Friday, April 4, 2014

Theory 37: Women become their mothers, whether they like it or not.

This theory first came to me at my mother-in-law Bop’s house in Nashville. It was Christmas time (you know ladies, the MOST stressful time of year when men should do as they are told). Bop has a small U-shaped kitchen in her Cape Code style, perfectly sized for retirees house. She loves to host gatherings and always employs her poised daughter (Tall Child’s younger sister), Dogwood Debutante in her entertaining endeavors. I guess that since I’m female and Southern, I’m supposed to help slice ham, pour water into Waterford, and set heavy silver onto polished wood. Boring. Anyway, Tall Child and I sat in the living room that December day and he coached me to “go in the kitchen and help Bop.”

I said, “I’m not sure there’s room in there for me.” Instead, I poured a glass of wine, perched on the back of a club chair, and observed a mother-daughter kitchen dance choreographed over many years to perfection. Bop and Dogwood Deb worked like two ballerinas in a music box. They somehow circled, scooted, and slid around each other without dropping a single teaspoon or sloshing hot butter beans over the edges of a footed serving bowl.

They were not just partners. No, they were one being, and I was being out of the way. Christmas means high-stakes entertaining. Had I tried to “help” I could have jacked up the smooth, synchronized sequence. I would have been the primary colored Happy Meal toy whose angles were all wrong, whose lack of grace would have wedged between gliding pastel twirling aprons. Why, I might have capsized the gravy boat or worse, spilled my wine!

I wondered how they could be such a dynamic duo in that kitchen, and then realized, they are “one” because Dogwood Deb is morphing into Bop. Then I thought, “Am I morphing into Delicious? Naaaaah, I am too much like my daddy.”

I asked Sharky as he rode shotgun inBig Red on the way to school one day last week, “How am I like Grandmama?”

He said, “Dra. Ma.” He’s referring to the way in which Delicous and I take normal situations and make them urgent, frightening, and stressful. Cousin Fuzz calls it the “Delicious and Big Booty J Effect.” Think Doppler Effect. Let me explain (read this as quickly as you can for the best experience):

What is the Doppler Effect?
The Doppler effect is observed whenever the source of waves is moving with respect to an observer. The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding. It is important to note that the effect does not result because of an actual change in the frequency of the source. Using the example above [a bug kicking its legs in water], the bug is still producing disturbances at a rate of 2 disturbances per second; it just appears to the observer whom the bug is approaching that the disturbances are being produced at a frequency greater than 2 disturbances/second. The effect is only observed because the distance between observer B and the bug (me) is decreasing and the distance between observer A and the bug is increasing.

If you think I actually wrote that, I am honored, but I copied and pasted (my students are proficient plagiarizers). Source? I found it in one of everybody’s favorite hangouts—

In laymen’s terms, basically, when Bug asks/does/proposes anything, The Delicious and BBJ/Dopper-like Effect creates a disturbance in the holler based off paranoia and anxiety. It’s a family trait prominent on our Catlettsburg, TN compound. For example, I once said, “I think I’ll go visit cousin Bags in Florida.”
To which Delicious scolded, “Oh, no, you won’t. Bug, you’ll get raped at every rest stop.”

The Delicious and Big Booty J Doppler Effect - Moments away, ya'll, moments away.

Sharky also said, “You and Grandmama both think you have P.D.H.’s and can diagnose diseases.”
I corrected him, so Delicous-ly, “Sharky, you mean Ph. D., and yes, I take pride in my expertise in autism and anxiety disorders. You just wait. I am on the cusp of a great discovery in clotting problems.”

Finally he said, “Oh, and Mama, you and Grandmama are terrible drivers.” Geez. True. Delicious pretty much punctuates every sentence with her brake pedal.
I admit it. Big Red and I played Pigeon Forge bumper cars TWICE in one week. I sweet-talked my way out of all that insurance mess, thankfully. Or did my victims see my brush guard and think they’d have to spend money or feel sorry for me? Whatever. Whew!

