My mother – who has been mentioned before in this blog, affectionately, if weirdly – has been affectionate and weird again, just in time for the holidays.
This has become a holiday tradition – considering that my birthday is exactly one week before Christmas – if Christmas is on a Thursday, then so is my birthday – I usually get a double-dose of wackiness in December.
My mom, much like myself, is unconventional. Only imagine how unconventional SHE is, if, when I open a present from her, I never fail to be perplexed and amused.
None of the regular Mom-type gifts from Betsy. Forget sweaters, shirts, scarves, or earrings. I got a cool frying pan once, that I still use – it’s amazingly easy to clean, which is to be expected from my fanatically tidy Mom – no matter what you char inside of it, it just wipes off, and it’s not even non-stick. I have no idea where she found it, or what she paid for it, but every time I caramelize onions, I think of her gratefully.
Which is, oddly, probably exactly what she had in mind when she gave it to me.
Last year she gave me homemade dishtowels, potholders and place mats – in assorted, non-matching colors. It took me a few days to figure out exactly what they were, but they were nice. The potholders don’t keep your hands safe from the heat, the place mats are a little too thick for the table, and the dish towels are kind of an odd size – plus the colors are pure Betsy: but my little one loves them, because they’re sort of rainbow, as in “I used up all my cotton yarn on you.”
Still, the thrill of opening a gift from Betsy is like nothing else. There is no way on earth one could possibly ever guess what’s inside, because there’s no way anyone else got you the same thing.
Wait – that’s not quite true. You CAN get a heads-up on what you got from Betsy – if you manage to get a hold of one of my sisters: because Betsy does things in triplicate. Whatever I get, my sisters also get. So whoever opens first, knows what the other two got.
This year is the quintessential Betsy gift. My mother, in addition to being Joan Crawfordesque in her quest for the most immaculate living space possible, is also Grizzly Bearesque in her quest to keep her “babies” – all of us adults, now, with cubs of our own – safe from any harm that might befall us.
Harm includes: rain, snow, sleet, ice, sunburn, disease, random cartoon safes falling from the sky, hangnails, paper cuts, broken bones, hurt feelings (commenters, beware), and a host of other ills that plague her soul daily.
Her coping strategy is usually “out of sight, out of mind,” which allows our thousand-mile distance – she lives in a southern state, I live in New York – to mitigate her anxiety somewhat. That, and a massive capability for denial, for example:
Me: “Mom, I took the kids to the city today to see the exhibits at the Met – we had a really good time.”
Mom: “By yourself?”
Me: slapping forehead, muttering “stupid self, stupid self…” “Oh, no, Mom – We just happened on a regiment of Marines here in town, and they offered to escort us down. Wasn’t that lucky?”
Mom: breathing a deep sigh of relief “How nice. What nice boys. Did they enjoy the Monet?”
So this year, although I live in a landlocked area, and work from home, and rarely drive more than a few miles to anywhere, I opened a small rectangular package containing a small, heavy, extremely sturdy double-pointed steel hammer.
Upon inspection – lots of inspection, which included a Google search – I learned that this was the “famous” Escape Hammer – proven by the Mythbusters Show as being able to shatter the windows of a submerged automobile, in the event of such a disaster.
“You screw it somewhere easy to reach in your car,” Betsy explained, excitedly. “And then, if your car is ever underwater, you can get out the window! I got one for everybody. And Mythbusters tried it and confirmed that it works, so you won’t have to die.”
Reassuring – and especially interesting, as I happen to be between cars at the moment, and I doubt that Enterprise would appreciate my screwing anything to the Dodge I’m currently renting.
But who wants to worry Mom?