Mom is one of the jumpiest people I have ever known.  The silliest things scare her, like her phone vibrating against her leg, or someone sneezing, or even just someone moving their hand a bit.  The funniest thing, though, is her reaction to being scared.  Sometimes she screams, which is normal, I suppose, but Mom is not normal.  Frequently, rather than a scream escaping her lips, some weird, baby-talk language comes tripping out instead.  Something like, abbububadabooboo.  Accompanying this strange, impulsive language, are equally strange hand movements, usually twisted limbs thrown at odd angles.  The combination of peculiar words and unusual hand and arm gestures makes her look pretty silly.

Sometimes innocent people are victims of Mom’s uncontrolled scare reactions.  Like the poor salesman who naively approached her front door at the wrong moment.  He raised his hand to ring the bell at the exact moment that Mom whipped open the door, rushing to an appointment.  Seeing the stranger standing right in front of her startled her so much that she screamed and swung her purse at him, smacking him good.

Quickly ducking and backing away, the salesman whined, “Okay, okay, Lady.  Sorry I bothered you!”

After recovering from her fright, Mom saw the humor in the situation, and started giggling as the unwanted visitor left.  “Well,” she thought, “that’s one way of getting rid of a salesman!”

Usually the victim of Mom’s swinging arms is not so innocent.  Dad loves to stand right up close to Mom and blow a puff of air in her face.  Mom jumps, and Dad almost always gets hit on the chest or arm, but that doesn’t deter him.  He just laughs, as Mom whacks him one more time (on purpose the second time), just for good measure.

I must confess that my entire family takes morbid pleasure in devising various ways to get a good reaction out of her.  We have made an art form out of scaring Mom.

My favorite scare happened when I was a young teenager.  I couldn’t fall asleep one night, and finally, around 1:00 am, I figured I might as well go downstairs and join Mom (aka: Nightowl).  Mom was folding laundry while watching a horror movie on TV and talking with her mother on the phone.  Ever alert for an opportunity to scare Mom, I now saw a great one.  Mom had just walked into the kitchen, leaving the pile of laundry unattended.

I snuck out the front door and came back in through the laundry room at the back.  While Mom was in the kitchen, I dug under all the clothes on the couch, huddled into a little ball (I was small for my age at the time), and piled all the clothes back on top of myself.  I was completely concealed.

Mom returned to the laundry and unwittingly sat right next to me.  As she casually folded the clothes, chatting with her mother, I waited for the perfect moment.  Mom was still watching the horror movie, which I had seen before, so I knew a scary part was coming.  With a precision born of practice, I rose out of the laundry at the climax of the scary movie, growling in the most frightening way I could.

Success!  Mom screamed at the top of her lungs for what seemed an eternity.  I felt a little sorry for my grandma who was on the other end of the phone and received the full impact of the scream in her ear, but it was worth it.  I got Mom good!

Now, Dad is a really light sleeper, and we were in the room directly under him, but he never came down to see if everything was okay.  Mom had just screamed like someone was murdering her, and it didn’t bother Dad one bit.  After all, a death scream at 1:00 am was just par for the course in living with Silly Mom.


Mix Ups

Dad has a fixation with WD40.  He could probably write a book about all the different uses for it.  We tease him that his solution for so many things is, “Try WD40.”  Apparently this was an inherited proclivity, because his dad bought WD40 by the gallon, and after visiting his parents one day, Dad returned home with a little plastic bottle filled up with extra WD40.  He set it down on the table and went about his business.  Mom saw the little bottle and thought Dad had brought her some new hair conditioner from her mother-in-law.  The mind of a silly mom works in mysterious ways.

Mom took the little bottle into the shower with her, and after an unusually long time, emerged and handed the bottle to Dad, who looked perplexed.  “Tell your mom thanks, but no thanks for the conditioner.  It was too oily for me,” she explained.  “I had to rinse and rinse and rinse, and I still couldn’t get it all out of my hair.”

Everyone gets mixed up sometimes, but Silly Mom seems to do it more often than most people, and sometimes her mix ups affect others, like me, for instance.

When I was young, we used to take motor home trips all over the country.  We spent weeks at a time on the road and were accustomed to the little inconveniences of portable living (especially in the 1970s and 80s before motor home living got so sophisticated).  We just learned to live with waste tanks that filled up too quickly, fresh water tanks that emptied too quickly, and having to watch the little refrigerator’s temperature to make sure it kept our perishables cold enough.

So one morning, at the start of a new vacation, it was no surprise to anyone when I announced that the milk was sour; the refrigerator must not have been cold enough.  After having watched me take a huge bite of cereal and then run to spit it out, no one questioned my declaration that the milk needed to be thrown out immediately.  In a family of cereal lovers (all except Mom), having no milk was a good enough reason to pull off the road and buy some more.

