My conversations with my crazy mama have been fewer and farther between lately. For this, I am thankful. I have enough shit going on in my own life. But she called today, and my Lord if we’d been having the conversation face to face I would have had to take a handful of her nerve pills just to get through it.
We somehow got onto the topic of my father’s family. She and my father divorced when I was a toddler. A few flicks of the beads on your abacus will tell you that was nearly 30 damn years ago (though if you’d like to swear it couldn’t have been more than 20, I’ll let you). Just as some background, throughout my childhood and college days, Mom tried all she could to extort money from Dad. To this day, she feigns insult if he doesn’t call her on Mother’s Day. (He pointed out decades ago that she wasn’t his mother, but when you have the sense of entitlement that she has, he should not only call her, but probably send a check each year for bearing his child.)
Anyhoo…mom asked about one of my Dad’s brothers and his wife. I’ve no clue why. But I was telling her that their two kids have devoted themselves in admirable ways to their religion–one is a recent graduate with a degree in Divinity, the other travels the world doing missionary work. (Both are in their mid twenties, which makes their work all the more admirable for some reason). Both were raised and continue to work in the Baptist (or Baptist-ish) faith. Mom asked if my Aunt and Uncle were also active in the Baptist church. I told her they were, and had been for some time. This seemed to surprise her because my father and his siblings were raised Catholic (though none of them have ever practiced it in my lifetime).
“The rest of ’em are holy water throwin’, sit in a box and tell a preacher–well not a preacher, but what do you call him?–your sins”
“A priest, that’s it. I never had so much exercise in a church in my life. Sit down stand up kneel bow oh father hail Mary!”
“Throwin’ Holy water around! I told yer daddy we don’t do that at a Baptist church. They might annoint you with a little oil…they did that for your sister you know, and I’ve got the rest of the bottle of the oil. Was you ever annointed?”
“No, I think it would break my skin out.” (my skin is sensitive, y’all!)
“It smells so good…I think it’s got frankencense and myrrh in it. Anyway I think your daddy wanted me to convert to Catha…Calotha…Caloticism…whatever you call it. But I said, no sir, no child of mine’s getting put through all that sit down stand up and having holy waters thrown at him. I was scared to death.”
I might interject here that I’m fairly certain that Dad was not so much a practicing Catholic in those days that the idea of her converting to his faith was ever anything more than a light conversation…but by now y’all know how Mama likes to exaggerate.
I tuned out for a few minutes and came back to the conversation when she started babbling about the swine flu.
“I ain’t convinced that it ain’t something some of these FORNERS have set on us as a biological warfare!”
“I’m sure you aren’t the first crazed nutjob person to have that theory.”
“It might not even be a virus at all…might be chemical agents. I ain’t takin’ that shot.”
I tuned out again.
“Next time you come up on a Fri-dee, gimme a few weeks notice so we can go up to the lawyer and get my will in writing and all. If we don’t, the state will take everything.”
“I’m pretty sure I’d be next of kin (God help me) and it would all go to me anyway.”
“I think if you don’t leave a will the state just takes ever-thing you have.”
“Well, call the lawyer and find out.”
“I want you to have it all. ‘Course you won’t want my clothes, give those to someone needy, but not the Salvation Army…” (no clue why that proviso was added, and I think the poor have suffered enough, I will not donate her Debbie Gibson ruffle-top socks, her Ho Fo’ Sho’ skirts, nor her acre of too-tight denim to anyone who isn’t doing a remake of “Fame“)
“All my lotions and perfumes and smell-good stuff you can give to The Black Girl Anita.” (This “girl” it should be noted, is a grandmother.) I do not know Anita, but I suppose I will take out an ad upon mother’s death that reads:
“Will Anita, a Black Girl, please contact me in regards to an inheritance of half-used bottles of Bath and Body Works products that you are to receive.”
“…and I reckon you ought to give some of that kinda thing to Cassie, even if she does have 25 personalities.”
“Ok. Will do.”
“Of course, this house and everything in it is yours. Just sell the house, but don’t let it go for less than so many thousand. And keep that kitchen table. I bought that with money I got bein’ in that car wreck when you was two. And that bedroom suit (suit, not suite) at the front of the house is worth some big money, it was one of only 400 of ’em made when we got it….” (Lord help, she is still holding onto that line the furniture salesman gave her 29 years ago?? They only made 400 because no one else would buy the damned ugly thing. Who in their right mind wants a bed with a covered bridge carved into the headboard???) “This furniture in my room just give it away to somebody unless you have a spot for it or something…it ain’t got no value to it. And I can’t even go in that other room where your sister’s bed is yet but I imagine you’ll want that too…” She breaks off into tears at this point…which would be well understandable if A. she was talking about my sister’s childhood bedroom, or B. at least her childhood furniture. But neither myself nor my late sister have EVER slept in the house mom lives in now, and none of the furniture in it comes from the rooms we grew up in. This “sister’s room” is merely the other guest room that mom had at one time decorated in colors she mistakenly thought my sister might like.
“the recliner in the living room was your grandpa’s, you’d like to have that….” Um, no, he has been dead over twenty years and I don’t like brand-new recliners, let alone ones that are as old as I am.
“and the living room suit (again with the suit, as if the room were dressed for an interview) is like brand-new, it ain’t hardly ever been sat in.” That might be because she put piles of clothes on the sofa and chair when she moved in five years ago and has yet to get around to finding them a home in, say, a closet.
At this point, I carefully reached for my other phone and dialed my own cell number.
“Mom, I’m getting a call I need to take.”
“Ok honey, now call me back later. Promise?”
I had my fingers crossed, so I don’t REALLY have to call back do I??