Saturday. My game plan: visit Mom, do laundry at her house and as a bonus get a home cooked meal. This is what I call a “Saturday power-play.” You get all of this stuff taken care of in one fell swoop which leaves the remainder of the day and Sunday wide open for whatever.
My green car and I are barreling westbound out Highway-44 bound for “the country” where she lives. I should explain. For St. Louisians the country is anywhere 45 minutes west of the city. North, south, and east work too of course. But really it’s kind of funny how quickly the city and suburbs become something anyone considers “countryish” but I suppose it’s a little different.
There are deer and there are deer that get hit by cars. There are raccoons, possums and turkey… and raccoons, possums and turkey that get hit by cars. To sum things up, the country has a few less strip malls, a few more truck stops and pick-up trucks and a whole lot of roadkill.
Driving out there is a breeze. A few years back they raised the speed limit on Highway-44 from 55 and 65 up to 70 mph so of course everyone does 75 and 80 mph and mows down the wildlife and it’s really pretty cool.
Right now my car is vibrating intensely. I’ve hit that exact speed, about 72 mph where my car always starts shaking madly. I could go faster or slower and I’d be fine. But for some reason at this speed my whole car becomes a giant meat tenderizer. Recently I told an engineering friend about my cars’ little 72 mph secret and he said the speed probably matches my car’s “natural frequency.”
He explained the theory to me and honestly, lost me half way through but apparently every material on earth has its own natural frequency. And if you submit it to a vibration of the same frequency for an extended period of time it becomes highly flexible, and under stress it will break into a million pieces. With this in mind, I’ve been driving for a few miles at 72 mph just to see what will happen. My teeth are chattering and I imagine my face looks pretty screwy, vibrating halfway off my head. I’m not bummed or suicidal or anything – just curious.
With all of the shaking and vibration my mind wanders…
I imagine the Highway Patrol interviewing witnesses at the scene of the horrible disaster. There are millions of tiny green pieces of Taurus all over the highway, none of them bigger than a quarter. A single CD case is melted onto a street sign nearby.
“I swear to you officer! The Taurus just went BOOM and de-sinter-Rated. I’m thinkun’ the car was just tooo green and it blew up,” a witness would be telling the cop.
“Nope,” the officer would say, adjusting his cowboy hat for effect. “I think we got ourselves a case of ‘Nat’rul Free-Quincy’ on our hands here. Yes sir. This guy vib-Rated himself to pieces.”
“Damn… what a crying shame,” they would all say, shaking their heads solemnly from side to side.
I chuckle to myself at the thought of it.
I rise back above 72 mph and accelerate up to 80 mph, drop the windows a few inches and grab for a CD. How about a little Big Star? That’ll work just fine for traveling music. I’m still not sure what to think about last night. I’m still a little angry about it.
I’m not sure what pisses me off more – that I would get set up with a girl who a) doesn’t drink b) is a churchgoer c) has a 4 year old girl, and last but not least d) is celibate! Or, that I would get set up with a girl who so absolutely beautiful and cool, likes good music and I can relate to her nearly immediately. I feel like we share the same soul but by the end of the date, to my horror, I’ve come to the conclusion I’m completely wrong about her. She couldn’t be any more different than me.
You know, A through C wouldn’t be too bad. I could work around those. But celibate?! Man, I realize I might be a little bitter and insensitive about this but how could anyone do without sex? What’s any cooler than an hour in bed with a beautiful woman or better yet, someone you’re in love with?
Years ago a friend of mine told me snow skiing is better than sex. But I stopped hanging out with him. When someone says something like that you seriously have to worry about them. I mean, I’ve never snow skied and you know, I have no doubt that putting some sleds on your feet and rocketing down a snowy hill might be a lot of fun. But I don’t even have to try it to know that it’s not nearly as fun as the things that can go on beneath the covers, or on top of the covers, or on the couch, or on the kitchen floor…
You don’t need sleds, expensive equipment or a snowy slope. Or maybe you’re a little adventurous and you do. That’s the beauty of sex. So to sum it up: I can relate to Prefab Sprout. I can relate to beautiful women with long brown hair and stunning eyes. But celibate? Sorry, can’t relate.
I try to image what I’m going to say to Randall when I get a hold of him. I imagine myself screaming at him, yelling the word “CELIBATE???!” loud enough for all of my neighbors to hear. The neighbors would understand though. Even if they only heard me scream that one word they’d understand why someone might get so angry and frustrated as to be screaming at the top of their lungs.
