Happy Indigenous People’s Day! I’ve spent the day celebrating my very own indigenuity by conquering the cush of my couch, and I’m thrilled to report that I’m the conquistadora the explorer of the mounds of magazines and books I’ve neglected to read for at least 1492 months. I’ve also (eureka!) discovered that I have a blog.
I love days off from work for a lot of reasons, but one of the best things about them is the time I get to spend with my mom, a.k.a. Mama a.k.a. Mags. For those of you who know me, this might sound silly because she lives with me and I’m always talking about her so you might think there’d be an “enough already” factor here, but no. She’s incredible–not just because she’s battled 2 cancers, a stroke and the subsequent upheavals those things caused in her life; not because she birthed me and my sister on the same day exactly nine years apart; not because she packs my breakfast and lunch daily and waves to me from the window as I zoom away to work; not because she also makes my dinner and irons my clothes; but because she is a hipster.
Exhibit A. The hip pose.
I’ve had my suspicions, but everything was confirmed today as I watched her blitzkrieg through Comcast’s arsenal of channels.
- She nodded along thoughtfully to Tavis Smiley’s interview with T.I., and as the episode concluded she remarked how impressed she was by his demeanor and some of the things she said; however, she still doesn’t understand why he’s a “grown man wearin’ his pants hangin’ down off his behind.” She also said he does a pretty good job in his role on “Boss” to which I replied, “Wait, he’s on TV, too?” “He’s a brand, Danita.”
- That was followed by equal doses of political coverage on Fox News and MSNBC because “you gotta know what both sides are thinkin’, ’cause everybody’s up to something.”
There’s a LOT of channel flipping. So much that the up/down button on the remote recused itself from her thumb war, so now she just rain mans the number pad. This means that one second (not minute, but second) you’re watching P. Allen Smith in his garden and the next you’re watching “Later … with Jools Holland” when you’ll then hear things like this:
“Oh I’ve already seen this. Somebody’s lost jacket was on here hollerin’ about something.”
“A jacket was what?”
“Somethin’ about some jacket, and this big hairy boy was singin’ something. Don’t ask me what it was.”
“Ohhhh, you mean ‘My Morning Jacket’!”
“Yeah, that’s it. That’s what I said.”
At some point my sister called and Mags unleashed her latest pleasure, putting folks on speaker phone. This somehow makes her hollering into the phone in her “phone voice” less jarring to me. Please know that her “phone voice” is only one decibel lower than the voice she used to call me home at dusk when I played outside as a kid … from a quarter of a mile away.
My sister asks us whether we watched Steel Magnolias on Lifetime last night. Mags reacts like someone has just accused her of choosing to drink PBR to look cool. She also sucks her teeth louder than a sea of dismayed Jamaicans. Sis goes on to ask us if we’ve seen the Tyler Perry movie, The Family That Preys. Even though we have seen it (because, remember, we like to see things from all sides), Mags drops the phone like she was Sexual Chocolate with a fresh Jheri curl.
I’m cracking up because we watched both, and I’m incredibly tickled at the fact that our Mama is pretending like she. would. never.
Just like she would never leave the house in a housecoat with her hair in rollers while wearing bedroom shoes. Which, as she’ll point out, she still has never done … at least not all at the same time.
The aphasia that frustrates her–the tricky, word fumbling hiccup that blocks and muddles the words between her mind and tongue–isn’t as terrible as she would have you believe. I think it’s added the most wonderful nuance to her comedic timing, and it is the one factor that will make me and my sister act right quicker than one of her old-school backhands across our behinds. She will, and has, put both of us on Front Street without warning and with utmost candor. Like a stealth bomber she is, once those words break through.
“Danita went on a date,” she blasted as I sat down with family members on an otherwise normal day. “And woo wee was he uggggg-laaaaaaaaaaay! I swear!”
And it’s not so much the timing she chooses to blast us, but it’s the raucous, almost fiendish laughter that erupts as soon as she launches the torpedo of tell-all. Hyenas are docile; Vincent Price’s cackle simmers down to a tame chortle. It’s extremely unnerving … and hilarious because, being someone who will opt for the joke 95% of the time, I have to respect the woman’s verve. She also still hits harder than I do.
