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My Mother the Duck

July 14, 2012

My mom is one of those intoxicating creatures who never seem to truly lose it. She just goes with the flow, giggles inappropriately while other people are crying, shrugs her shoulders in the face of danger, and, on the rare occasion that someone insults her, does not even bother to come up with a snappy comeback. She could give a decent retort, of course, because she’s smart like that but she just looks at the jerk like they are some sort of odd and interesting puzzle and then floats away.

Perhaps her lackadaisical attitude is the result of the stress associated with becoming a single, teenage mother at the age of fifteen, but somehow I doubt that. I think she has always been this way. She has this unnerving confidence not just in herself but in the universe as a whole. She could be between jobs, unsure where next month’s rent is coming from, have a broken down car in the driveway and like water off a duck’s back, all of those problems seem to drip away without truly affecting her. If I had a dollar for every time we had the following conversation, she and I would be living in a tropical mansion right now.

Me: What are we going to do?

Her: Don’t even worry about it. It will all work out in the end.

Me: How could you possibly know that?

Her: Because it always does.

Me: Okay, so when’s the end?

Her: When everything works out, of course.

Now, here is the odd thing; it does always come together for her. I think she has secreted away a magical unicorn that farts four leaf clovers and hacks up horse shoes or something. I mean, there must be something going on here that I’m not aware of.  Or maybe instead of four leaf clovers and horse shoes, it’s Valium and Diazepam, in which case I would be very upset with her for not sharing.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I am happy for my mother’s knack for being blissfully unaffected by how crushing life can be, and has been for her on more than one occasion. But for fuck sakes, can she not just crack once in a while? Like, maybe go off on a hapless bystander who accidentally steps on her toe moments after she finds out her whole department is being handed pink slips? Or lose it on the teller who tells her she is sorry that my mom’s rent is due tomorrow but it is bank policy to hold her cheque for five days. Perhaps, when she’s on public transit, she could just give a swift elbow to the face of the snoring lump who is drooling all over her brand new jacket. I’ve tried to goad her, “Look, mom! Your shoe is scuffed, and he didn’t even apologize.” “I bet if you demand to see the manager, he’ll give you the money. If he doesn’t, tell him he has a small penis.” “Just punch the guy in the eye! He’s asleep; he won’t even know it’s you.” She just shrugs. So, often I’ve fought her battles for her (and yes, I did get the manager to release the cheque and make the sleeping lump cough up twenty bucks for her dry cleaning bill. It can be very unnerving, I guess, to have a twelve year old demanding such things).

Growing up, my mom’s duck feather-like tendencies have come in handy for me on more than one occasion. For example, the time I was arrested for loitering at the mall. I had been sitting on top of a row of payphones gossiping animatedly with a group of friends. A security guard came along and demanded I stop loitering. I politely answered that I was not loitering, I was on the phone. For some reason, the security guard did not see the humour in my response, though everyone else within earshot did. He told me that he would come back in five minutes and if I was still “on the phone” he would kick me out of the mall and I would be arrested if I tried to come back inside. I should have taken a page from my mother’s book and simply shrugged before walking away. Instead, I answered back that that was just what the security guard had told me in the morning right before he kicked me out of the mall.

Yep, he arrested me, if a security guard is actually capable of arresting someone. The police were called, I was hauled away and my mother had to leave set (she was a stunt woman at the time) to come pick me up. My mom happened to be playing the part of a prostitute that day and she did not bother to change. When the police explained what happened, and I filled in the entire conversation, my mother started to laugh. “Come on,” she said. “That was a cute response.” The police agreed and eventually began to chuckle as well. The security guard was so mad that he actually had spittle running down his chin, which added to the comedy. The police uncuffed me and let me go. When my mother explained she was not a cheap hooker, just playing the part of one, one of the officers asked her out on date, which she accepted.

That incident is pretty representative of my high school career. I was constantly being sent to the office for sleeping in class, mouthing off to the teachers, and smoking dope in the bus shelter. My mom, of course, just smiled politely, probably singing the Oscar Meyer wiener theme song in her head while the principal lectured her on my behaviour. Afterwards, we would go out for ice cream or burgers and make fun of my principal’s appearance. I often wondered why she did not get upset at me for all of the trouble I caused. I asked her once and she responded with, “When I was your age I was a high school drop out with a toddler. Who am I to tell you how teenagers should behave? You’ll figure it out eventually and then you can let me know.” Then she added her famous, “Things will work out in the end, D.C. I’m not worried in the least.”

I bet at this point you’re wondering to yourself, but surely this woman had to have freaked out at least once in her life? The answer is yes, she has. I’ve seen it but three times. The first was when I was a child. I threw a tantrum in public because I wanted pop instead of milk with my lunch. My mother took me home and showed me what a real tantrum looked like. She hurled herself to the floor where she proceeded to kick and flail about while screaming about how unfair her life was. Then she stood, brushed herself off and promised that the next time I throw a tantrum, she would join right in so everybody could see how it was supposed to be done. It was terrifying and awesome. My first and last tantrum.

