I am my Mother after all.
I realized this, sitting at the breakfast table on a Sunday, much like the one that just passed. Now, you know when you know something, but you don’t really admit it, or think maybe well, I don’t know it… you can continue like that, in denial, for a long, long, time. Then one day, it’s just absolutely apparent and you can’t deny it anymore, and you accept it, and it’s fine. Because it’s already been like that for quite some time, and the only person really who didn’t know it, or believe it, was you. And everyone else has been fine with it, too.
I am. There’s no use denying it. And I’m really, really, OK with it. I like to think that I’ve added my own flavor to the mix – upping the ante a little on it – to be me, and her. And then sometimes, when I speak, or say certain phrases, or laugh, I immediately recognize my sisters in myself.
Recognition. More than just an outside resemblance. Sharing the same DNA, being forever impacted by listening to how someone answers the phone. Or belly laughs at a joke. The color of the eyes and the hair may be different, but there is no doubt, when you strip away the things that we try to make ourselves individual with, to be our own self – that we are all related.
Not only was that Sunday a Mum moment, it was a total Bea Arthur moment. Bea has been a favorite of mine since I was just a kid. I envy my sisters in some way because they grew up (and by grew up, I mean the really formative teenage years) during “All In The Family” and, “Maude” and, “The Carol Burnett Show” and, to a lesser extent, “Good Times” and, “The Jeffersons.” I remember my oldest sister babysitting me on nights when my parents bowled, or had date night, and we would curl up on the couch and watch these shows. She would laugh so hard at Archie Bunker’s exploits, tears running down her face. I didn’t get it. I was too young, or too naïve, or both. All I thought is, “Why is she laughing? He is the meanest man in the world.” Not until later, during re-runs, would I see the brilliant humor and incredible writing and acting on that show. I did get Carol Burnett, though. I loved her Tarzan yell, and “Madame,” “Mrs.-a-Whiggins,” and the old lady with the blond hair and tights with the crotch down past her knees. I had such a crush on Lyle Waggoner. Those teeth! But my favorite, my absolute favorite, was Harvey Korman. The timing that man had. When he passed away a few years ago, I remember reading what Mel Brooks said about him, “We would look at each other, and fall into comic ecstasy.” When he tried so hard not to laugh, and Tim Conway would just work at Harvey, sides heaving trying not to go, and Tim would just do one little thing and Harvey would be gone. I loved it. Comic ecstasy – is there anything better, truly?
And then, there’s Maude.
Let’s face it – Bea Arthur was the QUEEN of the slow burn. Talk about impeccable timing. I had no idea what the subject matter was, again, too young, but I knew control when I saw it. When the camera would settle on Bea, and she would stare, then turn, infinitesimally bit by bit, toward her husband, squint, steel her eyes, and say, “God’ll get you for that, Walter.” I fell about laughing, every time. I tried to perfect that move. You can ask my husband, I’m pretty good at it. He laughs, but I know every time it happens, there’s a teeny speck in the back of his mind going, “Oh shit. Is she kidding? Is she not?” And I try to draw it out as long as I can before I break, giggling. Sometimes I’m not kidding, but then I end up giggling anyway, as my hubby is just too sweet to be mean to, and I forget half the time why I’m annoyed, just gazing into his gorgeous, sea-green eyes… but I digress.
My Mum has always been great at this – her timing was always spot-on too. You never knew what she was going to say, but you knew it was going to be good. I wish I had written down so many more of them – they get me through so many incidents in my own life – but people don’t always get the humor and are offended. Maybe it’s my timing? Mum was always so quick on come-backs! Me, I’m more like George Costanza three days later in the mirror going, “Jerk Store!! I’m going with Jerk Store!”
Completely innocuous questions, or statements; they get turned upside down, and leave you thinking, “Wait a minute! What just happened here?!?!?!”
I love listening to stories of her younger self, in Scotland, making the boys work if they wanted to dance with her –
Boy: Are you dancing?
Mum: Are you asking?
Boy: I’m asking.
Mum: ……I’m dancing.
Could be yes, could be no… there’s always that slight hesitation before learning the answer. That anticipation was killer. Then there’s this one, said to an American while he was over there:
American: Gee, I really love the way you Scottish girls roll your “r’s!”
Mum: Thanks… it’s my high heels.
Let you catch up.
Got it? Good.
And, the best ever, was asking for anything. Whatever it was, you had to go through the gauntlet to get it –
Me: Mum, can I have a bike?
Mum: A WHAT?
Me: A bike, Mum, can I have a bike?
Mum: I’ll bike YOU!
Completely interchangeable, believe me, as witnessed here:
Me: Mum, can you make meatloaf tonight?
Mum: Make WHAT?
Me: Meatloaf, Mum, can you make meatloaf tonight?
Mum: I’ll meatloaf YOU!
I don’t even know what it means. But it’s hysterical.
So, I think I had an absolute obligation to do what I did that Sunday, after breakfast, when I walked outside to the garden; with bedhead, Birkenstocks, a pink housecoat, a cup of coffee, and huge round sunglasses covering my bunny eyes – when my husband did a jig, and burst into song with, “And then there’s MAUDE!”
I took a sip of my coffee, looking over the tops of my glasses at him as I did, and threw my best Mum/Bea Arthur slow burn at him, paused, and said, “God’ll get you for that.”