Sunday, May 8, 2011
As my Mother used to say...
I was reading through your 70th birthday book, Mom. So many pictures and letters from loved ones with accolades and anecdotes about you. Laughter a common theme. It seems that everyone who knew you had a funny story to tell. You always had a great sense of humor, and an infectious laugh. I used to love when you would laugh so hard that when you'd breathe in there would be a snort. It meant you were having a good time. I'm proud to say I've inherited that snort.
You used to tell a story about singing me to sleep. You said I was barely a year old and you were singing me to sleep and I told you that you didn't have to sing - "It's okay, Mommy. I'll go to sleep." Apparently I didn't like your singing. Turns out you never could carry a tune. Oh, the times we tried to teach you. But your voice just didn't work that way. You humored us anyway.
Even as kids we would torment you for a laugh. Back in the day, when there were rotary phones attached to a cord attached to a wall, you would talk on the phone and we would hover asking "who is it?", "what do they want?", "who's going?", "who's in trouble?". Umm, we were once you got off the phone. You would give us the stink eye, and then rattle a fist at us. Or you'd ask for your cigarettes, motioning to us what you wanted, we'd get them, and hold them just out of your reach. There's that stink eye again. Oh, man, we had some fun, didn't we?
Remember the time there was an FBI drug bust next door? I'll never forget that day. A lot of the neighborhood kids were hanging out at our house that summer afternoon. I walked into the kitchen to see you headed out the back porch door. I followed. You proceeded to ask the two men, in suits, with guns, poised to break down the neighbors back door, "What the hell are you doing?!" They motioned to you to be quiet, showed you their FBI badges, and the next thing I knew we were back inside with the doors closed and you yelling "Everybody get down on the floor!" After that there was an awful lot of hoopla next door. Glass shattering, people yelling, guns firing. Then we all ran out the front door to watch the scene unfold as the drug dealer next door took off running from the feds. I remembering you saying you'd like to get on the minibike we had in back and go after that guy. You didn't do it, but the image of it, ah, damn funny.
I was thinking the other day of the different phrases and retorts you often used:
"Let's go, so we can get back." I use this one all the time, only I preface it with "Well, as my mother used to say...".
Me (or any one of us): "Mom, where are you going?"
You: "I'm going crazy. Wanna come along?"
"Ooh, gotta go, potty, potty, potty, potty, potty!" This is usually accompanied by half bent over, cross-kneed walking. To this day, Mom, and probably for the rest of my life, I've adapted this one, too. Somehow, I'm not only compelled to tell the world that I have to use the bathroom, but I have to make an impression on how urgently I have to use the bathroom, too.
"Oh, ish!" Obviously, this was used when you thought something was gross in some way. It's always seemed like a strange word to me. A bit "ishy", if you will.
"Oh, shit in two!" I never understood this. I mean, I get it. But, literally? Not so much. And yet, it stays with me. Though I use my inside voice with this one.
A lot of fun memories. We had some good times, didn't we? I miss you so, but I'm grateful to have all these memories. To be able to look back through the sadness and longing to the laughter.
You liked to gamble. But whenever I went along with you, you would shoo me away, telling me that I bring you bad luck. In Vegas, just you and I, I wandered the casino most of the night while you played the slot machines. Every time I would wander back you would send me along my way again, lest I ruin your winning streak. It was all in fun, of course. But you were still pretty serious. It inspired me to pen a poem about it.
ODE TO CAROL, THE GAMBLER
There once was a woman named Carol
Who dreamed of mucho dinero
She liked to play the slots and the lotto
She'd lose, then she'd win a lot, oh!
Don't give her those quarters
Don't give her those nickels
Some Saturday night
She'll end up in a pickle
Don't give her those dollars
Don't give her those dimes
Silver dollars, oh, boy!
She likes how they chime
As they drop in the slot
And the wheels go a-spinning
She can feel it deep down
She'll soon come up winning
She'll play all the day
And far into the night
You'll lose her 'round the corner
Yeah, she puts up a fight
But sooner or later
Probably later, I say
She'll come stumbling out
Somewhere about the break of day
With a hand full of dollars
Or a hand full of nothing
Her fingers all dirty
From her lottery lovin'
You might as well let her
She don't kill or steal
But watch out if you get
In the way of that wheel
This Mother's Day will be the first without you here, Mom. And, like every day since you died, I'll be missing you. We will be missing you. But we'll be remembering, too. And, hopefully, the laughter will drown out the tears. It is the best medicine, after all.
With lots of love on Mother's Day.