“Using olive oil instead of margarine decreases your chance of a heart attack by 51%.” – me
“Yeah, but wouldn’t you like to experience a heart attack just once in your life?” – Mom, 7/30/02, lunch
My mother is a nurse. Consequently, sometimes she says things that come from the dark folds of a nurse’s mind. And to be fair, the comment was not seriously advocating for a heart attack-as-entertainment experience. And yet, it comes from a very innocent place of curiosity and rumination. This is because along with being a nurse, my mother has the mind of a writer.
“I took care of Hazel last night. She sleeps every other night.” – Mom, 10:32 am, sometime in ’04
There’s also an element of non sequitor that brings to her comments an added energy. Often I’ll need several seconds to process what she just shared. One night back in July of ‘07, she said, “A lot of people hop in private.” Questions were asked, of course, but the answers provided no solace. This was just another statement of fact as told by my mother that was true but strange at the same time.
Mother’s Day is approaching. Many people give their mothers flowers and a card on such a day. It’s a perfectly socially appropriate response. Others will bestow upon their mother queens jewelry or even bouquets of chocolate-covered strawberries, a delicious albeit strange fad.
These are gestures of love I could present to my mother for Mother’s Day. But what do you give a woman who often booby traps your things with fake bugs, regrets not being fluent in Klingon and once left a rubber chicken foot on my dashboard, a gesture eerily reminiscent of the horse’s head bed deposit in The Godfather?
“What’s new…in 20 seconds or less?” – Mom, 9 am, 2/3/05
Perhaps these are reasons why things are more difficult for me and people like me who are spawned by such a strange strain of maternal power. Mother’s Day, then, presents us with much more than just options of flowers, fruits or jewels; it forces us to delve deep into the abyss of not just weirdness, but weirdness that we had no choice but to internalize. Or to use a jargon that’s closer to my own mother’s vernacular, to assimilate.
“Why would I want to eat black bananas? (pause) Vonna Kransten ate black bananas.” – Mom, 1/17/00
My mother is also a wordsmith. Very few people know this about her although many sense something slightly askew after leaving her presence. For instance, when discussing someone, she might continually use their full name instead of a pronoun. It took me years to figure out that she does this because she likes the person’s name. Ed Zawada, my friend, you have one of these names, and I’ve been hearing your name way before I met you.
“I don’t like corn dogs, but I enjoy one once a year.” – Mom, 9/13/99
My earliest memory involves me being fenced into a circle while my mother mowed the lawn. I was waking up from a nap, crayon chunks floating on a stream of drool running down my cheek, and I think I remember the feeling of a full diaper.
If I ever actually get pica – and this might be a karmic justice from making an inordinate amount of pica jokes, something that’s a bit troubling the more I think about it – I might eat a crayon again. Diapers? Even the Sphinx must have assumed in his riddle that diapers would be a part of that three-legged retreat into the night of our lives. As for my mother, I feel like she is always just out of eye shot, doing something like mowing the lawn – and in the early 80’s, this often meant a tube top was involved in some important way, a thought that’s upsetting to me even now.
“You know, I don’t mind being flat.” – Mom, June, ’00
Every beginning has an end. I sometimes think about this in light of my own beginnings and the person who had the most important role to play in this beginning, a woman who I not only call Mom but primary source information in my search for self-understanding that peaks during this holiday.
Nursery rhymes recited to me so many times I had them memorized, Stephen King stories told so many times I had them memorized, the Rubber Ducky song a natural accompaniment to bath time, Wizard of Oz every spring, the birds and bees talk delivered as briskly as a pathology report dispelling my “holding hands” theory of procreation, watching The Lost Boys when I was very young because my mother realized vampires were cool even back then, 4-H purple ribbons, swimming lessons and summer camp, bicycle trips, nicknames and so much laughter, it quite possibly saved our lives in the gallows of family tragedy.
“I had a good night…except that I had to work with a bobble head.” – Mom, spring of ’02
The solution, then, is a roast of sorts. The moms need to be called out, to be celebrated. My version of this is to quote my mother. Many people who know me know I quote everyone. Literally. I’ll pull out a pen and paper and write down the witty tendril of verbiage they just made along with the time and date.
What many don’t know is that this behavior began with my mother. Conversation after conversation, my mother would say something that made my head spin. After awhile, it just felt right to create a written record. Perhaps this was just so that I, along with my dad and brother, wouldn’t feel so alone while living with such a brilliant, lovely force.
“Why would I want to jump out of a plane? I’ve got tattoos?!” – Mom, 10:28 pm, 7.4.07