Monday, September 20, 2010

S#*! my mum says

If Oscar Wilde was right and all women become like their mothers, you can forgive me for feeling a little anxious after Mum and Dad’s trip to LA.

Not that they are losing their marbles, far from it, but they have been known to tell the same story several times a day. And the fact they must have the TV on maximum volume (and it’s still not loud enough for them) has done permanent damage to my own ears.

Fearing this might be their last trip, we wanted it to be a memorable one. Julia used her air miles to fly them over Upper Class. Trouble is, having sat in the lap of luxury, they have vowed never to fly any other way.

There are advantages to living in a one bedroom apartment. Mum didn’t want to be at Julia’s in Topanga (she now calls it Satan’s Hills, because the first day we all went there on this trip, it was baking hot and the winding roads made her car-sick), so they stayed in an apartment in Santa Monica. A few years back, before she vowed never to stay in Satan’s Hills again, Mum and Dad stayed with Julia, and have only just got over the shock of coming face to face with a rat, one of the perils of country living.

I had hoped I had met all Mum’s cleanliness needs by having a pair of rubber gloves and a proper dishcloth available, having made the mistake in the past of just supplying a selection of scrubbing sponges for her to choose from. Mum measures success by how clean and tidy someone's home is.

I got it wrong this time as well. Mum needs three dishcloths: one for the kitchen and one for each toilet which she wipes down every day with disinfectant… “That’s why your father and I don’t get diseases.”

Colin and I only moved into our brand spanking new apartment two days before my parents arrived. Every box was unpacked and everything put in its proper place. I knew this would make Mum happy and proud.

During the time we were technically homeless, we loaned our furniture to some friends. Some fleas from their cat had migrated onto the bed and sofa and proceeded to bite me to buggery. Various homemade and natural remedies are being tried to eradicate the problem before we nuke the bastards with the hard stuff.

After days of scratching until I bled and fearing I might lose my mind, I finally found relief with a daily dose of antihistamine. The fact that my mother is aware of the flea situation is an even greater source of irritation. At least I’m no longer homeless.

Mum and Dad’s trip has actually been triumphant on many levels. The main highlight was Julia and Paul Reiser performing the first single, “Unsung Hero,” from their new album, to rapturous applause at a $1000-a-plate charity event in Laguna for wounded warriors. And they got to stay at the swanky Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach (see picture above).

Watching Mum dance with her youngest grandchild brought a tear to my eye and taking Marley to kindergarten was truly memorable. I have never heard Mum laugh so hard as when Marley and I went through the steps she (Marley) had learned at Princess Ballet. Mum said it was even funnier than the Dawn French ballet sketch with Darcy Bussell. I was not trying to be funny.

My pork chop and apple sauce dinner was another highlight in three weeks of unusually disastrous meals from me. The spicy sausages were a genuine mistake, hot on the heels (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the cottage pie made with tinned tomatoes that I didn’t realize were laced with chilies (honest). “Your father and I don’t like spicy food.”

Ironically, Mum found the “guatemala” Julia made too bland. She meant guacamole. But my all-time favorite miscommunication has been Mum thinking that I said I “make a cake” every day when I actually said I “meditate” every day.

It would not be fair to give the impression that my mother is less than stellar in many ways. This is a woman in her 70s who doesn’t dye her hair, has had no Botox or facelift (she’s never even had a facial), who, if there were only four pieces of cake for her family of five, would say she’s watching her weight and will pass on the cake, even if it’s her favorite.

Her most-uttered phrase is: “Everything in moderation.” I recall her once thoroughly enjoying a raw carrot. When I offered to get her another one she said: “No thank you. I don’t want to get addicted.”

Deeply suspicious of all medication, Mum rarely takes even an aspirin. Because the midwife had the day off when Mum went into labor with Julia, Dad delivered her at home. On his own. My brother and I slept soundly in our rooms throughout as Mum didn’t make a sound.

This stoicism has come in handy for me in particular. Mum had such terrible morning sickness when she was expecting me that her doctor prescribed a new wonder drug, Thalidomide. She wouldn’t take it. She did take a course of antibiotics once when she had severe bronchitis and is currently receiving Vitamin B12 shots for pernicious anemia.

I walked back into our apartment last night, having dropped my folks at the airport and told Colin how annoying it is that Mum and Dad have started to repeat themselves. “If they’ve told me once how disappointed they are about the marine layer at the beach, they’ve told me a hundred times,” I said. Colin replied without looking up from his computer: “Yeah, you told me… about a hundred times.”

This is the Oscar Wilde quote (from The Importance of Being Ernest) in full: All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

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