Happy Mother’s Day: Glimmers for Mary
Today is a double-whammy. My mother’s birthday and the holiest of all Hallmark Holidays – Mother’s Day.
More often than not, it seems, the two fall on the same day. It’s unfortunate for my mom – like the kids who have to share their birthday with Christmas. In theory, everything should be twice as good but rarely is. Lucky for me, Mary Swift doesn’t seem to mind too much.
I no longer make homemade cards with cut out hearts and crayon poems inside. (Speaking of Hallmark, I used to create the Hallmark “crown” logo on every hand-crafted card I produced, an eerie inversion of creativity and even more disturbing tribute to my very clear understanding/misinterpretation of the significance of brand names.)
But though I’ve ditched the crappy scissors and Elmer’s glue, I still have craft. It’s here. This typing noise I’m making right now.
I know you can’t hear it, but it sounds like an eruption of clacks followed by a short pause, maybe some muttering, a few mashes on the delete key. Then another eruption of clacks. Repeat ad nauseum.
So Mom – Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Everything – this collection of clacking fits is for you.
My mother is fucking nuts. I learned this when I was six.
We were eating seafood linguine around our circular laminate kitchen table in front of the window that I’d broken a few years prior while shooting a sling shot. I remember the seafood linquine specifically because the tiny clams looked like ashen hearts that had been ripped out of some poor, tiny animal. I imagined myself a giant having just annihilated an entire colony of these gray-hearted beings. I was eating their hearts in a victory celebration.
I had an active imagination.
It was Fall. I remember the coolness of the air through the window.
Which is why we were all surprised when Mom pulled out a long string of ladyfinger firecrackers.
To this day none of us can produce an acceptable explanation for what happened next.
She lit the entire stack of them and threw them into the kitchen sink. Right there in the middle of dinner.
If you’re unfamiliar with ladyfingers, they’re about half the size of normal firecrackers – and maybe twice as powerful. I’m not even sure how we’d acquired them because my mother, who was normally obsessively cautious particularly with fireworks, didn’t approve of these highly dangerous and technically illegal explosives.
Maybe she just wanted them out of the house. I guess that was one way to go about it.
Nevertheless, the effect of tiny explosives in the white porcelain sink was terrifying and grand. They hopped and boomed and stained the white surface with black.
The show lasted only a matter of seconds, during which my mother stood back against the stove screaming at the top of her lungs while we covered our ears and ducked lower into our seats across the room.
When it was over the kitchen hung with the smoke and the smell of sulfur. I took my hands away from my ears and looked at my 14-year-old sister Heather, who’s big brown eyes had ballooned to great new proportions. She was a tough girl – a little wild. Hard to shock to be sure.
My dad let out his patented cackle and I realized that I was holding my breath.
Mom screamed: “That was awesome!!!”
Heather remained still as a rock.
I was the youngest in my family and my sister was 8 years my senior.
This meant that from a very young age, I was employed as the household jester.
I was a cantankerous and vocal three year old. Instead of coddling me sweetly through that difficult time, they leveraged my toddler angst for entertainment.
Mom could tell when a tantrum was about to start and she’d call out to Sister and Daddy: “Come quick! Show’s about to start!”
Then they’d sit on the couch and watch me like the television as I kicked and screamed and wailed. They still love to tell me that their favorite part was a toss up between when I would try to hold my breath until I died (this never worked) and when I threatened to call “1-800-4-a-child”.
Yes, actually I did have the national child abuse hotline number memorized.
I started talking early and my mother took great pride in teaching me entertaining phrases like, “Hey big boy, wanna fool around?” It was one of her favorites. At the age of 3 I’d say it while doing a toddler-style impersonation of “the twist”. I’m not sure how these two things went together, but my audiences seemed to love it.
About that time, my mother discovered that I had a memory for lyrics. I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life, but I could remember words and little kids can get away with a lot so I became a party performer.
Our schtick was Mom would do the introduction – something at which she was truly gifted: “Introducing the AMAZING, FABULOUS, FANTASTIC, UNBELIEVABLY WONDERFUL HEIDI SWIFT!”
Then the audience – usually my sister, father and some unfortunate dinner guest – would applaud dutifully. Mom would “Woo hoo!!” to add to the effect.
This was my cue to climb on the wooden kitchen chair, which served as my stage, and begin my warbly rendition of my favorite song: “Oh Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble.”
I sang it with a distinct country twang, attempting to exactly imitate the way I’d heard Mac Davis do it.
The chorus was, of course, great fun:
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better loking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.
But it was this verse that I loved the best because it got the biggest laugh out of my doting fans:
I guess you could say I’m a loner,
a cowboy outlaw tough and proud.
I could have lots of friends if I want to
but then I wouldn’t stand out from the crowd.
Some folks say that I’m egotistical.
Hell, I don’t even know what that means.
I guess it has something to do with the way that I
fill out my skin tight blue jeans.
Over the years I learned renditions of my mother’s other favorite songs including Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (another crowd pleaser and a personal favorite of mine to this day) or my father’s favorite, Tim Lehrer’s “Pollution”.
Mac Davis on the Muppets is not to be missed and the glory of YouTube has actually made this gem of my childhood just a few clicks away.
And just because it’s super awesome – Tim Lehrer’s “Pollution”
All the Little Girls in the Whole Wide World
Our evening ritual – after Dad had given me a horsey ride to bed and tucked me in and called me cherub – was this:
Mom: If God put allllllllllll the little girls in the whole wide world in one room and said I could choose whichever one I wanted, do you know who I’d choose?”
But Sharon has long brown hair. My hair is very short.
I don’t care about Sharon’s hair. Who do you think I would pick?
But Melissa has more merit patches than all the rest of us Bluebirds combined.
Melissa’s mom is the Bluebird leader. Besides, I wouldn’t pick Melissa.
Ok then, who?!
You! Of course!!
Yes, of course.
Out of all the girls on the entire planet?
Night, Warm Bunny Rabbit.
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