Big Reds - Junior and Senior. Check out the parking work and
examine closely for a special greeting.

~ ~ ~

My sweet, athletic, sincere friend, Wine Box Out, lost her mother years ago. I asked her about the loss one time, and she said, “My mother was my life.” I feel the same way. I love and adore and need Delicious to a fault. But, I’m not going to lie. There were things she did growing up that really bugged this Bug and I made silent vows not to repeat history.
Never heard of a “silent vow?” Let me explain:

Months ago, Red Hot Backspace and I attended a marriage class. Yes, together. She’s divorced and did you really think Tall Child would go to a marriage class? I tried. I asked him to go with me, and he said, “No thanks. I hate school and I’m the ideal husband.”
I conceded on one of those counts and didn’t press further. I think that makes me the ideal wife! Oh well, someone had to stay with Gnome and Sharky, anyway. After my and Red Hot’s first class, Tall Child asked, “How was marriage class?”

I answered, “Interesting. Do you want to know all the things you do wrong?”
He said, “Nah. I’m good.”

Anyway, in the class, the teacher-preacher said that we should never make silent vows because we are setting parameters that God can and may want to change. We shouldn’t limit or fight destiny, right? Ladies, are we destined to become our mothers, no matter how we fight? Maybe.

Growing up, I made the following silent vows:

VOW 1: “I will never cut all my hair off just because I’m getting older.”
Delicious says that once a woman gets a certain age, she needs to cut off all her hair because “long, stringy hair makes women look old and tired.”

Then: In high school, I made Delicious late for work because I had to perfect my bangs. You know the drill: One Conair roll up, one Conair roll down, pick, spray. Dang! Cry. Throw a fit. Do over. Delicious bought me highlights and perms. I even got into making Gatlinburg-Pittman High School blue and gold barrettes to sell to classmates (I’m a natural-born hustler).
Now: If I get hot, I get a haircut. If I’m in Alabama, Florida, Nashville, wherever, and I notice my shaggy bangs or what Delicious calls my “dog ears” I get a haircut. I just stop at a cheapo place like Great Clips or Supercuts. No more tantrums, just $12.00 and some White Rain and I’m content. During the school year, I hit my favorite salon, Ross and Co. to see my top stylist, California Dreamin’. I chose her to be my top stylist because her son played baseball with Sharky, she’s a friend, and she’s right beside my school. Bonus: She IS GREAT at her work. Whew! I just tell her, “Cut my hair so I don’t have to fix it. I like it wavy and loose so I can floof it up and not look so old and tired. You know, when you get a certain age you just can’t have long stringy hair.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Who said that!?!

Red Hot Backspace admits, “I have to try really hard not to wear my hair like my mother’s.”
Geez. I’ve also started over-spraying and over dying for big events. Just. Like. Delicious.

VOW 2: “I will keep my house really neat.” This vow could should expanded to, “I will keep my house really neat so I can find the scissors.”
Once, my daddy, Pooh, asked Delicious, “Are you EVER going to fold those clothes?”

Delicious answered, “Pooh, are you EVER going to fold those clothes?”
Delicious always told me that housework was the “last thing on her list” and she “had her priorities straight.” Yep. Pooh was #1. I was #2. We never had to seek out her attention or energy. My grandmama lived high on a cedar-stacked hill facing the Crippled Beagle Farm. She told us that often, when Delicious hollered, “Pooooooh/Buuuuug, where are youuuuuuuuuu?” the sweet, longingly bellowed calls floated “over the river and through the woods,” up the cow field to her porch.  My daddy and I both valued and value, respectively, the relief of solitude, but Delicious want to be up close because she was interested in every little thing we said or did. Daddy and I hiked all over our 72 acre farm, sometimes at the same time, but, remarkably, never crossed paths in those woods and never escaped the doting clutches of Delicious. She may not be a good mopper, but Delicious is a dang fine tracker.

