Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Let me just say, I love my mother. She picks me up when I am down, and knows to leave me alone when I am doing fine.

Last week, I turned 44, and she gave me a nice check. The check was supposed to be 44 times a multiple of 10, but Mom got my age wrong and gave me a multiple of 45. Oh well. I thanked her, cashed the check as fast as I could, and bought my husband a camcorder and my kids "Rock Band 2" for Chanukah. Then I took myself to my favorite store in New Jersey and bought some new blouses. The clothes lifted my spirits, and my kids and hubby loved their new electronic presents. So thanks for all that, Mom.

This afternoon, Mom took both my boys, my sister-in-law, my oldest nephew and me to see "13," the show about an almost-13-year old boy trying to have a bar mitzvah in Indiana. Despite Mom's best efforts to get us good seats last minute, we landed in the last row of the mezzanine. It didn't matter, the kids loved the show, and the good news was that no one was behind us to notice that I was checking my Blackberry every fifteen minutes for emails and a time check. The show blessedly lasted only an hour and a half without intermission. The highlight of the day was the lunch we had before at Virgil's Barbecue, where we drank glasses of Cokes and devoured plates of spicy wings, brisket and Cobb salad. Mom picked up the check. Thanks for that too, Mom.

Mom isn't wild about public transportation, and since she knew someone who owned a garage where we could park for free, she drove us in and out of the city in her car. Go Mom! Driving in was fine, but the trip home made me want to rip my head off. There's nothing like having two pre-adolescent boys, in the back of the car, at the end of a long day, in the middle of a traffic jam. It took 45 minutes to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, and once we got through the tunnel and onto the turnpike, Mom missed the exit for the highway that would actually get us home. Yes, you read that right. Mom, who is never sick, never gets lost, is indefatigable and will probably never die, got us lost. We ended up in Newark Airport, at 5 p.m. Then we made another wrong turn and landed in Newark proper.

"I don't know where we are," Mom said.

My kids started to fight. "Turn on the navigation system," I said.

My mother turned on show tunes. My mother, who grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950's, with two schoolteacher parents, never met a musical she didn't want to listen to twenty-five times. She loves "Oklahoma," "South Pacific," "Light in the Piazza," and all that feel-good stuff. I prefer the dark side of the moon---even "Gypsy" isn't depressing enough for me, but I'll watch "Frozen" or "Doubt" any day. (Strangely, Mom liked "August: Osage County" more than I did.) My mother is so enthusiastic about musicals that she is on the board of our town's theater company, and takes my kids to see shows on weekends. She makes them listen to the CD's ahead of time, so they're familiar with the music. Usually, that means Mom gives me a CD with a little yellow stick-em on it that says, "Cookie, please have the boys listen to this in the car." And because I'm sort of a good girl, I do. I wince, but I do it.

Truth be told, my kids love seeing shows with Grandma, and my husband and I love our Saturday afternoons off. But this afternoon, I was in no mood for show tunes. Here is how the ride home went:

That's Richard Rodgers!
That's Patty Lupone. You can always tell it's her.
That's Richard Burton. He's an actor, not a singer, but he sounds good there.
This is Cole Porter.
That's Anything Goes!
That's Les Mis! Did you see that?
That's Ray Bolger. He was in "Wizard of Oz." Shirley Temple was supposed to be in it, but she couldn't handle the singing, so they brought in Judy Garland. Do you know what's in a Shirley Temple?
That's Kiss Me Kate! Did I take you to see that?
Did you see Annie?
That's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It's supposed to take place in the year one. That's Nathan Lane.
That's Gypsy!
That's Sweeney Todd. Patty Lupone was great in that, but Angela Lansbury really nailed it.

And so it went.

My older son was busy texting she's-not-my-girlfriend on his phone. My younger son started to complain that he had nothing to do except feel nauseous. Finally, as we approached our county, Mom said, "Do you think your husband could pick you up at my house?"

My husband wasn't answering his cell phone so Mom had to deliver us right to our door. Normally, she comes in, says hello to our dog, looks around, sits on the stool in our kitchen, has a glass of water, and stays until my stepfather calls to see about dinner. Tonight, she parked at the bottom of the driveway and let the kids race into the house without reminding them to grab their mittens and hats off the back seat. "Say thank you to Grandma," I said. Mom did not wait for their goodbyes before she roared out of the driveway.

By the time I stumbled out of the car, I felt thirteen again, except I wanted a cold glass of white wine. I ran into the house, and did exactly what I used to do when I was a teenager: I ate handful after handful of chocolate chips, and planned to make a batch of chocolate chop cookies and eat half of them. Then, I heated up last night's brisket and pasta, and when my kids whined that they wanted to order in pizza, I yelled at them for...I'm not sure what I yelled at them for, exactly---I guess it was their lack of enthusiasm for barbecued meat, which they had already eaten for lunch and dinner the night before.

Ashamed, I handed my older son a $20 bill and told him to call Domino's. I had had enough of my mother, and my children had clearly had enough of theirs, so I removed myself from the situation, and slunk upstairs. I was never allowed to watch TV growing up, but I'm a grown-up now, so I popped another one of my birthday presents into the DVD player. Rather than make me troll through on-demand for old episodes of "30 Rock," my husband gave me the first two seasons for my birthday, so I did what every 13-year old does when she's having a hissy fit: I emailed my best friend, put on my pajamas, and turned on the TV.

Still, I would like to say, thanks Mom. I owe you.


  1. Moms run the gamut don't they? Just returned from a week-long visit with my family in Philly...they've lived there since the beginning of time but continually got lost. With GPS. I feel your pain.

    I really enjoyed reading your post!

  2. Thank you! I also get lost with a GPS.