My Mom answers the front door wearing a purple knit shirt, bright green stretch-pants and cowboy boots. Ugh. I love my mother but when do women get to the age that they think such a combination looks good even for being around the house? My Mom’s in her early 50′s.
“Hiiiiyee!!!” she says with characteristic Mom over-enunciation, running out to give me a hug. “I’m so glad you could come out and visit.” Her dogs are running all over the place, jumping up and down behind the screen door. She has a Cocker Spaniel and a Greyhound. Libby and Franklin. They’re really a pair.
I don’t think the tall Greyhound can even see Libby the Cocker Spaniel most of the time because she’s so much smaller. So he steps on her repeatedly and consequently there’s a big dog fight about every 5 seconds. In a sense it’s even better than a Hockey game. It’s one of the things I look forward to every time I visit.
“I brought my laundry with me. Mind if I do a few loads, Mom?”
“Well of course you can!” she says. She’s so happy when I come out and visit. Even if I only come out for a few hours to chat. I get to feeling guilty about not seeing her more often but it’s a 45 minute drive and I’m lazy.
“I’ve been saving all of this for you,” my Mom says, grabbing a big pile of miscellaneous newspaper clippings, coupons and artifacts from my childhood off of the top of the refrigerator and handing them to me.
We sit down at the kitchen table, the same table where I ate thousands of bowls of cereal and a million overcooked pork chops as a kid. This is another thing I look forward to when I visit my Mom. She always has this “surprise stack” of really weird stuff on top of the refridgerator waiting for me. The longer I go without visiting, the bigger the stack.
I’m not sure at what age she started the tradition. But sometime in the last six or seven years she’s started this odd habit of saving unrelated, stray things for me. It’s kind of hard to explain her motivation, or even the weird sort of stuff she saves. It’d be easier to inventory some of the items in today’s surprise stack:
* An article cut out of the Jefferson Country Examiner entitled, Ruby Johnson and Her Golden Hounds.
* Another article from the Post about how to take care of a pet turtle.
(“That Ruby Johnson, she’s amazing!” my Mom says. “The things she can get those hounds to do, sakes alive… oh, and that article on turtles, you used to have a pet turtle didn’t you? I thought you might like that.”
“No Mom, I didn’t. Not unless you count that box turtle I found in the woods when I was in kindergarten.”
“Oh yes!! What was his name?” she asks.
“I don’t remember. I only had him for a few days before he escaped my crude cardboard box prison. I was only five.”)
* Some coupons for Maxwell House decaffeinated coffees, and 8 packs of athletic tube socks at the local IGA grocer.
(“I know you like coffee.)
* A faded old Def Leppard “Pyromania” record.
(“I found that in a box of trash in the garage.”
“Um, Mom. That’s because it IS trash.”)
* A pencil drawing sketch on a faded piece of lined notebook paper. In the sketch, someone is lighting Spuds Mackenzie the Bud Light mascot on fire. Spuds looks panicked and is saying, “No, I meant Bud Light!!” Man, my handwriting really looked different back then. I don’t quite remember this but I think I drew it in the 7th grade – in study hall or something.
(“I thought you might like to have that. I found it in a scrap book.”
“It was funny. In 7th grade… uhh, thanks.”)
* A picture of myself and an old girlfriend Carol at a homecoming dance. We’re standing in front of a really cheesy hand drawn city backdrop. I guess the dance had a city theme or something. Brightly colored balloons surround our shiny Homecoming shoes. I don’t remember much about the actual dance.
But I remember Carol though. To use a popular phrase of the time, she was a fox. I don’t remember the specifics of this dance but I do remember what happened afterwards. Later that night we parked next to a secluded lake and laid down on a picnic table under the stars. Man, that was so long ago… I look at the picture and at my youthful smile. I was just a kid. When was I ever that young?
“You look so young,” my Mom says getting all starry eyed. “Back then we thought you’d be married in no time. Girls were calling for you every five minutes and stopping by our house even though we lived so far out in the country. I had to beat them away with a broom.”
“Mom, please tell me you never hit any of my girlfriends with a broom.”
“Oh no, Craig. Of course not! It was just a figure of speech.” I often forget that my mother doesn’t speak the language of sarcasm. I’m not sure where I picked up the trait but apparently it wasn’t inherited.
“So do you have a girlfriend yet?”
