Since hindsight is more like 20/60, there are a few things I remember. Like my mother saying, “Keep it up and I’ll ship you off to a convent!” One gem stuck with me. “Kill them with kindness.” But I didn’t learn this philosophy right away. Because after all, did she kill the herd of red ants with kindness that swarmed our front porch and stung her when I was nine? And did she kill my brother with kindness when he missed the lawn and mowed down her tulips?
Flash back several decades to my new mother status. After birthing two children, a friend of my parents said, “Starting out just like your mother aren’t you?” I wasn’t exactly planning a Kennedy comeback. What would warrant him saying such a thing unless I was on my tenth pregnancy? And let’s see….eight more, times nine months of mood swings with the total possibility of a crazed disposition? I was wacky enough after two kids thank you very much. It wouldn’t leave me much time to go snorkeling on my lunch hours. And if I became the next nutty old woman who lived in a shoe only Chianti compelled, my kids would end up coming to me asking, “Who are you, and what did you do with our mother?” Besides, it takes a superheroine with a lot of brain and brawn…doo-dah, doo-dah. A challenging crew running wildly from dusk till dawn, oh doo-dah day.
Despite all the warnings and advice from Spock childcare central, I did learn unconditional adoration. When my love bugs were young, I had many nerve pinching nostalgic moments. Some good, some a bit more heart wrenching. Like one work day when I began feeling dizzy and unbalanced. I went to the doctor who told me it was either vertigo, or a brain tumor. Thanks for sharing. This was way worse than any computer crashing jolt or the Smuckers cemented to my countertops. I drove home with the word “inoperable” penetrating my brain thinking I’d likely be dead by the end of the week. The urge to karate chop the man was pretty powerful when I still had two tykes at home to raise. To think I might miss out on all the general warfare of teen traumas was more than a woman could comprehend. That’s when I decided to cling to a pew. Turns out it was an inner ear problem. I totally began to undertand the meaning of malpractice. Doctors are suppose to prevent torturous deaths. Mine truly inspired it.
I was wrong to think the only time my parents wanted to kill me in a torturous way was when I was a teenager. A thought no doubt shared by sibling charlatans during their dumbest moments as well. Which brings me to this monumental memory. I was fifty when we took a full family vacation (nine siblings, spouses, their kids, my parents, my kids, one bug jar) to northern Michigan. One afternoon half the clan played golf (including my parents), while the other half took a ferry to resorty Mackinaw Island. Our half who took the boat was also responsible for taking the kids. We had a fun filled day, incognizant of time and the fact that my poor dads golf clubs were lying in the trunk of our car. We had cell phones, but no service. Vodka companies were promoting their products at the island watering holes with ice sculpted slides set up so you could place your mouth underneath one to catch a waterfall of various libations. My brother ran into an old buddy making the excursion all the more pleasurable. That is until we missed the boat going back to the mainland. There we were, stranded. Giving my parents some languid syrupy spiel full of excuses wasn’t going to extricate us. My heart felt a sudden shift. The same way the fog shrouds the western coastline in June. Or should I say like so many other acts of youthful /adult obliviousness. Something told me I should have smoked a carton of cigarettes under that albatross of angst. Except I don’t smoke. Something else was nudging me to widen my lips under several icy fluid passageways to ingest all they had to offer till it was time to meet the parents. Last time I checked, God hadn’t given me the disposable income of Oprah to be able to helicopter us back to the mainland. I was happy however with the idea of a hotel since I needed to replenish my home with shampoo, bar soaps, and clean towels. But my brother’s pal offered his place to us considering his other guests vacated earlier. We rationed blankets and wished they hadn’t banned bonfires in the rooms. And you never saw eight people scamper to a morning ferry so fast. Needless to say my parents had the chutzpah to chitchat about us for the next several years. I was delighted I could be of service.
There was a time I didn’t know stain removal tactics from common laundering didactics. So I ruined a few clothes in my day. I began to summon St. Albert the Great, holy pietist of destroyed silks. Because after that came the miracle of One Hour Martinizing. I was living proof of “Honey, I shrunk your wool sweater,” besides being good at shrinking the bank account. Dirty clothing was usually synonymous with dirty martinis. For awhile there, my washer and I had a separation agreeement. I couldn’t quite grasp the whole biodegradable breakdown through decomposition thing. How could I be on eco friendly terms with the contraption when everything came out slightly altered? I was into preserving the earth, but I didn’t want to have to spread Woolite and Shaklee products over every inch of soil outside at the tune of some serious green.
In surveying the past, there’s probably not a whole lot left to learn the hard way. Unless you’re a baboon. Or the president. Or me.