My mom is like a superhero. Only instead of strength or speed or ability to fly, she has other powers. Like the ability to insult me without speaking a word. Or her super X-Ray vision that helps her to spot a single errant sesame seed, tipping her off to the recent presence of fast food. But one of my favorite of her powers is her ability to make everything and anything sound like an accusation.
I take the kids to her house every morning when I leave for work (or lately, the girl, since the boy has jazz band practice in the wee hours). I have been doing this for years. For 11 years, I’ve been dropping them off at the same time, every day, close to 5 days a week. Eleven years. Same 15-minute range of time. And yet Every! Single! Day! she ends up calling the house just when things are at their most hectic – I’m carrying bags to the car, trying to get The Girl’s shoes on, locating backpacks, signing papers, yelling out instructions to mr b and The Boy, packing snacks, and trying to get out the door. And just as I am in full stress mode, hands full, holding a kid…the fucking phone starts ringing!
“Aren’t you bringing the kids down?”
Yes mother yes I am. The same as I did yesterday and the day before, and Friday and the entire week before that, and the past ELEVEN FUCKING YEARS!!!!!! I AM COMING!!!
Sweet Chocolate Jesus, why does she have to call every single day?? She knows I am coming. And she says it in an accusing voice, as if I am late or somehow failing. All it serves to do if add more stress to my morning.
She doesn’t limit the use of her super powers to the morning only, though. She’s got another delightful use for it that I
hatefully mockingly affectionately call, “Where were you?”
“Where were you?” is one that goes WAY back. See, my mom is very suspicious and defensive by nature. And that combination makes for some awfully fun phone conversations. It started when I was in college and she would call me when I wasn’t in my room. I’d call her back later and get “Where were you?” It didn’t matter what day or time it was – I could have been in class, at dinner, up the hall in a friend’s room – whatever. But if I wasn’t there to answer her call, she took it personally. If the call had come during the day, I said I was in class (because even if I were in the dining hall, I wasn’t going to tell her that, since that would open up the door for her to sing her favorite song, “You Know, You Should Really Try To Get Out And Exercise And The Weathers Getting Warmer So It’s Easier And You Want To Wear Cute Summer Clothes Don’t You And Really, I Am Not Doing This Because Of Your Weight I Just Really Want You To Be Healthy So Why Don’t You Go Walking And You Should Eat More Vegetables And I Only Want What’s Best For You.” God, I hate that song. If the call came during the evening (or early morning) hours – it was a whole new ballgame. And since “drinking,” “getting high,””skipping class” and “fucking” were not acceptable answers I generally when with, “At the library, Mom!” Needless to say, she was quite confused when my grades came in looking very un-library-like.
This continued on all through getting my shit together and graduating and getting on with my life, and then the defensive side joined in with the suspicious. Once I met mr b, I immediately got close to his family and started spending time with them. For one thing, they lived close by – it was easy and convenient to get together with them. For another, I liked them. So she’d call and I wouldn’t be home. Later I’d tell her I had been at SIL’s house, and I’d get, “Oh. You always have time for them.” Isn’t she sweet?
Truly, it wouldn’t matter if I had been with her the last 364 days, because that one day with “them” would piss her off regardless.
Over the years, I dealt with it in various way, including making excuses for why I was there, lying and saying I was elsewhere, and eventually, saying fuck it and not giving a shit what she said or thought. Eventually she learned to (mostly) accept it and truthfully, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass either way.
But she can’t quite let go of the “Where were you?” game. She like the Bret Favre of “Where were you?” And the prevalence of cell phones makes it even easier to spread her particular brand of joy. Because if she doesn’t reach me on the home phone, she will call my cell. This happened last night:
Her: I called you at home, but no one answered!
Me: That’s because we aren’t home.
Her: Where are you?
(Oh – and also she can’t hear, so these conversations usually devolve into, “We’re at scouts.” “Where?” “Scouts.” “Stouts?” “No, SCOUTS!” “What? You’re out?” “Jesus CHRIST woman – we’re at SCOUTS! SCOUTS!!!!”)
It’s hard to convey it in writing – in writing it sounds like she is simply asking where I am, which is no big deal. But it’s the tone that makes it so special. The accusing, suspicious, put-upon tone. Like I am somehow failing her by not being home. As if I am out for the specific purpose of not being there when the queen beckons. God, it tires me out.
The irony of it is that my mom is the least homebody-ish person in all the land. From the time I was pretty young, she was always on the go. I would try to call her from school to let her know I had to stay for practice or see if I could go somewhere with friends and she wouldn’t be home. And in the pre-cell phone days, this was pretty damned inconvenient. Eventually I got tired of missing out on stuff and learned to go over her head call my gram – HER mother (who was and is a total badass) and she would give me the OK and then defend me if and when my mom tried to give me any shit about it.
I don’t want to make her sound neglectful, because she wasn’t – she was around when I needed her – she cooked and cleaned and came to all my activities and events without being overbearing (in that aspect of my life anyway), but she had her own life and she lived it. I spent a lot of time alone, but never minded it – I liked it. Except for when I needed to reach her and couldn’t. So it KILLS ME when she gets all indignant because she called me and I wasn’t home.
She can’t even help herself, though. It’s her superpower, after all.