A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Sunday, December 30, 2007

My mother was most entertaining when she didn't mean to be

My mother was the ultimate lady. It wasn't always that way. When she was young she was quite the tomboy (see The Doll and Where I Came From) but by the time I knew her, she in "lady" mode. Always sat with her legs crossed gracefully. Tried to avoid confrontation. Would never say anything to hurt someone's feelings. Ate and drank politely. Yada, yada, yada.

However, there are a few times in my memories that her ladylike veneer cracked just a bit. The first one was when I was about six. Mom, Dad and I were sitting at our little table eating dinner. Dad was so happy because he had just finished painting the living room and dining room walls a nice exciting white (!!). I don't think there was any other color of paint back then. Anyway, I was always a totally cool kid - at least in my mind. Mom had given me some red Kool Aid for dinner and I needed a bit more. So I picked up my cup and thrust it towards Mom asking for more to drink. What I didn't know is that there was still some red Kool Aid in the cup which managed to propel itself out of the cup into my mother's face and hair, and all over my dad's newly painted wall. Mom sat there dripping, sputtering, glaring - but looking nothing like the lady I knew her to be. Dad was torn between yelling at me for messing up the paint, or laughing at my mom's appearance. Wisely, he chose to yell at me.

Fast forward several years. One of the things I inherited from my dad was the need to smell a new food before eating it. Just to be sure. I also love to sniff fresh bread but that has nothing to do with this story. One day when I was in my 20's, Mom, Dad and I were in a Chinese restaurant. Our food came and there were three little bowls of sauces with the order. Dad and I immediately picked them up and sniffed to decide what was safe to eat. Mom looked at us with disdain - I mean we were in a restaurant for heaven's sake! She declined our invitation to stick her nose in the sauces so we all just started eating. Dad and I knew to avoid the little bowl of off-white stuff. It was obviously very strong horseradish. Mom proceeded to dunk her chicken into the sauce, swirl it around to get a good coating, and then pop it into her mouth. Well, not "pop", more like gently place. Suddenly her eyes got really big, she looked at us, and then spit the saucy meat clear across the table onto the floor in front of the people next to us! Her eyes were watering, her face got red. Not sure if it was from the sauce or the embarrassment. This time Dad and I did laugh (strength in numbers). Don't remember if mom became a sniffer after that, but she did become a bit more careful.

It was rare for anyone to see my mother without makeup on and her hair done. It was the first thing she did in the morning and she would always "freshen up" before dad came home. Ah, the 50's. Even if she was sick, she would put herself together first thing. Except for that one time. Mom went to Wisconsin to help my sister out when Pat had baby #2. Baby #1 was around 3 years old so mom was watching him, cleaning the house, cooking the meals, dealing with the new baby. She made it home safely after a couple of weeks - completely worn out. Later Pat sent us some pictures of those days and there was my mom, standing at the kitchen sink, her hair just hanging down with a headband around it to keep it out of her eyes, NO makeup, wrinkled clothes - frankly she was a mess! I don't think mom was too thrilled with us seeing those pictures - I mean I had never seen her that way and by now I was in my early 30's! I just howled at the photos. Briefly - I think mom ripped them up.

Luckily, my mother also had a great sense of humor so we were able to laugh at all these stories. At least I THINK she was laughing?!?!?


ira said...

Lets see you all prim and proper after being splattered onto!!!
take care..
Happy New Year! [:)]

Jenni said...

I love the horseradish story! I cannot even begin to imagine how mortified Grandma must have been!