“I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear, old Dad!”
Who the heck wrote that? Oedipus? Actually, it comes from 1911 – music by Harry Von Tilzer and lyrics by William Dillon. Perhaps the best rendition was sung by the beagle boys on Disney’s Ducktales!
This song brings up a good point: men and women often look for traits they observed in their mothers or fathers, respectively, when evaluating a potential spouse. I can honestly say that some of my wife’s most important qualities I learned to admire from my own mother. I won’t share all of them here, but one of the most important was to have the rare ability to deal with my twisted sense of humor and inherent knack for torment.
Oh yes, my mother didn’t have it easy raising three boys. She earned every grey hair we gave her together. Perhaps the most often-recounted story happened shortly after an old neighborhood friend had visited – leaving us with a little trick for our amusement. He taught us how to fold a belt in half, grab both ends and push them together so the belt forms a very narrow “O”, then pull hard to make a loud crack; like a whip. We decided to try this out on poor Mom. My oldest brother provided the “cracking whip” while my other brother and I provided screams of agony. Upon hearing the hardcore torture, Mom dropped everything she was doing in the kitchen, ran down the hall, then bounded up the stairs 3 or 4 at a time. Upon turning the corner, nostrils flared and chest heaving from the exertion, she saw us drop the belt and double-over with laughter.
Now, I don’t condone child abuse but I understand it. How my mother could not lay a hand on us after that one is pretty much inconceivable.
That was just a favorite memory of the three of us adding a few more greys to mom’s scalp. We all added plenty via our own, individual efforts. I’ll let my brothers share their stories in their own manner and in their own time – but I’d like to recall a few favorites of my own.
Remember the scene in Ghostbusters when Egon is scanning for their first to-be-busted ghost in the hotel? He comes across a man while holding the scanner, takes his two fingers and pokes the man in the shoulder. I did that to my mom, not as hard as Egon. And not just once; but over, and over, and over, and over again. I liked to see how long it took to make her snap. When kids act up it’s often best to ignore them. When they’re trying to get a rise out of you, like I was, this tactic NEVER works. But Mom tried. Oh, how she tried. She’d be preparing dinner, I’d poke, and poke, and poke. She averted her eyes, trying to pretend I wasn’t there. But eventually, “KNOCK IT OFF, JASON!” would emanate from the very depth of her soul!!
Another regular form of torment was a late night one. Usually Dad would be in bed, or in another room. Mom would be sitting on her favorite chair reading the newspaper. I’d be reading, writing or drawing on a chair nearby. All was quiet and calm. Until I leaned in – out of her line of sight – and SMACKED that newspaper. Ever see the cartoons where the cat’s fast asleep and the little dog sneaks up behind him and barks, “ARF-ARF-ARF!”? Remember how the cat shot to the ceiling and hung on for dear life? That would’ve been my Mom had she had the springs for it!
But it was some of the stories I’d make up that would really incur her ire. The most memorable was when I told her about the ambulance at the house down the street earlier in the day. “Are you serious?” she asked.
“Yeah, right at Mr. Kirchner’s house,” I said. “I think they had to take him away.”
“You’re not joking, are you? I’m not going to call Dee and then you’ll tell me you were just joking.” (Dee was our next-door neighbor.)
“Mom, would I joke about something that serious?”
So, Mom calls Dee.
“I’m kidding, Mom.”
“…excuse me while I beat my youngest.”
How I, once again, avoided a beating I have absolutely no idea.
But, as much as I picked on her, I appreciated all the sacrifices she made raising me. Like when I was nine and playing soccer. I wasn’t the most aggressive player, so she took it upon herself to teach me how to be more aggressive. We dribbled the ball around the back yard, she took a turn, and tore her ACL. (This before ACL tears became all the rage.) Perhaps, had I been a more aggressive athlete, I could’ve played varsity basketball later in life. But any hint of aggression was gone, because I BROKE MOMMA!
These days Mom gets a reprieve. Instead of getting my enjoyment tormenting her I receive incalculable joy in watching her bond with my kids on her visits. (Besides, I have a wife to pick on, now.) It’s great just to sit with her, Dad, my wife and my kids – talking, playing games, you name it. I’m lucky that she was such a loving, caring mother; and still is to this day.
Thank you, Mom. I love you.