Recently, I went into Benny’s on a mission. I needed to get candles, the ones that ward off mosquitoes, since I don’t have one of those gizmos that zap them in mid-flight. I called out, to a group of sales clerks at the “Help the customer” station: “Do you have salmonella candles?”
The clerks stared at me in disbelief. One said “What?” And I answered, “Oh, did I say salmonella?” “Of course, I meant citronella.” “I don’t know what I was thinking….”
And truthfully, I DON’T.
But one thing has occurred to me: “I’ve become my mother.”
My mother passed on, 5 years ago. She was a tiny woman, by all accounts (5’ tall) but she exuded self-confidence. And because she had a larger-than-life personality, she felt perfectly comfortable speaking out, in any situation. She believed it her right, and she never worried how she sounded; the world of PC would have eluded her totally.
Occasionally, however, she had this propensity to mutilate phrases, or mix things up, in the delivery—not on purpose, mind you, but just because they tumbled out that way. When that happened, she affected everyone’s conversational landscape and often, in comical ways.
Those Mom-specific references loom large in family folklore.
In the 60’s when San Francisco raged with men “coming out of closets,” (to publicly avow their homosexual preference), my mother openly wondered: “Why are these little men popping out of cupboards?” She wasn’t minimizing them–or their stand; she just never realzied what prompted their political action.
Now, we in her family had no idea why she type-cast the men as “little,” even if we did follow the cupboard/closet connection. No matter—it created a hilarious mental image, as we envisioned an army of Pillsbury Doughboys hanging atop swinging cupboard doors, releasing their grip, then lowering themselves onto a stage in a vaudeville tap-dance rendition (like the straw-hat-in-hand cartoon dancers, performing choreographed routines on the television show, Family Guy).
At Easter time, she’d inform us that her contribution to the holiday dinner festivities would be Red Cross biscuits, which prompted us to see (in our minds’ eye) medics racing around combat fields, during a wartime siege… armed with hot cross buns… ministering to the wounded.
She always got just enough right in the wording, to allow us to follow. And it wasn’t always verbal mix-ups.
On one occasion, Mom offered to treat the family (12 of us) to dinner at an upscale restaurant. When she handed the waitress her credit card, at the end of the meal, saying, “Here, miss, put it on this,” the waitress waffled, unsure of how to respond. She looked to us for guidance.
We soon discovered the reason. She’d given the waitress her driver’s license.
So, when I walked into Benny’s that day and asked if they had Salmonella candles, I’m not really that surprised; I’ve been expecting the metamorphosis for some time…the one where I become my mother.
It’s just that when it happened, it made me all the more aware: I am my mother’s daughter.
Biddy recognizes the genetic connection with a parent is powerful. She expects, too, she’ll furnish her own daughters with more fodder for family fun.