My mother came up from Ft. Lauderdale recently on her annual pilgrimage. It was her first time seeing the new house, and, since we now had a bona fide guest room, it would be the first time she was staying with us instead of a nearby hotel. This alone would have been a good reason not to move. And, by the way, she would agree with that statement.
I picked her up Friday at La Guardia, and my GPS lady, as some sort of sadistic practical joke, told me to avoid the Whitestone Bridge, taking me instead on a very circuitous route through the Bronx that reminded me of the opening scenes of Bonfire of the Vanities. What’s more, any traffic on the Whitestone could not have been worse than the non-movement we encountered inching past the scenic auto body shops on Bruckner Boulevard, so I can only suppose that the redirection was intentional and malicious. (Although if my car ever gets stolen, I’ll know where to look for it…or parts of it.)
Bottom line: it took us about 2 1/2 hours to get home, during which time my mother was not silent for even a nanosecond in telling me about all the “adorable” children and grandchildren of people in Florida that I know about as well as our pest control guy: I’ve met them once or twice, but, really, the less said about them the better. At one point, just to break her momentum, I asked mom if she is acquainted with any children who are not adorable, to which she replied, “Children these days are much cuter.” (When I related this to Casey later, my daughter remarked, “You must have been a really ugly baby, dad.”)
When we finally arrived at the house, we showed her around, carefully ushering her up and down all the stairs that make our ranch home so unusual. Mom can move around fine, unless there happens to be someone nearby, in which case she holds your hand and walks slowly alongside you and makes it very difficult to get through doorways without looking like two of The Three Stooges.
We showed her to the guestroom and the hallway bathroom, which she had already claimed as her own. “Nobody else can use it while I’m here,” she had announced. We later discovered that she meant this literally: there was no way anyone else could use it while she was there. She had covered most of a double-basin vanity with all manner of make-up, ointments and other paraphernalia, a feat made more impressive by the fact that she had actually traveled with all of it. Barbara had even covered one of the basins with a board, and mom had covered that with stuff, too.
Anyway, after an early dinner, she went to the guest room to unpack and get ready for bed. This, I swear to you, took three hours, during which she continuously shuffled back and forth between the guest room and the bathroom, talking to herself (or possibly my late father, or possibly the old people fairy) the entire time. Then we brought her pretty much every pillow we own so that she could select the one that best met her needs. Her needs, evidently, involved engaging the pillow in some sort of severe bondage ceremony that includes tightly tying the pillow (with restraints she brought with her) into a tube-like object so she can sleep with it under her neck and not mess her hair. Or something like that. I’m sure it makes sense to her.
Highlights of the weekend included:
>Casey trying to explain to grandma how the parking works when you pay at the machine.
Casey: It works just like a parking meter, grandma, except that you pay over there.
Grandma: But what if you buy more time than you need?
Casey: What if you do that at a parking meter?
Grandma: But what if you stay longer than you’ve paid?
Casey: What if you do that at a parking meter?
Grandma: But what if…
Casey: Grandma! It’s exactly like a parking meter. Except…you…pay…over…there.
>Mom pointing out that the Indian man at the next table in a restaurant looked like Raj on The Big Bang Theory, this despite the fact that the gentleman bore as much resemblance to Raj as Raj does to Mahatma Gandhi. Or Indira Gandhi, for that matter. In other words, they’re both Indian, and that’s where the resemblance ends. I told her that everyone in Florida must look like Howard on The Big Bang Theory. That went over her head.
Mom spent the entire weekend raving effusively about the size of the house, insisting on calling it an estate, even though we had exited a jammed Merritt Parkway and cruised by the mansions of Greenwich on the way home. I guess if you’ve never lived in anything larger than a two bedroom apartment, our new home can seem enormous.
Which brings me to the not-so-revelatory point of this particular post, which is not, as you may think, that my mother uses a lot of make-up. It is that people’s needs for space change with what is available. My mother never experienced, and never felt the need for, anything larger than a two bedroom apartment. I spent 32 years in apartments, many of which were smaller than two bedrooms, one of which was smaller than my current living room. But after a couple of years in our condo townhouse, the very thought of living in an apartment induced an attack of claustrophobia.
Now, if we were to suddenly find ourselves back in the condo, we’d be constantly bumping into each other in the close quarters and complaining about the smallness of the kitchen. Also, the family that lives there now would be really pissed off about our sudden reappearance and probably threaten some sort of legal action..
See you soon. Love you, mom.