with her scammer friends may begin innocently enough.  The heavily accented voice warns her that she is about to lose everything…EVERYTHING, we tell you…because her licenses are expiring. You read that right. Her licenses. Her computer licenses. She greets the man warmly, thanking him so much for caring about little ol’ her and her big, bad computer.

Voice quaking in fear and sorrow, she asks the kind gentleman to discuss her options.  He advises her to turn her computer on.  Mom makes clunking noises as if she is walking to the computer.  She may thud her coffee cup and bang the phone a few times for emphasis.  Then, she sighs heavily and in apparent frustration.

“I’m sorry, how do I turn this thing on again?  I hate computers, I’m not used to this…oh wait.  Wait, there it is.”  She clicks a fingernail on the table.  “There.  It’s coming on.”  She sets the phone down and sips her coffee; she gives it a solid five minutes before picking the phone back up.  “It’s on.  Now what do you need me to do?”

The patient account representative from Microsoft Windows of India or Nigeria or Kalamazoo advises mom to hit the control and ALT buttons.  “Control?  I don’t see a button that says control.”  Clicks fingernails against table. “I found something.  Let me get my glasses…well, this thingy says CTRL.  You’d think a computer could spell better than this.”  She allows a few minutes to go by as she throws some bird seed to her adoring fans.  “ALT.  As in, alternative?  What is this an alternative to?  I always prefer originals.  Delete?  This thingy that says DEL?  I thought that meant delicate.”  More fingernail tapping, than a horrified tone of voice.  “DEL means delete?  I’m sorry, sir, I don’t want to delete anything.  Why would I delete my alternative button?  Then I wouldn’t have a choice at all.”  And so it goes, until the scammer is nearly yelling from frustration. She made one cry.

Mom likes to play with the scammers; she feels the longer she keeps them on the line, the less time they have to scam someone else. More power to her, I say.

The best secret she keeps, though, is how fruitless her scammer’s efforts really are after all is said and done.  I mean, even if he were successful and got into the secret vault that is her computer system, all he would find are funny cat videos, pictures of kittens, about a million pictures of my kids, a video of my brother’s dog, funny memes and joke pages, and links to America’s Funniest Home Videos from the entire past decade.  Her favorite is a link to a local zoo who has live-cam footage of a giraffe on “birth watch” who we both agree is just having a joke at all our expense because this sneaky giraffe has yet to give any indication she’s going into labor. I think she just wants the romaine lettuce treats they’re giving her…good old April the giraffe is likely running a nifty scam of her own.

The moral of this story, dear scammers, is it’s just not worth it.  God love her, mom has a new hobby now though, and that’s cool. Keeps her occupied.

And be warned, she will out-scam you every time.

Grandma Mooney’s Spooky Charades

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Grandma Mooney lately. I’m not sure why. I joined a vintage photo group recently and it’s possible the old-timey photos remind me of her – I mean, many of the “mountain” or rural women from her era all look very similar; hair in a bun, house dress, a wearied expression on their face that makes it look as though they’ve seen it all (and probably have).  Winnie Mooney had a heart of gold underneath her massive bosom, however, there was a twisted edge to her sense of humor that still has me laughing to this day. I’m not sure what that says about me. But it’s probably why my mother always called me Winnie when I was growing up (just to be clear, it was meant as an insult).

If you recall, my Grandmother – great-Grandmother really – loved sending Vinegar Valentines; Valentine’s Day always brings her back to my memory too.  If you are newer to my blog, a Vinegar Valentine was a way of saying “Bless your heart,” that infamous southern loaded phrase.  She agonized over the perfect valentine to send to people she disliked, laughing as she sent it.  Although turnabout is fair play, she would get so mad when she received one.  These anti-Valentine’s Day cards were more popular for a while than regular cards.  I have a few people in mind that I could send some to, but alas, the practice has fallen out of favor…anyway, I digress.

Grandma Mooney and the rest of my Mom’s family lived in a holler.  For those who aren’t from the south, a holler is a small valley between mountains.  There was only one way in and one way out of the holler. Now you know what all those country songs are talking about. You’re welcome.

To digress one again, I got in trouble at school once for saying and writing holler when my northern-born teacher thought it ought to be “hollow.” Apparently, I wasn’t one to back down from a debate despite my young age. Seems my mother was not immune to the dreaded “parent/teacher conference” any more than I was when my kids were growing up.

Now when my mother was younger, about five or six or so, she had a young friend who lived down the dirt road from her, and he would come by her house to play with her. Or at least…he tried. For reasons unknown to anyone but herself, Grandma Mooney loved to prank this poor young boy.   No-one was ever able to figure out why; it was a secret known only to Grandma Mooney.  Knowing her, it started as a joke and was so hilarious to her that she just continued doing it.

At any rate, the whole premise behind the “joke” was, is there a demon haunting the Mooney house or isn’t there a demon haunting the Mooney house?

