Nothing was more frustrating than going back to my childhood home and discovering that no matter how much I’ve changed, everything there remained the same. Floorboards creaked. Front door squeaked. Kitchen sink leaked. And my mother was not bothered in the least.
Sleepover Gone Bad
Traveling to the Midwest in the winter usually results in flight cancellations and delays. This trip was no different. Three schedule changes later, I arrived at my mother’s front door. She grabbed me by the shoulders and smothered me with hugs and kisses. After talking with her for hours, I needed to break away and get rid of the airplane grime.
“I’m gonna take a fast shower,” I told my mother.
“No problem,” she said, smiling. “You know where everything is.”
I flung back the shower curtain and the memories came flooding back. I remembered that the shower required specific instructions in order to operate. Okay, what’s the deal with the knobs?
“Mom, how does this shower work again?” I asked, squinting to read the dials for on/off.
“Right faucet’s hot, turn right. Left faucet’s cold, turn left.”
Back and forth I turned the knobs swifter than a disc jockey at a rave party. Two available temperatures, magma hot or liquid nitrogen cold. I stepped in one toe at a time, biting my bottom lip.
I twisted a lever at the top of the long showerhead to start the flow. What began as a soft whine, turned as shrill as a siren. Pipes shook within the drywall.
A shower for pigmies, not me at five nine. Holding onto the wall with one arm, I had to lean back to rinse the shampoo. Way back. And what’s this? Lava soap? By the time I leave here, my face will be as dry and cracked as an inner city sidewalk.
At bedtime, my mother insisted on suffocating me with two blankets and a comforter. Tucked in as tight as a straightjacket, I begged, “Please don’t turn the heat any higher. It seems just right.”
No need for carbon dating, the mattress was left over from my elementary school days. To get comfortable, I curled into a fetal position, knees banging into the wall. After twisting and turning, my head wedged between the headboard and mattress. I panicked. Raising both arms over my head, I freed myself with a combination of force and rapid shaking.
“What’s all that noise? Are you okay?” Mom called from her bedroom.
“No problem. Goodnight.”
By 2:00 am the heat in the house became unbearable. With a sharp intake of breath, I rose from my coffin with a massive headache, and rushed down the hallway groping like a blind man for the thermostat. My mother had it set on “broil.”
I woke the next morning to a fresh brewed pot of Kona coffee. Today she was excited to show me her wild birds.
“Take this black birdseed to refill the feeder. They love it. Why are you stooped over?”
Crippled from your mattress.
Those birds had been trained. Like a battalion of fighter jets, they ambushed me. Two woodpeckers, three yellow finches and a family of black birds had me in their radar lock as I raced to the bird feeder.
“Help!” I screamed, swatting birds from my hair.
“Oh, you big baby,” she said, grabbing the birdseed out of my hand. “Just go inside, I’ll feed them.”
Birds swarmed my mother as I rushed inside for cover.
She’s on her own. God help her.
Mom took every opportunity to introduce me to her friends. At the front door, I spied her talking to the mailman. “Mark, this is my daughter Stacey,” she said, flagging me closer.
“Hi?” I said, patting down my hair to check for tangles and birdseed.
“Is she single?” I heard him mumble to my mother as I walked passed them into the house.
The kitchen phone never stopped ringing.
“Here,” she said, shoving the receiver at me. “Talk to Virginia, she’s waiting on the phone.”
Ten minutes later, “Talk to my neighbor Susan. She just had a baby.”
Then I tried to send an email using her computer, a device that displayed one character at a time. I typed half a page before the letter “T” appeared.
“Do you have a printer?”
“In the basement. Not hooked up,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
After 6 days, 5 nights, or 240 hours or 14,400 minutes, I returned to Pleasanton. I was rewarded with dry, flakey cracked skin, debilitating lower back pain, and a newfound fear of wild birds.
Even though I may have outgrown my old bed and Mom’s midwestern lifestyle, I care for her more than ever despite all her quirks. Her love is unconditional and she wants everyone to get know me too. But next time, I’ll bringing lots of hand cream.
How about you? Do your parents have any funny quirks? Post a comment to share!