Friday, January 13, 2006

Phoning it in

Tuesday night I have a long conversation with my Mom. It begins with her hospital bills* and ends with us both looking at Chihuahuas on Petfinder.com. I have the sneaking suspicion she is, or has been, doing a little drinking.

My relationship with my mother is best explored over the phone. Sometimes I think it forces her to actually listen to me. In person, she gets distracted and will even turn to someone else, while I am in mid-sentence, and ask them a question, completely disregarding the fact that I am talking to her. But on the phone she is my captive. Though she will interrupt me to talk to the dog, or yell at the TV.

My mother grew up in South Dakota, and we talk about her upcoming trip back to the homeland with two of her sisters. There is little family left in Rapid City, save a couple aunts in nursing homes. I only went to South Dakota once that I can recall, when I was 7, to visit my Grandmother. We drove from my Mom’s twin sister’s house in Illinois through the Black Hills, to the edge of the Badlands landing on her Post-War doorstep. I remember little of that trip. I remember being so bored that I cried, so my mom bought us a Slip n’ Slide. I also remember the bruises it left on my hipbones.

Apparently, this was not my only trip to South Dakota. My mother says I have been there no less than 4 times. On the previous occasion (I had been 4) my sister and I got so muddy on a rock hunting expedition** that we had to be hosed down in the front yard. According to her, it was hilarious, which surprises me. I never thought of my mother as one to giggle at dirtiness. I ask her if she has pictures, and she says I think so. I hope that’s true.

I ask her something I have been meaning to ask, but keep forgetting. There is a vague memory of her telling me that someone famous held me as a baby on an airplane. She says 'not quite', and recounts the story of a young mother traveling alone, landing at LAX with a 2 year old and an infant. As the passengers all gather their belongings, my mother fumbles for her baby bags, infant carrier , and purse, all the while keeping a hand free to hold on to my sister. She was a bungled mess of straps and baggage. After realizing none of the flight attendants where coming to her aid, a fellow passenger offers to take the diaper bag and purse and helps her off the plane. My mother looks up in appreciation and realizes that it's Janet Leigh . She doesn't say anything to her, like "wow, you’re Janet Leigh", just accepts her help appreciatively. I imagine Janet, with a 16 year old daughter at the time, feeling compassion for the overwhelmed mother. And I think of my mom, only a couple years older than I am now, traveling alone with a baby and a toddler.

That idea of her is so far off from my perception of her now. I don't think I have fully comprehended her life and all its events and experiences. My idea of her contains only what I can recall, the great majority of that being from her early 40s until now. After she had stopped teaching, had 2 children, and settled into a suburban existence of bridge clubs and soccer. I never knew the version of her that lived in France, or brought home a fistfull of baby rattlesnakes when she was 8. But I hope, with some effort, I can begin to know those parts of her now.

This will be done over the phone.

*If my mother didn’t have health insurance, that little blood clot in her brain would have cost her $17,000.

**Rock hunting is when you go into the wilderness of the Badlands and hunt for rocks. In particular, agates. You spray rocks with a squirt bottle to get the dirt off and see if there are swirlys. I never found anything with a swirly.

5 comments:

amy. said...

Wait until you have kid, that drive to know your mama pre-you will get even stronger.
it is an issue I think about a lot- how I know my mom and how Henry will know me.

Also, you made me get all teary. Bitch.

Mrs. T said...

Wow - that was really sweet. Now I am teary-eyed and pondering my own relationships. You are the coolest friend I have - I gotta get out more. I heart you!

Bret said...

Excellent entry, Nacho. Nicely done.

KL said...

amy - you'll be teary and like it, bitch.

Mrs. T - yes, if I am the coolest, you definitely need to get out more

Bret - thanks :-)

P-Diddy in Sin City said...

we really need to hang out soon. for real.