On the road again, brand new milk at the ready, I poured my cereal, liberally topped with sugar, added the milk and unhesitatingly took a big bite.  I was horrified to have a mouthful of the same rotten, sour taste.  “This milk is bad, too,” I proclaimed.

Dad couldn’t believe it, so he had to try my cereal for himself.  Yep, sure enough, sour milk.  So we threw away all the new milk and headed to another grocery store.  Once again, I prepared another bowl of cereal, and once again, was again shocked to have sour milk in my mouth.  Dad thought I was making it up, so he tasted my cereal and also declared it awful.  Mom just watched in amazement through this whole thing, wondering how we could have picked out three different sour milk cartons.

Dad was about to throw out the third carton of milk, but then looked at Mom with one of his, “What did you do this time, Marci?” looks.  Mom quickly denied any culpability.  But Dad wasn’t ready to let her off the hook so easily.  Opening the carton of milk, he took a sniff.  “This milk smells fine,” he announced.  But we all know Dad does not have a very good sense of smell.  He was convinced the milk was good, however, so to prove his point, he drank a big glass full.

Not sour.

Looking at Mom again, he picked up the sugar container, took a pinch and tasted.

“Marci,” he said accusingly, “taste this sugar.”

Mom did so, and sheepishly looked around, saying, “Oops, I guess I accidentally put salt in the sugar container.”  Silly Mom.

Hot Shot

My Silly Mom has issues with stairs.  She usually tries to avoid them, but sometimes there is just no way around and she must go either up or down.

Her troubles with stairs may have started long ago, but my first memory in this regard was a stumble she had back in 1980.  We were in the Bahamas on a tour of an old fort which had a cannon nicknamed, “Hot Shot.”  Our tour guide was explaining the history of the cannon and how it got its name as we all climbed the precarious stairs leading to the top where the cannon was mounted.  I guess Mom found the lecture so captivating that she stumbled over her feet (either that or she was just plain clumsy).

Mom’s automatic reflex whenever she is falling is to throw whatever she happens to be holding, making sure that her hands are free to catch herself on the way down.  Well, in this case, that happened to be her purse, which happened to be a large bag with no zippered closure.  Everything from her purse spilled on the stairs and the entire tour group stopped in mid-step, staring agog at the spectacle.

Mom was embarrassed to be the subject of everyone’s curiosity, and wanted them to move on and forget her fall, so she thought she would make light of the situation. “Now, that’s what I call a ‘Hot Shot’,” she joked.  To Mom’s dismay, however, our tour companions seemed to lack all sense of humor when it came to falling down. Rather than turn away, many hands rushed to help her up and gather her belongings.  And no one forgot her fall, either.  They seemed to think that she was likely to fall at every crack in the road or uneven ground, for someone was beside her, cautioning her to be careful, taking her arm to assist with practically every step.

That experience earned Mom the nickname, ‘Hot Shot,’ which we say whenever she stumbles or trips (which is more often than she would like to admit), and Dad made sure she bought a purse that zips closed (a policy she still strictly adheres to).

But even zipped up bags don’t always prevent trouble when the ‘Hot Shot’ takes to the stairs.  Years later,  Mom and Dad were in England, at a train station.  Dad had sprained his ankle and had to wear a boot on his foot, and walk with a cane.  Because of this, Mom got to carry all the luggage.  This particular train station had plenty of stairs.  To get to the correct boarding location, they first had to climb up a set of stairs, cross a bridge, and then walk down the stairs on the other side of the tracks.  Dad hobbled on ahead while Mom struggled with the suitcases.  She did just fine until it was time to walk down the steps.

For some reason, when she looked down and saw Dad trying to hobble down the stairs, Mom thought he looked funny.  She started to giggle, and then realized that she was losing her balance.  Remember what she does when she thinks she is falling?  Well, this time, instead of just a purse, Mom quickly let go of all the luggage in her hands as well.

Instantly, she saw that Dad was right in line to get smacked by falling bags, so she yelled, “Look out!”

Dad glanced backwards, saw the luggage falling, and moved faster than Mom thought was possible in his cumbersome boot.  Dad wasn’t the only one to heed Mom’s warning call.  Some other man was also in the path of destruction, so he ran for safety, too.  Seeing the two men running/shuffling and suitcases tumbling after, was more than Mom could take.  She just stood at the top of the stairs, laughing so hard she was afraid she might fall after them.

Finally, the luggage thudded to a stop at the bottom, both men unharmed, and Mom started to catch her breath.  Then Dad looked up at Mom with a puzzled expression and asked, “Why did you throw the bags at me?”  The idea that she had done it on purpose struck Mom even funnier, and it was quite a while before she was able to manage to get herself down the steps between fits of laughter.  And from that point on, Dad has made sure that he is never below the ‘Hot Shot’ on stairs.

Mom, me, and Kari in the Bahamas, 1980.

Mom, me, and Kari in the Bahamas, 1980.