My mom has been here for over a week caring for me after surgery, and may well be here for another week until I'm entirely independent again. Her help and support and love have been indispensable. It's been quite a bit of fun. And it's been a learning experience.
My mother has had five children. Many people who see her energy in action don't guess she's 69 years old. She is blonde, 5'2", teeny-tiny, and to paraphrase my niece Sloan, is like a bulldozer fueled by love, and operates in a very "Here I come, and if you don't want to get squashed, get out of my way" mode.
It's funny that Sloan used those particular words. In the photo of my mother at left, taken here in Chicago in 1939, she is adorable. Cute as a bagful of buttons. But don't let the angelic blonde ringlets fool you. According to the uncle who took this photo, she is pointing with her left hand because she is issuing him the instruction: "Get out of my way." Even as a tiny little girl, she had a very strong sense of self, and a clearly defined path she wanted to pursue.
She is intensely loving, hilariously opinionated, and mighty mighty powerful. I love her more than I could ever express.
Things I didn't know, or am newly appreciating, about my mother.
She is in love with Wentworth Miller. She knows Wentworth Miller is 6'1". She knows he graduated from Princeton. "God, he's handsome." She suspects it is wrong to feel so warmly about someone young enough to be her own child (her fifty-plus years of marriage to my father notwithstanding), nevertheless, Mondays are very important evenings of television viewing for her. Last Monday we missed the first half-hour of Prison Break and she almost blew a gasket.
Every time she ends a call on her cell phone, she looks at the screen on her phone and announces the duration of the call she just made. She realizes this is unnecessary, because she always follows it up with a "not that it matters," or a "I know you don't really care," but she still reports the minutes and seconds anyway. The last time she spoke to my dad, it was seven minutes and eighteen seconds. Not that it matters.
She has a gift for unusual turns of phrase. "Soup in a basket." That's what she called an unusual hip-shimmy she performed while attempting to avoid stepping on Calpurnia's tail while hopping into bed with me the other night. "What the hell was that?" I said. "The mashed potato? The frug?" "I call that one 'soup in a basket,'" she said, laughing like a nutter. I don't know what that means. But I know it's funny.
She's very particular about her television preferences.
Issue number one: Closed captioning or no closed captioning? I know, you're expecting that it's the older person who wants to see the words scrolling across the bottom, but actually, it's me, the word nerd. As an writer, I like to see the script while I'm listening to the words coming out of characters' mouths, but it annoys Mom. My TV is quite small, so the closed captioning ends up taking up the lower 1/4 of the screen, blocking out a lot of the picture. Whenever she watches tv at my house, or I've committed the grave sin of turning it on at her house, she sputters "Words! Words on the screen!" until I wrestle the remote control away from her and turn it off. She's actually called me from her house after I've visited to demand that I give her step-by-step instructions for turning it off.
Issue number two: Star Trek or Antiques Roadshow? Mom loves Antiques Roadshow. I find it boring, but then, I can pop a Vicodin, roll over, and forget the universe. Mom is a recognized master bargain hound who can pick something unremarkable out of the ten cent bin at Goodwill (on Senior Citizens' Day, when she gets an additional 30% off) and sell it for $195 on eBay. I've seen it happen. Hitting the jackpot someday on Antiques Roadshow would be like reaching Nirvana for her. On the one occasion I did win the Antiques Roadshow vs Star Trek argument, we watched a few minutes of Deep Space Nine. That was an argument I was soon sorry to have won.
For years, I've used a special term of endearment for my mom, based on something that the character Quark calls his mother on DS9. "Moogie." She thought it was cute. It was something I seemed to have come up with on my own, so she especially liked it. I addressed birthday cards to her using this name. She's signed e-mails using this name. Dad actually seemed a little jealous that I had a special name for her, but not him. He tried to appropriate it for himself. "It's me, Doogie," he'd say on the phone. "There's no such thing as a Doogie, Dad, sorry."
It was all well and good until earlier this week when I won the war over the remote control and used its power to flip over to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was an episode that centered around the Ferengis, particularly Quark. "Eww, what are those?" Mom said. "Those are Ferengis," I said. "Oh, well, they're hideous." I had forgotten she was a little squicked by actors with all those alien prosthetics on their faces. Walnut-headed Klingons? Forget it. She doesn't want to look at that stuff. "But the storylines are densely plotted, and there are so many classic dramatic frameworks in Star Trek stories," I've said. "Blech," she'll say.
"Oh, Mom, this might be the episode that has the real Moogie in it!"
"The one you named me after?"
"Yes! You'll finally get to see her! Ferengis are this really
piggish, materialistic species, but they revere their mothers, which is why I..."
"Oh my god, is she one of those things? Ferengis?"
It was all downhill from there. It was, indeed, the episode with Quark's Moogie in it.
Quark's Moogie, unfortunately for me, is the picture of loveliness at left. Mom saw her namesake.
"Oh, my god!"
I fell silent. I considered my poor judgment. I waited for her response.
"You should call me Mom from now on."