A Day With My Mom
We've spent a long day going to doctor's appointments with my mom. Nobody’s seriously ill, it’s the weekly trip. My mom suspects a couple of ear infections in little kids, the baby needs her shots updated, Everett has some warts to be removed, Brian has an infected toenail, and my mom has to see her obstetrician, of course.
It’s been all day waiting in stuffy offices, reading to the little kids, trying to keep them quiet while my mom chats with receptionists; with nurses, thinks of hundreds of questions for the doctor- and then the long sit in the beast - our big, brown van that my sisters and I will have to push to get started if my mom ever comes out of the pharmacy. We can see her through the window talking with the pharmacist, laughing, waving her arms wildly, telling stories with her hands. We can tell by the body language she’s telling them the one about her fall off the roof and she’s winding down to the punch line. “Mommy’s coming right now” I reassure the little kids who are close to killing each other or climbing out the van windows if they have to sit for 3 seconds more.
I see the punch line and -Yes!- the pharmacist is laughing his head off. The girl at the cash register is doubled over and several customers who’ve given up pretending to mind their own business are grinning wildly. My mom waves and turns to the door- she has to leave them laughing. “OK, here she comes” I say. Everybody in your seat belts”. Finally. My mom has the door open she’s looking at us smiling. But then -No!- her eyes glaze, her smile freezes, she turns back- an encore. This audience is too good to leave so soon- she’s thought of one more story -a short one, it’ll just take a minute. Everyone in the van lets out a moan and the kids wail and claw at the door. I feel I have no choice- I pretend not to notice when one of them manages to pull up the lock and then leaps to the door handle- only when the door is open and the first kid is out, running to the pharmacy door do I feign shock, surprise, and betrayal as I lunge for the next kid in line and keep them from escaping. If more than one escapes my mom won’t believe it was an accident. She won’t be happy as it is- a sweaty kid bursting on stage in the middle of her closing act - she has to cover quickly with some small joke, wrap it up and make her exit.
“What is going on out here?” She demands once she’s in the car. “I told you it wouldn’t take 3 minutes and then we’d go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you guys can’t be good for three minutes while I fill a prescription I’m going to drive straight home.” She still has a dreamy smile on her face though. She loves this pharmacy. My sisters and I jump out to push the van then we’re off to the KFC drive-thru and the drive-thru intercom system which my mom can never resist.
“Welcome to Kentucky Fried Chicken can I get you a 10 piece meal today?”
In response my mom sings a few lines in Italian from Pagliacci in her best opera trained voice. There is silence for almost a minute when she finishes- finally a weak “Can I take your order”.
“Oh yes,” my mom says laughing “Sorry I couldn’t resist. Let’s see how many I've got with me today.” She starts counting us out loud even though she knows very well how many children she has. Then she starts in with the questions- how many pieces in the ten piece bucket- 10 of course, but how many breasts, thighs, etc? How many sides, can she trade a coleslaw for another potato- or gravy for extra biscuits- if she gets the five piece and the ten piece how many legs will she have in all? Can she swap the wings for legs? And can they give her plenty of moist towelettes? After several minutes the teenager at the other end is completely lost. “I tell you what”, my mom says reassuringly, “I’ll just drive around. I hate talking on these things.” She drives around to the window where a nervous looking 17 year old is waiting. We can see other gawky young kids in uniforms eyeing my mom as they come near the window to fill sodas and get kid meal toys.
Face to face my mom is able to work out her order, though the teenager still looks unsure. Then my mom asks if she could do her just one little favor- she motions for me to pass her the diaper bag with her insulated cold pack and pulls out a baby bottle of what we in the car all know is breast milk.
Could the teenager just pop this in the microwave for 15 seconds. The girl stares at the bottle like it’s a bomb looks around her little work area for back-up. She doesn’t know the KFC policy on this one. “Oh, it’s ok’, my mom says soothingly, “They do this for me all the time. It’s for the baby.”
“Umm okay…” the girl says as if she just needed to be sure my mom wasn’t going to drink it.
She heads off toward the microwave and my sisters and I ,who have been staring stoically into space with half smiles stuck on our faces, all moan in unison “Mom, she’s probably going to get fired.”
“Oh you guys! You get embarrassed over the littlest things.” Then the girl is back with the bottle and our chicken and we all smile again. My mom thanks her profusely and she looks pleased to have been of help and relieved that this transaction is over. My mom says goodbye and starts to pull away when she and the girl remember no money has changed hands. My mom slams the brakes throwing the 5 piece chicken into the dash then backs up laughing- “I almost got away with that one.” She quips. Then she starts feeling around her lap, her hips, the pockets of her shirt and her cheeks lose all color.
“Where’s my money” she says staring at me. I shrug, still smiling, but feeling a little panicky myself. “Your bra”? I mumble trying not to move my lips. My mom lets out an enormous sigh “My bra!” she exclaims so that the girl in the window, whose face has been growing redder by the second, jumps. My mom then pulls the front of her shirt away from her chest and peers down into her bosom then reaches in up to her elbow and pulls out an enormous wad of money. “Almost gave myself a heart attack!” she says to the stunned girl as she hands her the money. “You sure are a cutie. Have a fine day!”.
Of course in the excitement of her near heart attack she took her foot off the gas and the beast has died in the completely flat drive-thru lane. My sisters and I -still smiling but now concentrating very hard on being someplace far away, some future place, – no kids – sipping hot chocolate on a soft couch in a quiet beautiful room- get out of the beast and start to push.