March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom...Girlfriend!

My mother would have been 74 today. I miss her terribly. What I miss most about her is her sense of humor and wacky way of looking at the world. The day she died, I lost an advocate for my often dark and inappropriate humor. I also lost a source of unconditional love and support. Instead of crying myself through this day, I want to focus on my mother and her wonderful spirit. Here are a few of my favorite mom moments.

After the storm, when Mom was still in Houston undergoing treatment for her cancer, I was in New Orleans watching my sister’s three kids and raising my own newborn. I was using my sister’s car which had an awful smell of gasoline. Her husband had transported and spilled gasoline in the back of the car. It was a terrible odor. Every time we got in the car to go somewhere, we had to roll the windows down and turn on the AC. The children were definitely grateful their dear, somewhat insane aunt had quit smoking. (Only to start again a few months later, but that is another story for another day.)  I called Mom to complain and asked her what got out the smell of gasoline. Her deadpan response was, “fire.”

Another time during this post storm, half the family in Houston, the other half in pieces on the floor in New Orleans era, I called Mom to chat about the day. I work from home and my office is upstairs in our converted attic. Looking back on the renovation, yes we should have blown out the budget and raised the roof line, but we didn’t and we are left with a room with a horribly steep pitched ceiling, on which I hit my head just about every day. I was telling Mom this and saying that one would think I would eventually get used to the pitch of the ceiling and quit hitting my head, but that day had not (and still has not) come. Mom’s suggestion was that I keep a helmet at the foot of the stairs and put it on every time I went to work.

And then, of course, there was the road trip the summer before my senior year in high school. Mom and her best friend, my Aunt Phyllis, who is not really an aunt, (but when you call someone “aunt” your whole life, they kind of become an aunt by sheer force of will) decided to take a trip together to bring Phyllis’ daughter to graduate school in Virginia. We also had the grown son of some other friend of theirs who needed a ride up to the DC area. We started with 2 cars – the moms in one car, the “kids” in the other. Before we hit the twin span in Slidell, the “kid” car was participating in activities that could have gotten us thrown in jail.

On the ride home, it was just Mom, Aunt Phyllis and me. They let me smoke cigarettes in the car and drive a bit. I brought my summer reading books on the trip, so I read them aloud in the car to them.  I read The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and then Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, which I am pretty sure was not a required reading book. I don’t think I could have appreciated The Loved One had I not read it aloud to them as they provided explanations and definitions, which made the book hysterically funny. I think I might have to re-read it as an adult to see if it really is supposed to be a comedy…I now question this “fact” of my memory.

We also stopped, against my vehement protestations, at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s house in Virginia. I did not want to go. I was 17. It seemed “boring” and “stupid.” It was fascinating from beginning to end. We bought our tickets and received our change in $2 bills, which tickled the three of us, who were already somewhat punch drunk from being in the car for so long.  No doubt, we were completely obnoxious during the tour, but there are things I remember from that day like they were yesterday, and trust me, it was a LONG time ago. Thomas Jefferson invented the dumb waiter and pocket doors that open together even we you only open one, whatever that is called. Well, it WAS 23 years ago.

When she got sick, I was the only one of her daughters who did not have kids, so it was easier for me to accompany her and Dad to the doctor appointments and then the treatments. It is an odd thing to be happy for, but I am happy I was able to be there for her during that time. We got to spend a lot of time together, time that we not would have spent together otherwise. I would sit with her while she waited for doctors. She would tell me stories and we would laugh at world…it was much easier to laugh than to sit and cry, which was what we both felt inside.

It was reminiscent of high school. Mom worked at the high school I went to so we would drive into school together each morning and home each night. It was a long drive, about 30-40 minutes each way in traffic. By senior year, it was just the 2 of us as my sister had graduated and the girls down the street had as well. People think it’s nuts when I tell them Mom let me smoke in the car on the way to school. It is kind of nuts. I was in a Catholic school girl uniform puffing on a Marlboro light in the car on the way to school. I don’t know why she let me smoke. Maybe she was sympathetic to my addiction.

Some other things I love and miss about my mother, in no particular order:
  • She tended to give me and my sisters birthday cards from the Mohogany greeting card line. I am pretty sure one year I got an old Kwanza card.
  • She was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the CIA killed Kennedy.
  • She was also wary of the microwave. In fact, she did not get one until pretty much every other person on the planet had one, and even then, my oldest sister practically forced it on her. She remained suspicious of it for her lifetime.
  • She found my oldest sisters biological mother to thank her and then devoted her time to reuniting other adopted people with their biological parents. I especially liked that she used her vast knowledge of sleuthing to do this, referencing the 100,000 murder mysteries she read.
  • She referred to my dog Sam as her grand dog. She would talk to Sam when she came over.  She knew how much I loved that dog and respected it, never taking it too seriously, but never openly making fun of it either.
  • She fell out of her chair laughing at me when I told her that I thought I would be a better mother than my sisters were because I was more organized. She then promised, through a stream of tears, not to tell anyone I had ever said those words. (Yes, she was right and I was delusional.)

I hear people complain about their mothers today and I want to grab them and say, “You don’t know what you have!” But, then a friend told me once, “If your Mom was my Mom, I’d want her alive, too. But, my mom is cruel.” How lucky I am to have had a mother who was kind. Yes, she was a little wacky, but, frankly, I can’t really fault her for that, now can I? After all, I am pretty sure I cut from the same multi-colored cloth.


Laura Ferry-Jimenez said...

would I be biased in saying that this post about my aunt, your mom, has been my favorite so far?! ;)

happy birthday, aunt celeste!

ps: I can't believe she let you smoke either! then again, I can't believe I was allowed to curse like a sailor, at 14, either!

Therese Close said...

I love to read your stories about your mother. Please keep writing them. Love, Therese Close

judyb said...

I lost my mom in 1992. I'd moved from Massachusetts to New Orleans in '75, so I enjoyed our phone conversations. I've missed her so much. I miss relaying to her how her now 21 year old grand daughter has the same crazy sense of humor we both shared. She'd love that. I still watch the Oscars every year in her honor. Thanks for your post. bless you and your Mother's memory. (hugs)