(originally posted 5/14/2015)
Everyone expects when you write a story about your mother, you’d publish it on Mother’s Day, but I prefer to wait a few days, just like she would often do when celebrating my birthdays. She should just be happy I’m writing one at all.
That’s what she’d say when she’d march through the door with a melting ice cream cake upwards of a week after my big day. She would always adorn it with those candles that you can’t blow out and would get angry when I wouldn’t even try. I would just let them burn down to the frosting in a traditional battle of wills. It would leave burn marks on the cake, but I didn’t really care as I always hated ice cream cakes.
She always calls my dad her “Baby Daddy” despite the fact that she’s been married to him for over forty years. She says she loves me like I was adopted.
I’m an only child and I’ve read that these kind of uncommon things are common. My sister certainly had many of the same experiences and will vouch for me being an orphan.
My favorite childhood memory was the time that my mother got stung by a wasp. She discovered a huge nest of them under the wooden swing set in our backyard. I’d never been attacked by them because I’d never gone near the swing set. As a child, I suffered from vertigo anytime my feet left the ground.
Instead of getting a can of wasp killer, she marched into the garage and returned with a whiffleball bat. She then proceeded to wade into combat with the nest. The rest of the family sat and watched her do battle from the safety of the kitchen. We could still hear her yelp every time she was stung and I can’t remember ever laughing so hard.
You might think with that temper, I’d been on the receiving end of that whiffleball bat a few times, but she never once hit me with it. When I was bad or wouldn’t listen, she’d spray me with wasp killer.
Eventually, both she and the wasps ran out of gas and she entered the kitchen seeking ice for the numerous red welts that seemed to crisscross her body. As she slumped against the sink, I took a black marker and connected all the stings to make the outline of a giant wasp with a giant stinger. By the time I raced back with some colored pens to fill it in, she’d departed to her bedroom to lie down.
I don’t think a wasp has dared venture into our backyard ever since. Adult wasps probably tell stories about my mother to small wasps to keep them in line.
My mother doesn’t smoke except when around people who don’t like smoke. If she is in a place that prohibits smoking, she will fart.
I like to tell myself that the reason she told me the story how female mice, when they and their babies feel trapped by a predator, will kill and eat their offspring in the hopes of someday having more, was a lesson in practicality and not a warning not to go camping with her in an area frequented by bears. I also like to tell myself that if I ever realized my mother was about to eat me, I would have the wherewithal to adorn myself with candles that can’t be blown out.
My mother doesn’t have a limp except for when participating in events where a limp would make things awkward. The degree in which she limps is directly proportional to how uncomfortable someone limping would be. Once when she was in someone’s wedding, she careened down the aisle so badly that she actually touched the pews on both sides as she made her way down. I think if she ever met the Queen of England, she would simply crawl towards her on her hands and knees.
When I was very young, I once wrote a song for my mom for Mother’s Day and she liked it so much, her eyes welled up. She said that none of the words rhymed… just like her. After that, I stopped giving her gifts because I had nowhere else to go but down.