Motherist

motherist
My mother was a terrorist of the very most insidious kind. She seemed fundamentally incapable of complying with any injunction. Doctor's orders barely amounted to more than invitations to dissent. She mumbled about "polutocrats" and always followed her own rough-honed sense of propriety. She danced along this precipice for ninety years before the cliff edge crumbled from beneath her recently.

Years ago, when her kids were still small, my dad forbade her learning how to drive. In response, she secretly conspired with her cousin Verdeen and learned to drive anyway. She lived in a world she was endlessly in cahoots against. A complex web of necessary deceit followed her around like a loyal hunting dog. Unspeakables large and small surrounded her. She seemed to always be in the middle of putting something over on somebody; to be in on one of her conspiracies, one of my greatest childhood joys.

She could become fierce if crossed, and just as fiercely loyal in the face of any outside threat. She could defend the absolutely indefensible beyond the point of absurdity, which instilled a base defensiveness in me. She could skillfully deflect even the most glaringly obvious, stubbornly insisting and often succeeding in stiff-arming real threats as easily as she could chase away grace. This superpower imparted mixed blessings.

She carried on a life-long running battle with bugs, from sugar ants to curious little beetles that only seemed to infest the room she slept in. In response, she'd liberally sprinkle DDT—from her secret stockpile of banned chemicals—on her bedsheets, then complain about how the chemicals failed to deliver. She firmly believed that everything came from "the same spigot", packaging being the only differentiator from product to product. Both her thumbs were green. She could nurture even the most reluctant stem into bloom.

She was not conventionally smart and distrusted school in all forms. She maintained running skirmishes with principals and other petty potentates. She wrote a mean complaint letter that could cauterize the nose hairs off any official. My high school vice-principal was terrified of her wrath, and damned well should have been.

She introduced the casserole to the family supper table, an act in direct contravention to a long-standing treaty she had apparently made with my dad to favor veal cutlet/swiss steak-like food. She jammed his opposition by invoking the economy rule:it was cheaper to prepare that rice/almond gloop than roast a chicken. He choked down his portion, knowing he'd been co-opted again. She could have suggested he dress up like a chicken and, though initially lukewarm to the necessity, he'd eventually see the wisdom in complying.

She would hide in her closet when the Jehovah's Witnesses came calling, understanding that she could not bring herself to say no to their insistence that she accept their literature. She cared for a succession of aging second cousins, and distant uncles and aunts, accumulating a trove of inherited photos and mementos, which she now bequeaths to us, her children. I suspect we'll hold these curiosities in trust for our children in homage to her generous heart, though none of us will ever really care a lick about her great grand half-uncle's wedding pictures or his moth-eaten fez.

As she grew older, she lost her patience with stupidity. She seemed to attract unconventionally bright people like her care-givers working in jobs far beneath their capabilities. Those who didn't get it, she left to their own confusion, and sometimes deliberately confounded them, if only so she could later chuckle over the result. She left few fingerprints, preferring to influence others to heist the loot for her. She smirked a lot.

She was my first teacher, a responsibility she undertook without really understanding its gravity. She showed me how to stealthily disrespect without imparting any understanding of the limits of its utility. She taught me how to hide out without insisting that I learn how to properly show off. She insisted upon a thousand compliances that, due in no small part to her tutelage, I quietly and effectively deflected. She smirked masterfully, as all self-respecting terrorists should. She got away with more in her long life than anyone will ever know.

©2017 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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