“How am I going to know if I like what you write, Jan?”
Mother is in one of those moods.
“I think you should let me see if I agree with everything you say about me. I might not want everyone knowing my deep, dark secrets,” she says, her green eyes twinkling.
“And you didn’t put one of my paintings on last week. I have two for you to add this week.”
Deep, dark secrets, I think to myself. When did this family ever have any of those?
We’ve lived out in the open, hiding behind little, since I can remember.
Take for instance the night we all participated in Granny Grab Saturday.
When Mother moved in with us, changes happened. Any time two women combine into one household, once the dust settles, someone’s in charge. Wearing matriarchy like a finely tailored business suit, Mother instituted certain prohibitions, one of the more logic testing being the prohibition of the use of those ‘nasty dishwashing machines’. There were other homefront strategery implementations, some less easier to deal with, some more. However, there was also a separate more personal campaign afoot that I might say neither Silent Bob nor I anticipated: a dating 50 something living under our roofs who needed to find where other dating 50… or 60.. or 70’s something went to hook up.
Perhaps I described too blatantly.
My mother was from that generation, the one where your identity was wrapped completely around the man to whom you were married. She and I always close, her confidences shared to me from a young age, I knew full well how much she loved my alcoholic father, how much in love with him she was until the day he died, and how much she now wished for someone to share her life now that he was gone. To be fair, her desire was due in part to her God-given gift to make a home and to love with all her heart. I’ve already told you some had to do with the generation to which she was born. But some of it, well she was just lonely for those of her ilk, to socialize with those like her.
“I don’t understand why you can’t find out where people of my age go to dance.” She’s acting all exasperated. Mother and I do the verbal dance that means I am going to be mildly pissed off at the edict she has pronounced and then I am going to solve the problem and then I am going to tell her the solution and then she is going to make me feel like a million dollars with her compliments. (Even before she became the matriarch, I was the official problem solver of the family. Once positioned in our family, she took full advantage of my talents.)
“There’s bound to be something like the American Legion in Little Rock.” A string of suitors, few rising to the status of I-am-here-because-I-too-am-single, prowled that dance floor off Main Street and my mother, quite a comely widow and full of life, did not lack for attention. “Can’t you ask around?”
“Find somewhere I can go.” She was getting a plan. She was getting excited. “I don’t really know this town very well. Once you find some place, you can go with me the first time.
Go with you the first time?
Dumbfounded, seriously considering whether or not she or I had lost my mind, I know that underestimating anyone who can convince a family not to use a dishwasher might additionally be capable of dragging their 30 something married daughter to an over single’s 50 group where there might be a few women on the fence, but for sure the men are there looking for one thing, to hook up, in the Biblical sense.
Blessed with nary a jealous bone in his body, my current husband, Silent Bob, thought the whole business hilarious.
“You would let me go?” I asked incredulously.
“Well it’s not like you are going there to get picked up.” This would not be the last time that I would wonder if my still current husband, Silent Bob’s lack of jealousy was an indication of my singular lack of sex appeal or an extraordinary confidence in my stellar, completely incorruptible morals.
“What about your mother,” I say.
Widowed way before either of them thought they would be, both our mothers were on the ‘greatest generation’ dating circuit. Apparently, it’s one thing when its your mother, it another when its his.
“You mean bring my mother down to go with your mother to a granny grab?” Picture Silent Bob’s eyes as those of a deer in the headlights.
“Granny Grabs? Is that what they call them?”
“It’s what I call them,” Silent Bob answers. “That’s what they are, isn’t it?”
“They’ll have fun,” I say.
I’m still not entirely clear on how the two, let’s call them …. Doris (my mother) and Betty (my mother in law) … yeah, let’s call them by those names, to protect their identity.. managed to convince us that their best strategy was for us (the thirty something parents and three sons, ages 10, 7, and 5) to drive them across town, in our mini van, with the broken AC, to the most posh Granny Grab we could find, known throughout Houston, located at the famous Galleria, and then meander about until, at the designated time, we would return to said posh Granny Grab and collect their widowed butts.
