Well, it’s time for my annual post-Mother’s Day column. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to publish a column before Mother’s Day because, frankly, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants so long my butt should have wings and a parachute.
I suppose I deserve some credit. At least I’m writing this on Mother’s Day. In the interest of social-distancing, the kids and I won’t attend the cookout scheduled for midblizzard in Frederick, S.D., today. A global pandemic. Snow in May. Murder hornets. What’s next, flying monkeys? And where are their wings attached?
Our absence will be a profound disappointment to Dylan and India because they love to watch Grandma Jan gang up on me. You read right. All you really need to know about my mother is that she is capable of ganging up on you all by herself. If she’d been in the military, I’m pretty sure the enemy would be radioing in for air support. “Hurry! She’s got us surrounded.”
My mother is the master of the jibe, the slight, and the subtle dig. She can polka, too.
I’ve never seen the job description, but I’m convinced that her primary mission was to keep my ego in check. She’s never come right out and said it, but she’s implied the question more than once: “What makes you think you’re such hot stuff?” My response to this fictional conversation would be, “Genetics.”
I think I understand the psychology, though. I was the first-born of six kids, and I think my parents wanted to establish some discipline early on. Of course, the thing you learn as a parent is that, temperamentally, kids are pretty much who they are going to be upon birth, and I was a bit of a rebel, which no doubt threw my folks, who were planning a large family, into a bit of panic. Can you imagine six of me? They had to nip it in the bud.
“Grandma,” India asked once at the dinner table, “If my dad was so terrible, why did you keep having kids?”
“Oh, we knew we could do better than that,” she said without missing a beat.
Last year, when I called her, I began the conversation by wishing her a happy Mother’s Day and then immediately took credit for the big day. “You really couldn’t have done it without me,” I said. You see, with my mom — in fact, with my whole family — you have to throw the first punch, otherwise, you’re like the slowest water buffalo in those wildlife videos. It involves a lot of thrashing and splashing but eventually, the lions get you.
One time I called her and said, “Hi Mom, it’s your favorite son!”
“Joel! I’m so glad you called.”
“No, Mom. Guess again.”
But she was stumped. I still can’t believe Joel beat me out. He was worse than me.
And I’ve told this story before, but it defines my mother. The only thing that has changed in the story is that in the baseball game I’m about to tell you about, my mythical performance is now up to three home runs — including a grand slam — and a bases-clearing triple.
After the game, I walked pridefully to the station wagon where an ambush awaited. I sat down in the passenger seat, but before I got one self-congratulatory word out, she sniffed, “That pitcher wasn’t very good, was he?”
She’s a hard woman. Last Christmas, she declared that the winners of the board game we were playing would get a shot of Jagermeister, which I really love. But she and my sisters won every game. Bunch of alchys. Do you you think she would give me even one pity shot? No. Absolutely not. And I remind you, it was Christmas.
Anyway, happy Mother’s Day, I guess.
© Toy Bender, 2020
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