The second time my mother truly lost it was in high school. As I mentioned, she was so calm and unaffected during her high school visits that when my guidance counsellor called a meeting, I did not think much of it. My mother’s eyes glazed over moments after being seated across from him. She nodded as he talked about my poor grades, tendency to sleep in class, and how I trained a rat to run to the front of the classroom, scare the shit out of the math teacher, whom the students not so affectionately called Mr. Simpson because of his remarkable resemblance to Homer, and then run back to me while Mr. Simpson danced on top of his desk, shrieking.

Finally, the guidance counsellor asked if my mother understood his point.

“Um, no,” my mom answered. “What is your point, exactly?”

“I think your daughter is a little too…challenged by the coursework at this school. I think she would be better served by a school that offers basic classes that will train her for life directly out of high school. There are plenty of programs that will help her start her career as a hair stylist or cook directly after graduating.”

“Wait,” asked my mother. “Are you calling my daughter stupid?”

“No, of course not. That would be rude,” he answered, smiling smugly as if my mom and I were both too stupid to catch the insult in that response.

My mother took a deep breath and stood. Her fists balled tightly at the side, she began, “Mr. Guidance Counsellor, the only stupid person in this room is you. I am NOT sending my daughter to a school where she can learn Basket Weaving 101 simply because it would make your life easier. I suggest you grow up and get a real job so you can afford a real pair of pants that don’t go up your ass. Seriously! Every time I come here, you’re wearing the same cheap tracksuit! You think my daughter has issues? If you ever pull me out of work again to give me one of your pathetic, unwelcome opinions, you will find out how many problems I can make for you.”

Then my mother turned to me and shouted, “You! Get back to class right now. And try to stay awake for it, would you?”

I stood, eyes wide as saucers and hurried out the door, my mom following on my heels. She turned and yelled, “And by the way, my daughter has a life outside of high school. She has friends, works two jobs and babysits for a stripper who doesn’t get home until 4am. If she does happen to fall asleep in class again, don’t fucking call me.”

She slammed the office door and stormed down the hall without even a backwards glance. A couple of my friends who spent more time in the office than any of their classes sat in chairs waiting to see the principal or counsellor next. One of them said, “That was fucking amazing!” I nodded and went to class. Once there I forced myself to stay awake.

The third tantrum my mom threw was not that long ago. It had been one of those days where everything went wrong. I can’t recall exactly what the issues were but I knew she was having car trouble and my boyfriend (the mechanic) was out of town so he couldn’t help. We were sitting outside of The Second Cup and she either spilled her coffee or noticed a chipped nail.

I was in a bad mood, having experienced all the happenings of the day right along with her. “Come on, Mom. Doesn’t that make you mad? How’s that for icing on the cake that is today. Throw a tantrum, yell, get upset. Don’t just shrug or you’ll get an ulcer…” I goaded her like this a few more times.

Finally, my mother put down her coffee, slammed her fists against the car horn a few dozen times and yelled, “FUCK! FUCK FUCKITY FUCK FUCK DOUBLE FUCKER ASS FUCK TITS!”

After a moment of shocked silence I asked, “See? Don’t you feel better?”

We burst out laughing, tears streaming down our faces and finally my mother acknowledged that yes, she did feel better, and she should do it more often.  So while I strive to be a little less bitchy and more like my mom, she is trying to be a little more like me. Only she’s doing it better because I could never look that cute while screaming a string of obscenities.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2012 8:59 am

    Your mom sounds like a hoot, very cool.

  2. zencherry permalink
    July 14, 2012 3:47 pm

    You hit the jackpot in moms D.C. I’ll trade you. 😉

    • July 14, 2012 5:34 pm

      Yeah, I’m quite fond of her, really. She is a great best friend. We will all hang out if you ever come to Toronto or I go wherever the heck you are. 😀

      • zencherry permalink
        July 14, 2012 5:49 pm

        That sounds great actually. I’ve been to Toronto when I was a teenager. LOVED it even if it was for only overnight. I’m in Louisville. (Loo-uh-vulle) Accent on first syllable. Now you have the secret ‘handshake’ to the weird that is my town and will be a native. Just let me do most of the talkin’. 😉

  3. July 14, 2012 3:59 pm

    OMG! I can understand how infuriating this could be, I am the same way…. why get upset, it won’t change anything, I’ll just not like myself when it is over. :-).

    Occasionally I vent, but my friends work know as long as I swearing it is venting, if I pull out the words you need a dictionary to understand – which are of course the people those words would be directed at – that is when someone is in danger. 🙂

    Kodos to your mother for being able to always see the funny side of life.

  4. July 18, 2012 1:33 pm

    Wow! What a lady she is! Wonderful story, thanks for sharing!

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