Mom: “I’m in here.”
She was just sitting there. I asked where my parachute pants were and she told me, having never actually seen them. She just knew. I turned to find them, and Mom got up to make dinner. As I walked away I thought, she looks weird – kicking back, drinking Diet Coke… my pants, parachute pants, in the duffel bag, back of the station wagon, Scorpions concert – two weeks! Here I am, da da, da da, Rock you like a hurricane, da da, are you READY BABY?!
A week later, or maybe a year, there she is again, with a People Magazine, dreamy, munching goldfish crackers.
“Mom! What are you doing?” I make a face like I’ve found her wiring a time bomb.
She slaps her magazine down, half laughing. “I’m relaxing! So what?”
“You look like Zsa Zsa Gabor or something,” I say. “Want me to peel you a grape? Hey, did you record over Basement Tapes?”
“No. Look on the far left, in its cover.”
Off I go.
Mom had found a hiding place. She’d tucked a small couch among overgrown houseplants in the coldest corner of the house. Looked like Max’s bedroom in Where the Wild Things Are.
She had five kids and a full-time job running a travel agency. We and our fifteen best friends had a mom who welcomed the world, fed it, and gave it a ride home. She welcomed two rock bands. Mine practiced nightly in the basement through high-school graduation, when my brother’s band took over. Mom loaned us her station wagon to haul drums and amps; we’d return it with a flat tire or the windows smashed out by vandals. She’d fix it up and pass me the keys again. She went to our gigs and danced – even sang backup on Barbara Ann.
I have a four-year-old girl now. Just one. After work we play rough for a few minutes and I’m beat. When I read her bedtimes stories, I cheat, shortening paragraphs, skipping pages. When we fly, my girl’s feet reach precisely where they can do nothing but tap and kick the guy in front of her. Even with DVD’s, iPods, and iPads all in play, we land cranky, and I try to forget that my mom drove the five of us from Oregon to Iowa in summers.
When sibs with spouses and kids visit Mom now, we add up to twenty invaders, hungry, needing sun block, missing a flip-flop, wanting car keys, crying over a stubbed toe, battling over the stereo, slamming doors, hogging the internet, throwing up, wandering off, borrowing clothes and painting faces for a play, missing sunglasses, drinking too much, helping too little. Mom dries every tear, kisses every sunburn, finds every flip-flop, nurses every patient. She shops, chops, cooks, and serves. She plays dress-up and makeup and shuttles grandkids to the fishing boat. She drives a four-wheeler and a MacBook Pro. She collects beach shells with my girl; she takes her to church. If my girl wants a tour of the neighborhood to see cows and sheep, Mom drives a roundup. And, if I catch my mom sitting, I never fail to tease her about her life of leisure.
I love you, Mom.