Understand me when I say it’s almost more important for my Mom that I have a girlfriend than it is even for me. If I did, the question would be ‘when are you two getting married?’ And if I was married, the question would be ‘when am I going to have grandchildren?’
“Well, no. But I’ve been on few dates these days.”
“Oh really?! Who are you seeing?” she asks.
“Oh, a few people here and there. I was seeing this woman I used to work with for awhile, Julie.”
“Oh, I know Julie! She’s great.”
“Mom, you haven’t met her. You’re thinking of Julie Caldwell. I went out with her for a year in high school. This Julie only lasted a few weeks earlier this month. It didn’t work out.”
“Why not? You’re a wonderful guy.”
“Yes, I know I am, Mom. But things just didn’t click. I didn’t like her that well.”
“Why not?” My Mom always pushes her luck and one of these days I’m gonna have to tell her every single little detail and she’ll completely freak out. I don’t tell her that Julie is well known for sleeping with a guy for a few weeks and then flying the coop, off to look for the “bigger better picture.” I didn’t mind at the time. I knew what was up and consequently I didn’t have any expectations. She stayed at my coop for a few weeks and then as the rumors promised, she flew. It was pretty cool though. Beautiful girl. I’m not going to tell my mom about the all-night lovemaking or the unique sex in my small bathtub.
“Don’t know, things just didn’t click,” I say.
“Well did you get a picture of her?”
“No, I only dated her for a few weeks, Mom.”
“I went out with this woman named Dawn last night.”
“Where’d you go?” she asks.
“I took her to dinner at Va’San Culo and then we went for coffee.”
“Did you do anything else? Was she nice?” I’m not sure what my Mom is getting at here. Yikes.
“No, we didn’t do anything else. I mean, we had a lot in common and got along great…”
“Ohhh! That’s sooo important Craig. That you had a lot in common. I and your father, we had some in common. But not the right things. We had different attitudes about money, about sex, and what was important in life.”
If my Mom starts talking about having sex I’m going to make a run for the door.
“It’s so important to find the right person,” she says. “Because if there are things that annoy you about them when you’re dating. They’re going to annoy you twenty times as much when you get married. You can have everything in the world in common, and laugh at the same jokes. But if you don’t have the same attitudes or values about the important things in life…”
I don’t know why my Mom thought I would like an article about Ruby Johnson and Her Golden Hounds. She was way off the mark there. But I suspect she is right on the mark when it comes to advice about marriage.
“Well, I don’t want to get into the details,” I say. “But I don’t think I’ll be seeing her anymore. We have some differing opinions on, umm, some important subjects like that.”
“Which opinions, what about?” Mom is pushing her luck again. Like SEX Mom! I like it, she doesnt, OK?! I change the subject.
“Hey, I like those new drapes,” I say, pointing to her flowery light purple shades in her back kitchen window. Then I remember something even better to change the subject with.
“Hey Mom, why did you and Dad know so many FBI agents and cops from around town?” She thinks about that one for awhile as if she’s tabulating an answer. Either it never occurred to her that they knew so many lawmen, or she’s coming up with an clever excuse to hide the truth.
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. We just did,” she says smiling. “Many of them were old friends of your fathers. You should ask him about that. But listen, something you probably didn’t know. Remember Casey, the former CIA director? He bought our old house in Pacific for his son and daughter-in-law.”
“Whoah! Jesus Mom! Why didn’t you ever tell me that? Spooks bought our old house?! I drive by there every once in a while for old time’s sake. They probably have me on surveillance camera and think I’m terrorist or something.”
“No, when we sold the house we had to give them pictures of the family for reference,” she says.
“WHAT!!?? What tha..! Why didn’t you ever tell me about all this? That’s really, really bizarre! You gave them family pictures?! What other weird family secrets are you sitting on?”
“Oh,” she says adjusting her gray curls. “I think that’s the only one.”
Franklin trips over Libby and she flies against a cabinet with a yelp, and within seconds they’re rolling around on the floor barking furiously and biting each other. Libby’s using the novel strategy of biting the greyhound in the butt where he can’t seem to spin and get at her.
“Stop it, stop it stop it!” my Mom says, singing every word.
Within moments my Mom is on her feet giving them treats so they’ll calm down. Scooby Snacks indeed. Give a dog food and they forget all about fighting. Damn, it was a good fight too… Libby was kicking ass. I decide to get started on my laundry.
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