“What are we going to do with the boys all that time,” Silent Bob said, “I think your mother’s first idea was simpler.” Way too late for plan changes, just a few minutes from the Swiss Chalet, our target granny grabbing destination, I adjusted the side mirror, my hand flopping in the breeze of the freeway. Doris and Betty were conspiratorially whispering and primping, sweating a trifle. Directly behind them, the boys were discussing the term granny grab.
“I bet it means someone’s going to grab one of their butts…”
Doris gives instructions.
“We need about 4 hours. That will be long enough to dance and see who’s there, see if there is anyone we are interested in. Actually, come by the parking lot after 2 1/2 hours. If its a dud we won’t want to waste our time. If we aren’t out there waiting, its going good. You can pick us up at the later time.”
I don’t look at SB who I am pretty sure is glaring my way.
Someone should have told me they had valet parking.
When we pull up the red carpet that signifies the entrance, the boys have exited their seat belts and are hanging out of every open window, repeatedly sing songing something about their grannys are getting their hineys grabbed tonight.
The valet parking attendant is calculating the possibility of a tip from this arrangement.
“We aren’t parking,” I say in my best carpool line mommy voice, over Silent Bob as he stares ahead. “We’re just dropping off.”
For a moment, a moment of insanity, I hope we won’t be memorable and it will be like we were never there when we come by to pick them.
We went to a movie, perfectly timed for the first pickup time.
The blue mini van, windows at full open, radio soothing, sons hushed to a fragile stillness across two seats, we drove by stealthily. And back again. Maybe we just couldn’t see them in the dark.
The valet attendant waived.
Bob pulled onto the freeway.
We drove near to Galveston to waste the two hours before the next pick up time.
At the next agreed upon drive by time I gave up on stealth. The back seat was in anarchy, young boys heads and stink emanated from the van. They initiated a burping contest, hanging outside the windows where the acoustics afforded an echo. We were right on time and for all intents and purposes it looked like closing time. I was praying that valet parking retrieval would keep the attendant busy.
“Maybe don’t pull right up to the carpet this time. We could hang back a bit,” I suggest to Bob as several Mercedes passed us on their way out, their looks a bit aghast at the blue Aerostar cruising the Swiss Chalet at midnight, little clown kids draped about.
After an hour, I gave up. Peter, the attendant and I were on a first name basis by now. “I’m pretty certain they haven’t come out yet.” he reassures me.
The security guard waves. “You ain’t found them yet, huh?”as he ran his circuit through the almost empty parking lot.
Bob had his head on the steering wheel, pretending to be asleep or dead.
“I can’t imagine where they are,” I told him, trying to recall if widow abductions were on the rise in this part of town and what might be the motivation.
Silent Bob mumbled.
“You could go in there and look for them,” Silent Bob said louder, the steering wheel unable to muffle his suggestion this time.
Exactly how does that work? I just march in there in my currently inappropriate dress and slink around unobtrusively while looking at courting old people to find my mother and mother in law? There are times in your life when one must take stock of their situation and how they got there and man up.
Swallowing my pride, my hand on the door knob of the car, Bob tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. Two figures emerged from the doorway. Silhouetted against the back light of the glaring lights of the club, my mother and my mother in law looked like two teenagers after their first dance. Their body language said they’d had a good time. They were happy, they felt pretty.
They got into the car and it was almost like they didn’t know we’d been out here waiting.
“I know we’re late, Jan,” Mother said, looking younger than her years. “I knew that guy wanted my phone number. We needed to see if I wanted to give it to him. I knew you would wait.”
I open my mouth to say something and stop.
I liked the way she said that last sentence.
Cooler night air filled the van as SB drove us home. Tiredness had calmed the three rowdies. Mother and mother-in-law rehashed, in quiet tones, the evening events, bits and pieces of aging male attributes bantered between them.
From the very back, amid soft giggling I heard, in young boy timber, “Hey, did ya’ll get your butts grabbed?” combined laughter wrapping the words.
All I can think is… please, please don’t answer that. Not tonight anyway.
Boat on Water, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 6
Still Life in Blue Vase, oil on canvas, 5 x 7