And it went like this: my Grandma Mooney would pull a hideous Halloween mask over her head (and we’re talking back in the day when they really knew how to make Halloween scary), and would sit lurking…lurking…waiting for the boy to come up the road to the house.  Then, it was show time.

Grandma Mooney, in this creepy as hell mask, would pop her head up at the window just in time to scare this little boy half to death as he walked up on the porch.

The terrified boy would run home crying to his parents about the insanely frightening witch or monster that dwelled in his friend’s house.  The parents would march over immediately to find out exactly what was going on, as any good parent would do.

Grandma Mooney was ever the innocent hostess. I mean butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth when she put on her “who me?” act.  I can imagine her taking the parents in for coffee, all the while claiming she had no idea what the poor little boy was talking about.  She kept her bluff face on the entire time and never once cracked or confessed.

I don’t know if the little boy ever got punished for telling “wild tales.” Given the parenting techniques of the day though, I wouldn’t be surprised if a trip or two to the woodshed had been in order. What I do picture, though, is this child growing up and ending up in therapy, never able to trick or treat or watch a scary movie, or even believe his own eyes for that matter.

Word carries quickly in the usually close-knit communities in the mountains of WV.  I’m sure word got out about the demon? monster? madwoman? who lived in my mother’s house.  Amazingly enough, my mom still had friends who would come visit her.

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

my great-grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Mooney)

 

The Sear and Slide

Throughout history, there have been many devious instruments of torture.  There was the rack, the metal slide, and the iron maiden.

Now you haven’t really lived if you haven’t slid down a metal slide, in shorts, during the midday summer heat.  There is nothing as satisfying as scorching the backs of your legs on a downward spiral into Hell; if you’re lucky, your shorts will hike up and cause your skin to adhere to the slide itself and you may be fortunate enough to get stuck halfway down Satan’s Skillet.  You may even be lucky enough to sort of stick and slide all the way down, causing amazing degrees of Indian Burns from the friction of your skin on the metal. Talk about adding insult to injury.

My mom taught us a trick. And she says she loved us. Yeah, right. Anyway, we used to add to the fun of a hot metal slide by sliding down on wax paper a few times, or just using the wax paper to rub on the metal slide, making it super, SUPER slippery.  It worked like a charm, let me tell you! It created a whole new level of thrill.

Now my Grandma Jimmie was a rather hip grandma, and she and my mother both loved to go down the slides with my brother and me.  That’s how I remember it, anyway.  Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the coffee in their thermos had been spiked either…I mean, they did have my brother and I to deal with after all.  Anyway, on this particular day, my Aunt Margaret joined us for the fun. Nothing like having a few witnesses. We had been waxing the slide a couple of times that day, and maybe…just maybe…it was a little slicker than we had thought.

My sweet grandmother climbed the metal rungs of the slide, and perched at the top for her innocent, fun ride.  She gave us a smile and a wave, and set off on her journey.

Perhaps you’ve read about my grandmother in some of the more obscure history books; she was the first grandma ever to achieve space flight. And we were there to witness it all. She flew down the slide at Mach speed, and sailed off into the unknown at the end.  Her feet never even touched terra firma as she flew into orbit. I’m telling you, she flew. All things that go up, must come down as they say. She landed on her rear end, about ten feet away from the slide. It was impressive, really.

I’d like to say we were right at her side, concerned and helping her to her feet.  I’d like to say that, but the reality was we were laughing too hard.  Luckily, my grandmother was okay.  Told you, she was a hip grandma.  And apparently tough as nails to boot. My mother, my Aunt Margaret, my brother, and I were useless to our elderly astronaut.  If they had cell phones in the 70’s, I cannot even imagine the fame she would have gotten on YouTube.  It would have been phenomenal. Truly. Naturally, once we saw my grandmother flying across the playground, we all wanted our turn on the Amazing Slide of Doom.

We live in a generation of kids who have plastic slides to coddle their behinds and will never know the joys of burning yourself to death on metal slides at the playground. In a way, it’s a shame. Third degree burns on the playground are a rite of passage. Not to mention the joys of becoming airborne when the right accoutrement is used.

Today’s playgrounds feature rubberized mats, monkey bars that are only about three feet off the ground, and safety swings.  In my day, we had solid concrete under our feet, skyscraper monkey bars that we were afraid to try to climb back down, and chains on our swings that ensured we would get our fingers caught in them at least once.   I also remember one unfortunate incident with a hippity-hop, a jump rope, and a baseball bat, but I digress.

Is it evil to want to see little Tommy Joe, in his perfect Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls, take the searing slide of sadism?

If I have any consolation, it’s that the new plastic slides feature those gigantic metal bolts at the end that guarantee an unbelievable electric shock from the static built up during the slide.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Revisiting the Realm of the Squirrel Queen

I came across this photo on Facebook — I have no idea who to credit but I do know it didn’t belong to the person who shared it.  When I saw this, I immediately thought of my mother, the squirrel queen, and all of her loyal, fuzzy squirrely subjects. And I thought I would re-share her story here. Enjoy.

 

squirrel

click the photo to read about the squirrel whisperer