My mother came to visit me last Tuesday and is at the airport right now on her way home. I love it when my mother visits because I am reminded of my cookey heritage (how do you spell the word "cookey," not like the American biscuit that rhymes with "bookie," but the one that rhymes with "dookie"?). Anyway, I really enjoy being around my mother, and I especially enjoy all of the funny things she says. Below are a few Laura-Ellenisms from our week together.
* My Mom is notorious for unintentionally saying dirty things in Spanish when she means to say something else. For example, she once told the wife of the Bishop in Costa Rica, "Mi esposo trabaja con computas" but the way she said it (and she said it very loud and in front of the entire family) it sounded like "Mi esposo trabaja con..con putas." For those of you who don't speak Spanish, she was trying to say "My husband works with computers" but instead said "My husband works with pussy."
Her first night here I had her wait in the car in the Mission district (the neighborhood in SF where there are a lot of native Spanish speakers) while I went into El Farolito and got a burrito. As we were leaving she asked me, "Susanna, what's a pusada?" I said, "do you mean pupusa?" and she goes "there's a sign back there for pusadas." But no, Mom had seen the sign for the Salvadorian fried cheese cakes you see on your right and thought "pusada." "Pusada" is not the Spanish dictionary and my brother is unavailable right now, but I just have a gut feeling that it might be the Spanish word for "santorum."
* We did a crossword puzzle on our second day together. The theme was double "k"s and one of the clues was a "well-known soy sauce." The answer was "Kikkoman." The next day I dropped Mom off at SFMOMA while I went to school. We met back up that night and she told me all about taking pictures and getting lost and her amazing lunch. She goes, "Susanna, what's Kikkoman?" I have no idea why (other than that I'm her daughter and speak her crazy language), but I said "do you mean jicama?" And she goes "it's a white vegetable and I had it on my sandwich at lunch and it was so good!" (She meant jicama.)
* Like my Dad, my Mom can talk to anyone about anything at any time. As a kid I hated going to the grocery store with her because she'd either run into someone she knew or just get into a conversation with some total stranger in an aisle and talk to them for 45 minutes. I'm certain this is why I started reading adult women's magazines when I was 10. I'm always shocked when she does this when I'm with her. I'll assume that someone behind a counter is busy or grumpy but my Mom will just start talking all about herself and her vacation in Argentina 13 years ago and how different it is here in SF than in Atlanta and how Wal-Mart hurts the local economy and has bad produce and the person will just listen and then thank her and tell her it was nice to meet her. And I'm fairly certain that they actually mean it.
One night she was looking through her pictures and she just offhandedly says, "these guys today let me take a picture of their feet" like totally normal, like she was just saying "these guys today got on the bus and sat down."
Later on she said, "I figured out how to take pictures of birds. You just put the camera in front of your face and walk toward them and they don't fly away. They don't know you're a person back there if you hide your face."
* Mom has favorite subjects that she revisits every twenty minutes or so. One is the conditions of her digestive system (my Dad nicknamed this the "BBU" or "Buckner Bowel Update"), her knee, and the absence or presence of feeling in her right hand. Another favorite is her old professor, Professor Robbins, who taught one of her art history courses and took her class on a field trip to New York. Mom's favorite trivia question is: "where's my wallet?" and every time she gets out of the car, even if the windows are all rolled down and we're at a remote beach with no other cars around, she says "do you have your keys?" before she locks the door. And she absolutely relishes any opportunity to say "I'm a visual learner."
For example, she told me "Today I asked this lady where something was and she said 'Do you know where the water is?' and I said 'Ma'am, I'm a visual learner and I'm so confused out here. I think I'm in Florida. The ocean is just on the wrong side.'"
* I made Mom promise not to say anything about love, marriage, or babies or any of my ex-boyfriends when she met the nice young man I've been seeing. It's one thing if she starts going on to me about how great of a mother I'll be and how I just need to find the right man who wants the same things I want, etc. (she ignores me when I say things like "I might not have kids" or "I'm in no hurry to get married" or "I just started seeing him"), but if I'm with someone and she starts asking what we're going to name our kids I kind of freak out.
We went down to Big Sur and we went out to dinner with Eric and a few of his friends. There were eight of us, and Mom was sitting at the far end of the table, at the head. The conversation went like this:
"So are they a couple down at the end?" she says
"Yes" I said
"What about them?" she said, pointing to the guy and girl sitting in the middle
"I don't know" I said
"Yes" Eric said
"So..are, like, y'all a couple?" she says
(Gee, Thanks Mom!!!) Luckily, Eric goes, "Well, I was thinking about asking her to prom."
So then Mom explained how pretty I looked at my prom and how my dress was dark blue and the sequins came up like this in the front and it came down like this in the back and how much happier I would have been if I had gone with him instead of the other guys.
Her flight takes off in ten minutes, and I may see her again very soon (my grandpa isn't doing too well), but I miss her so much already. My Mom's heart is huge. She smart and humble. She's oblivious but so deeply intuitive that she's almost keen. What a winner. I'm so fucking lucky to be her daughter. And so fucking lucky to be able to say "fuck" again now that she's gone.
(Read the title and sing the song!)