She also apparently listens to better music than I do, too. After we finished checkin’ in with Sis, we got back to the business at hand–me blinking seventeen thousand times per minute as she flip-booked all of our channel options. Who needs drugs when you can have televised hallucinations at 2:30 in the afternoon? I have NO idea how she evaluates programs so quickly and so decisively, but it’s ridiculously annoying trying to keep my contacts in place with all that blinking. I was just getting used to the idea of a Perry Mason viewing (I know, right? It’s like I’m 64 and she’s 32) when the Palladia icon blinked into view.
Now I enjoy me some Palladia and admit to being rather tickled when Mags mentioned Jools in passing, but it turns out they’re practically BFFs … because she mentions his name in passing. Like they meet up and hang out at the same time every week, because wait. That is exactly what they’re doing, and that’s exactly why she dropped the remote and walked out of the room leaving me trying to figure out if it was safe for me to reach for the Precious and stalk Mr. Mason’s clues to solve the murder.
It’s extraordinary how long I sat there staring at the remote trying to figure out if claiming it was worth the temporary victory in an endlessly futile war, but then I went for it. I had barely paged down twice, via the guide since I have no idea what any of those jacked up comcasty numbers mean, when she waltzed back into the room with one more bag of chips I’d never taste (the woman is a chip MONGER) and said, “Nuh unh. Turn it back.”
“But … I don’t even know who’s on there singing. I’ve never seen them before.”
She pads the numbers into the Precious as she sits down crunching her chips satisfactorily.
“Oh this Young the Giant. They’re good. Listen.”
I’ll admit that in the early months and years after her stroke, I did a lot of guessing and speaking up on her behalf. The words would jumble and I’d use all of my post-Soul Train scramble board logic to de-jumble them. So now I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of beating her to words that I suspect will be hers, but increasingly they are not and I just sound obstinate and hard-headed and very much like someone who’s no match for a person who has 31 more years of life experience on their side.
“No. I said Young THE Giant. And just listen. The lead singer’s got himself a nice voice and the music is good, too.”
Let me just tell you that the feeling of teenage angst–that cringing grrr of oh-my-godness, why-is-she-such-a-know-it-allness–that feeling of her being right never goes away. It just gets worse.
“Humph. They do sound good actually.”
“Actually? Whatchu mean, actually? Like I don’t know what sounds good.”
“I didn’t even say any of that.”
“You think I don’t understand your tone? I’m your mother. I know all about you.”
“I have to pee.”
I settle back in moments later and she is watching Young the Giant intently, like with the same gaze I imagine she watched Ed Sullivan’s show.
“Ma. How’d you find out about Young the Giant though?”
“Research? For what?”
“For you, duh. At the rate we’re headed, we’ve gotta broaden our search if you’re gonna ever find somebody. Look at the lead singer. He’s kinda cute.”
“Did you put something in my tea?”
“Look at him. Your babies could have some good hair. He’s got that Indian hair, too. Lord help you if your kids get all that hair you got. Your Daddy’s naps.”
“This is hilarious.”
“Don’t ignore me. He’s better than half these Osama-bearded flim-flam Negroes runnin’ around this town. I pray to God you don’t wind up with one of those. You better not even try it. I’ll slather you in all the bacon grease I can find, I swear I will.”
“How did we get to any of this? I’m just enjoying my day off. Is he singing about cough syrup?”
“That’s the name of the song. Look at him again. I think he’s cute. And he’s got big feet, too.”
I mean, the scariest and yet the best thing about life and the people who join you in it is that you never really do know someone, do you? I’m learning to enjoy my mother’s endless stream of surprising character traits–her reserve and resilience, how she makes old things (brooches, recipes, swing coats and bouffant-y hairdos) new again, how nonchalant she is about being in the know about everything from CNN to GMA to BBC to TMZ.
She’ll be mortified to discover I’ve cataloged so much of her online. She will definitely hate that I’ve posted that picture, because as every hipster will knowingly side-eye you, the being of hip is denying one’s hipness all while looking totally bothered and thus, hip.