My mother wisely advised me to start writing down my adventures. We were all prolific letter writers to begin with, so writing didn't present a problem. [ Thank You Mary McBride for teaching me how to write, somewhat...] In fact, my mother said that someday it would serve to remind me of incidents that would long be forgotten in the wake of many more, over the course of my lifetime, possibly forever. So I wrote. I kept these adventures in one specific box, which I have added to over the years, said box dutifully following me through various moves.
Today I dragged the box out of the attic looking for a specific note my son had written when he was about seven. He had left it on the table for me to find. The fact that I can't find it now, after having last seen it four years ago, is driving me nuts. My son had wanted to go on a church retreat with his friend. For one reason or another I said no. It was the cutest thing, written in that seven year old scrawl, "Dear Mom, I have run away from home. I have gone with Dominic on the church retreat. I will take what ever punishment I deserve when I come home. I will be home Sunday around five o'clock. Love Your Son Billy."
What I did find however, was my mother's favorite missive I wrote for her when my kids were little. It was in response to a telephone conversation I had with my father. About calling my mother so much. My excuse had been, "It's therapy." His reply had been, "It's cheaper to go to a head shrinker than to pay the phone bills." This was the result...
For those who choose unconventional therapy, there tend to be unforeseeable problems.
For centuries, siblings have been heard screaming, "I'M TELLIN," before running to their mothers, milliseconds after something trivial has gone awry, a precious possession has been demolished, or simply when there is general disagreement, the subject irrelevant. Therein lies the reason grown women across the country turn to their own mothers, calling upon this inherent, fundamental need to tell as a form of therapy.
Women reaching the end of the proverbial rope, race through piles of Fischer Price contraptions - or leave the children in the middle of the third round - arms outstretched making a frenzied grab for the telephone. "I'M TELLIN," echoes through starched neighborhoods in high pitched adult voices. This frenzied grab begins the call to mother. Mothers; the originators of the age old curse, "Wait until you have children of your own." I am well acquainted with the curse.
I happen to own two children. The fact of ownership constantly debated by them with such remarks as, "YOU brought me home, I was NOT allowed a vote," (which would always incite an Eva Braun moment in me in which I would say "THIS, my little friends, is NOT a democracy..."). To this date I have not consciously admitted to proprietorship of these children in public though I have a tendency to expound on Bombeck's Theory of Embarrassment. It is not easy knowing grocery store clerks quiver in my children's wake.
My children were born running, their necks bent in a westerly direction, curiously concerned with where they have been, not where they are headed. It makes me nervous to watch two hundred and twenty-nine perfectly stacked cans of Spagettios cascade to the tiled floor as my herd swooshes by unconcerned. I am not amused meeting fellow housewives over the backyard fence to chat, metal detector strapped to my person. The chats interrupt never ending searches for silverware the children constantly misappropriate as digging tools. Through years of this I waited. I knew when the time was right. In fact, it rolled off my tongue like marbles down the laundry chute, "WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE CHILDREN OF YOUR OWN," I bellowed. Then I called my mother. To tell.
In short, I have been calling my mother since the day my children developed their own distinct personalities. I have heard rumors of other mothers beginning unconventional therapy straight out of the delivery room, but I have not met any in order to confirm this.
Having parents who live hundreds of miles away makes this unconventional therapy an expensive proposition. I am not under the impression that my parents living so far away is happenstance. My mother raised me to grow up and fly away from the nest, as she so romantically described what I now look at as getting me out of her hair. Calling her does not simply prevent me from committing mayhem, it serves to reinforce her belief in the curse. That it works. It also serves to remind me of the bizarre genes she has passed on, hoping one day she will admit responsibility for it. Sometimes I even think that she would like me to cut my calls short in the middle of a particularly gory commentary on what the children are up to so that she can watch a full tennis match on T.V. She will refresh my memory on the rising cost of telephone bills as she flips through the channels. I interject. "Why do you think they call it Ma Bell," I whine. I back up my statement with something she can sink her teeth into. I advise her ALL mothers are aware of the cost of the comforting little instrument (in ten color choices) that allows them to rack up more of a bill in one hysterical call to Mother than a full day of 'charging it' at Bloomingdale's.
If there is a mother out there who hasn't had high hopes of selling her first born son to pay for these bills I'd like to meet her. It's important. She might not have a son. Mine has been on the market for two years. He's asthmatic, a fairly sickly specimen, but he plays a mean first base.
My calls were recently dampened by a request from my father. The request being to limit my harangues to once a week. He claims to understand what I go through. He is glad he married a woman with such a good sense of humor, though he believes the humor seemed to appear at the exact moment I began calling home with stories about his grandchildren. He also claimed that having Mother rolling in the aisles, literally howling for hours after one of my calls, was not conducive to imaginative dinners, nor original desserts. I took that to mean he craved a balanced diet.
Mother mentioned my father was looking well these days, losing all that weight. However, since his request was denied (he, after all, is responsible too), I have been able to reach my mother three times in the last four months, despite my father taking her on two unscheduled vacations, no forwarding address, and at least nine known abductions. In spite of the problems with this form of unconventional therapy, it remains a viable necessity for mothers.
Later in life, my father would admit to whisking my mother out of the house to hit the blue light specials at K-Mart around the usual time I would call.
After he died, my daughter opened one of his bedroom closets, and just said, "Whoa." My son and I raced in to see what she was doing. We stopped short next to her, turned to face the closet she was looking in, and said in unison, "Whoa." There, stacked neatly, floor to ceiling, were eighty-seven boxes of generic brand boxes of kleenex, with red sale stickers on them. My mother had suffered from chronic sinus problems. We split up the kleenex and it lasted for quite a few years...