Then: My bedroom, my dorm room, my first apartments, my first house were always tidy. I took great pride in keeping neat quarters. I wanted to be able to find the scissors.
Now: It’s been coming for some time. Tall Child and I used to boycott. Feeling overwhelmed by the supposed imbalance of our chore lists, we staged these ridiculous domestic stand-offs where one of us would say, “That’s it! I am boycotting for two weeks.” The boycotter would do none of his/her chores so the dirt, laundry, dust, and to-do's would pile into an obvious “look who suffers and contributes the most” stack. I felt a boycott coming on last week, but this time, I channeled my inner Delicious (who is growing stronger by the day) and said nothing. I simply QUIT. Now, I plan to put my priorities in order #1 Tall Child, #2 Sharky and Gnome, #3 friends…

I took a page from my teaching buddy, “Sugar Bear,” who inspired me with his efficiency. Sugar Bear has a Ph. D. in something (oceanography?) and is a devoted husband and father.  I complimented him on his uber-professional junior high work attire one Monday morning, and he said, “I always wear a tie on Mondays. Every Sunday when I get home from our worship service, I lay my church clothes out on the chair in my bedroom for Monday. This method allows me to sleep another ten minutes and save money on laundering.” God first. Laundry second. Amen, Sugar Bear!

VOW 3: “I won’t talk to strangers all the time.”
Most of the time when we went shopping to malls, the expedition was focused on finding “slacks and blouses” for Delicious and my aunt, Big Booty J. They loved Women’s Departments. I was miserable, so Delicious bought me a Sweet Valley High book as soon as we arrived and I perched in those club chairs by the tri-fold mirrors to read while she and BBJ tried on one thousand shirts that all looked basically the same, except for the ones with necklaces attached. Those were special.

Then: Those days were rough, but survivable thanks to Morrison’s Cafeteria macaroni, rolls, and Jell-O and the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. What really stunk was when I had to try on blouses and slacks or, heaven forbid, swimsuits. Not only did I have to say “Don’t look, don’t look” to Delicious, who came in every dressing room to "protect me from perverts." I also had to endure the critique from sales people. You see, as soon as we walked into the store, some nice clerk would say, “May I help you?” I liked to say, “No, thanks. I’m just browsing, and suffer through swimsuit season in solitude.” Delicious, on the other hand, would say, “YES! My daughter Bug is going to a fancy party with her friends! She needs a dress. Will you help us find one?” Torture for a teenager, worse for a college co-ed. Though the goal was apparel, Delicious ALWAYS found a way to say, “Bug is in the UT band.” She was so proud. Good thing she didn’t go on road trips. Pride comes before the fall. An SEC football fall on seven band buses. Yeah, baby.
Now: Now I get it! Delicious wasn’t overly friendly, she was BUSY. I am a working mother of two. I don’t have time to browse for a blouse. Remember, I am working on a uniform concept for myself. Anyway, I hadn’t bought a bra in about three years. Mine are expensive, hard to break in, and particularly hard to find. Think Golden Gate Bridge made with lace and panels with a stupid bow in the middle. Really? When you wear a 34J, the bow looks like a gnat in a hayfield.  So last month I walked into Dillard’s department store. A poor, unsuspecting clerk soon greeted, “May I help you?”

I said, “Probably not, but I want you to try your best. I was in the UT Band and I have huge boobs. Can you to help me find every 34H and up in this lingerie section?

Which brings us to next week’s Theory 38: Orthopedic brasaren’t sexy. In honor of Delicious, I think I’ll whip through Chick-fil-A for a sweet tea with extra, extra ice and lemon and start writing that one with a Paper Mate Gel pen on the back of a Home Federal Bank deposit envelope. I love you, Mama. Thanks for the love, wisdom, and boobs.

See you next post! Until then, be good to your mama if you are lucky enough to still have her, and think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...