My First Wayshower

My mother thought I walked on water. That never stopped her from correcting whatever transgressions she thought were a step off the sacred path. It had nothing to do with religion, indeed, my mother eschewed any form of religiosity unless it had a social pageant theatrical extension, like getting dressed up for midnight mass Christmas Eve, or communion and confirmation with great white dresses, you know, stuff like that.

The mundane disciplines and practices my mother had no use for; she had her own set of rules and fared better than the Catholic church. She prayed and obviously felt a kinship with God, as I heard her speaking to him many times at night when I thought she was fast asleep. My mother was no saint; she cursed like a trooper, albeit in Italian, thinking non-Italians would have no idea and she only cursed non-Italians. She never did anyone harm no matter what, no matter if she could have by omission. Traveling in the South on a Greyhound bus just after segregation was officially over, she helped a woman, an African-American, with a child, much to the dismay and chagrin of her fellow passengers, travelers who ceased to consider her one of them, but my mom didn't care. She did the right thing and if hell had to be paid, she paid it gladly, although she freely admitted she was scared, but so knew she was in the right that she didn't think about her fear until after it was all over.

Once, we crossed with one of my parents' rental tenants in the hallway and my mom spat at the floor and didn't greet her. I wasn't sure I saw right, I was so in shock. Sputtering, I asked her what she was doing, how could she, I was dumbfounded, flabbergasted. My mother righteously explained that woman had a gentleman caller late at night. My father and she had seen him. I was like 'huh'? Her look told me everything. Even if she wasn't familiar with the terminology, my mother knew a booty call when she saw one and didn't approve. Her thought was, How can a man respect you if you don't respect yourself?

During the Clinton/Lewinsky brouhaha, my mother was stymied. Everyone thought she was puritanical by the pursed expression on her face. Then she out and out asked what a "blow job" is. One of her granddaughters, my niece, explained it as anatomically as possible, to which my befuddled mother blew her off, commenting it was called fellatio in her day. My mom was bawdy and a prude at the same time.

The apple doesn't fall from far the tree.

My mom expected good. When the bad hit, she was downed temporarily. She rebounded and thrived and made the best of whatever befell her or the family. During a particularly trying time in my life, when every phone call seemed to be another disaster, my mother simply suggested I change my way of thinking. When the phone rang, think it's for something good. Let the bad happen on its own. She taught by example. She was honest, returning an item she mistakenly took even though it required a subway ride back and forth of two hours and it was late. When she puked in the pew in front during midnight mass one Christmas eve, courtesy of one too many Brandy Alexanders, she knew when to stop or not start after that incident and never drank too much again. She encouraged always. She always reminded me I could do whatever I wanted, even though she would joke that I was trying to do too much. She seemed to be saying if you want this life you live, it comes with costs as well as all those benefits.

When I traveled around the world as a teen, I would call collect from whatever exotic place whose name was unpronounceable and certainly unknown to my parents just to get their jollies up. After a while, if my father answered, he would say he didn't know me so as not to accept the call, after of course trying to ascertain where the hell I was. My mom would hurriedly get on the phone and wait for the latest adventure to share with him. My father was not in charge of me in any way. He abrogated that duty when he let me slide down the sliding pond the wrong way, resulting in a very bruised chin, a trip to the doctor and a scar I have today. If I asked my mother's permission to go somewhere, do something, she invariably said no and babbled out some inane reason. I took to telling her what I was doing, announcing it, and she never stopped me.

After a battle royale where I probably said I hated her, my mother answered that one day, I would appreciate her. This may have been after she refused to buy me a monkey, a real one, or maybe when she said I couldn't go to sleepaway camp (we had a summer house) or to some other place or site I had determined I had to have in my life. My parents were far from rich, yet I never lacked for anything. I was "spoiled." I was happy. They say we pick our parents so they can be our teachers and show us how to be better people. I hope I haven't failed.