Mother and I are having a glass of wine. We’re sitting inside her home at the ratty round table in her dining area. I have just swept off a pile of really old papers, used napkins, envelopes, pencils, dead flowers and dry cat food. Mother removes her dog Becky’s box of dog cookies, “Which she won’t eat,” my mother says. “She just likes to carry the cookies around the house.”
Mom tells me how her fluffy black cat Josie, the one I found abandoned while out walking, is bringing dead field rabbits into her bedroom almost every day and she and Becky the Dog tear them apart and eat them, just outside Mom’s clothes closet.
This is nothing to be concerned about.
I mention that I have just finished baby sitting my six year old granddaughter Lexi for five days.
“We went to Jimbo’s one day; you know the organic grocery store where everything is so high class and so expensive. Lexi saw some cupcakes in the bakery case and desperately wanted one.”
Mom smiles and nods.
“Well, you know her mom doesn’t let her eat sweets, so it’s a special deal when she gets something like that. Lexi keeps pressing her face to the glass case and gazing at those chocolate cupcakes. And begging me to relent and get one for her.”
Mother says, “Oh, I like chocolate.”
“Yes, and so does Lexi. And these cupcakes are swirled and piled really high with bright pink frosting. Lexi’s beside herself with desire, so finally I say, ‘OK, you can have one.’ She then immediately starts twrilling in the isle and spinning with delight. ‘Oh thank you Baba! Oh thank you Baba!’”
Mom nods again and smiles.
“Well, the nice lady behind the counter pulls out the plate of cupcakes and lets Lexi choose the biggest, most gigantic one with the most frosting. The lady puts it in a special see-through plastic box with a shiny red bow tie. Lexi wants to eat the cupcake right away but I insist we pay for it first!”
“So, it takes about twenty minutes to finish shopping and get to the car and the whole time Lexi is gazing fondly at that cake, smiling and laughing and is so excited she’s practically mad with wanting it.”
Mom is still smiling and nodding. She knows there must be some reason why I am drawing out this really mundane, boring story about a cupcake.
“We get in the car and I tell Lexi, ‘OK, you can eat it now,’ and I turn the car onto the freeway. Next thing I know, Lexi lets loose this outraged screech! I am so startled I almost jack the car over the center line.
“‘What’s wrong, Lexi?!”
Lexi howls. And howls. And howls. She sounds like a wild cat.
“Lexi, I can’t help you, I’m driving! What is it?”
Lexi is choking with sobs. “The frosting tastes bad, Baba! I hate it. I hate it. It’s bad, Baba.”
She shoves the cupcake over my shoulder. I lean down and take a bite.
Oh my gosh. It’s cream cheese frosting. It’s not that wonderful swirled pile of sugar that Lexi thought she was getting. That mound of sugar that she had begged for, the sugar that she rarely gets. She had been so delighted with her good fortune and now this…this imposter!
My mother is sympathetic as I continue the story.
“Lexi just keeps sobbing. She can’t get over being deceived by that cupcake.
I tell her things like, ‘Well, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.’ Which makes no sense to her, so I try and explain, but that’s futile.
And I say ‘Well this is a lesson that everything that looks good or like gold, isn’t always’. And, ‘There are many disappointments in life.’
Lexi isn’t open to Life Lessons right now. None of this preachy talk has any effect on her emotional disappointment and her wrenching sobs so you know what I have to do. I have to eat that damn cupcake because you can’t waste food, especially anything chocolate. And, Lexi sobs loudly for most of the drive home.”
“Did you give her some chocolate ice cream when you got home?” my mother asks.
“No. I gave her a popsicle. An all natural lime popsicle with no sugar.”
Now, my mother looks disappointed.
Then, she brightens up. “You know,” she says, “I had a big bag of peanut candies and I ate a bunch the other day and I got really, really sick. I’ve had diarrhea before but this was different. It was bad. I was terribly ill.”
I suck air. “You ate peanut candy!? Mom, don’t you know that all these people have been getting salmonella from peanut products because of that filthy plant that had to shut down recently? People are dying from peanut products Mother, old people, especially 86 year old people and you’re eating peanut candy?”
“Yes,” Mom says. “And, the next day I ate some more. And I got really, really sick again, so than I threw the bag away.”
I put my head down on the table top. I spend a lot of time putting my head down on table tops because of my family.
“And, how is Rat Man,” I ask, just to change the subject.
Rat Man is what mother calls the pest control man who was hired to rid her house of ants and spiders and other crawlies. (Dead rabbits and squirrels in the house are OK.)
The last time he was here, I was visiting Mom. She casually mentioned to me that she had had no heat or hot water and the gas stove hadn’t worked either, for more than 24 hours!
“Gads! Mother,” I remember whining, “why don’t you mention these things?”
I run outside and get Rat Man.
“Can you help us, please?” I say. “Would you look at Mom’s water heater and see if the pilot light blew out?”
Rat Man is a young guy and quite amiable about helping old ladies, it turns out.
“Sure,” he says. “Where is it?”
I grab Mother and we waffle and whiffle down the porch steps together in a very strong wind.
The water heater, it turns out, is screwed in behind a metal door on the outside of her metal trailer!
Rat Man looks at the door. There must be fifteen tiny screws in that metal door, screwed tight into that metal trailer.
Eeeh gads. Is this a job for Rat Man? He only kills vermin. But, he has his ego and his honor to think of.
He finds a screw driver in his car and begins to turn the screws. It takes a very long time and did I mention that big, icy cold, stiff, raging wind we three are standing in?
Finally, the door is off and oh my gosh, the webs and spiders. Rat Man will need to add some extra squirts of pestie paste in here.
He leans down and into the mess, looking for the pilot light. It’s a hard find. Mother and I are hanging over his shoulders, one on each side.
Rat Mans find the pilot. Rat Man takes a match out of his poket…did I mention that Raging Wind? And valiantly tries to light the son-of-a-b….
He tries and tries. He finds more matches and strikes more matches. He’s getting red in the neck.
Mom has a question for him. She leans even farther over his shoulder and says to me, “Is this the same man that tried to light my pilot light on the stove last year and got blown clear across the kitchen?”
“Mother,” I say, “this is not the time…”
Rat Man sounds like he is whimpering.
“Are you the same man,” my mother persists, “that had the gas explode while he was lighting the stove pilot and it blew him across the kitchen and the lady that was with him started screaming and screaming so loud that I could hear her in my bedroom and I’m profoundly deaf, you know.”
I’m dyin.’ I’m laughing so hard I fall to my knees.
Rat Man jumps straight up and steps on me. “I got it lit!” he says.
Thank you God.
The question is:
Why do I often wobble home from my Mother’s??
Sometimes it’s the wine we drink or the peanut candy we eat and sometimes it’s the things that happen over there.
GOOD NEWS! My brother, Arthur, is in complete remission from acute leukemia. He will be on chemo pills for two more years. But, no more talk of bone marrow transplants and stem cells and all of that. We are all elated. Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes. X Venus
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