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Madness, Mexico, and Motherhood

A Writer, 5 AM and Way, Way Too Much Coffee

Writer, 5 AM, and Way Too Much Coffee

My mother was quite the character. The last thing she said to us, before we lost her on our holidays in Mexico, was:

"Madness, they say, merely depends on which end of the knife blade you’re staring at and who’s holding the gun to your head."

Why Mexico? Usually on holidays, we'd go camping.

Our family loved camping. We were getting ready for bed when mom sat up in the tent and said, "What is that God-awful smell? Has some wild animal crawled into our tent and died? No! It's these." She picked up my runners, pinching her nose shut, and tossed them outside. "You need to take a shower and these need to be put into the campfire before you attract wild animals from miles around, like bears. They can smell a dead animal carcass from across the valley." The last thing she said before I fell asleep.

A rustling noise awoke me and I peeked bravely out of the tent, armed with my water pistol, only to watch a weasel devouring my shoe with the same relish he'd give to wolfing down chocolate dessert, although their idea of chocolate dessert is probably slugs rolled in slimy mud and sprinkled with maggots.

Yes, back to Mexico. My parents went there for something called the Festival of the Dead. Everyone would dress up as zombies and pretend to be one. But I discovered three things about how to tell a real zombie from a pretend zombie.

For one thing, real zombies can't drink. They shake so bad that by the time they raise the glass to their lips, they'd either crushed the glass or spilt it all over themselves.

Two. Don't waste your best jokes on zombies—the real ones don't get it. They just stand there and look at you stupidly. Humor, I've discovered, is way beyond them.

Three. But yo-yos are another matter. Keeps them entertained for hours on end. They just stand there watching the yo-yo going up and down, up and down, up and down and believe it or not, up and down. Don't think they get past the string and realize there's someone at the end controlling it.

So survival tip #101 when walking through parts of town that are quite dodgy: if attacked by a gang of thug zombies, or anyone resembling characters from Shaun Of The Dead, whip out your yo-yo, give it to the one with spasmodic seizures, and run like hell.

My sister mentioned the time Mom helped her out on her wedding night.

You see, my sister was very nervous, a virgin. They were having their wedding night in our parent's basement suite.

My mom assured her that if she needed help of any kind to just knock on her door and she'd assist her. 

"Thanks mom, you're a great pal."

So later that night, her new husband begins to take off his shirt. Shocked, she sees that he's got a hairy chest.

"Oh, ah, just give me a moment. A little nervous, you might understand."

She ran upstairs and pounded on Mom's door. "Mom! Mom! He's got a hairy chest."

"It's okay, dear. Most men have hairy chests. Just run your fingers through it. He'll like that."

"Thanks, Mom. You're a great pal."

She went back to the room and by this time, he was taking off his pants. She gasped at the sight of his hairy legs. "Oh, ah, just give me a moment. Be right back. Never seen a man naked."

She ran upstairs. "Mom! Mom! He's got hairy legs."

"It's okay, dear. Most men have hairy legs. They never shave them."

"Oh, thanks, Mom. You're a great pal."

Back in the room, he'd begun to take off his socks. She was startled at the sight of part of his foot cut off from a work related injury. "Oh, wow! Just hang on, I'll be right back."

She ran upstairs again. "Mom! Mom! He's got a foot and a half."

"Okay, dear! You better stay here. This is a job for your mother."

Yeah, that was Mom, always willing to lend us a hand.

I'll always remember Mom either cooking or ironing. She'd have music blaring away, some loud, raucous music, like Def Leppard or Bon Jovi, singing at the top of her voice, "Someday I'll be Saturday Night." She was usually wearing her tee shirt, tied in a bow around her midsection, emblazoned with crazy slogans, like "The One Playboy Missed." And she'd never wear a bra. Even after she'd gone from 38DD to 42 long.

As for Dad, he was heart-broken; never remarried. Did my mom ever make Saturday night? I know now that raising kids constricted her and she always felt hemmed in.

All we knew for sure is that she'd taken up jogging the day before she disappeared and we haven't seen her since.

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