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Momma and Me

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Susan Bankston 2What’s the difference?
by Susan Bankston

I always knew I would become my mother. She became her mother, so I figured it was a family tradition. Yet I was startled to look down at the end of my arm one day and see my mother’s hands. And when I found myself doing her little tap-tap-tap thing on the car window with my fingernail (her way of getting me to look at something, which used to drive me insane), I didn’t know whether to burst into tears or just give up and graciously become an old Baptist lady.

I chose the former, because I was born without the slightest graciousness. Momma always blamed that on Dad’s side of the family.

Momma is eighty-seven years old, and I love her. As long as I have known her, memory has never been her strong point. But since she is a gorgeous natural blonde, people rarely expect her to remember anything. Besides, she’s always had me, her firstborn—I was always pretty good at remembering.

Our telephone conversations used to go something like this:

Momma (trying to tell me about a show she saw on TV): It had that guy in it, the actor, you know…that guy. What’s his name?
Me: I don’t know, Momma. What guy?
Momma: Oh, you know. The one in that movie.
Me: No, Momma, I don’t know.
Momma (firmly): Yes, you do. He was in that movie, you know, with the blonde actress in it.

At this point, I begin checking off possible movies in my head. Giant, no. Speed, no. Rainman, no. (I find it helps if you get the one-word titles out of the way first.) Gone with the Wind, no. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, strong possibility. Any Doris Day/Rock Hudson flick…that’s it!

Me (excitedly): Rock Hudson!
Momma: Noooooooo. Not Rock Hudson, that other guy.
Me: The other one? Momma, help me. What does this actor guy look like?
Momma: Oh, you know who I’m talking about. He’s tall.

Paul Newman, no. Mickey Rooney, no.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not in movies.

Me (heavy sigh): Robert Redford, Harvey Keitel, Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, Jeff Bridges, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Barrymore, Morgan Freeman, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart…
Momma: Now you’re just being sassy.

She caught me red-lipped. I am pretty good at being sassy. Two hours later, she calls me back.

Momma: Joseph Cotten.
Me: No, Momma, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
Momma: No, Miss Priss, the actor—I thought of his name. Joseph Cotten.

Then she smugly hangs up, leaving me with cotton on my face.

I am telling you the dead-solid-perfect-hard-down-absolute truth that I had no idea who Joseph Cotten is, and until that very moment I thought no one else did either. In fact, I didn’t even know how to spell his name until I looked it up on the Internet machine. And, of course, I spelled it wrongly.

As the years have gone on, Momma still can’t remember diddle squat. The problem is that now I can’t either. Momma didn’t change with age, I did.

I misremember where I put things. Well, it’s a little worse than that—I can lose a bass fiddle in a phone booth. The only reason I have a landline is to find my cell phone. I use the landline to call myself and then walk around the house listening for my cell phone ring. And when I find it, I misremember why I put it there.

Or why I ever was in that room today. How many people besides me find their cell phone in the refrigerator, because they set it down in there while putting away groceries? Please tell me that a lot of people do that. Please?

Now phone conversations between Momma and me are a two-woman square dance:

Momma (trying to tell me about a show she saw on TV): It had that guy in it, the actor, you know…that guy. What’s his name?
Me: Momma, I lost my TV again.
Momma: How can you lose a TV?
Me: Well, not the whole TV this time, just the remote control, but I can’t turn on the TV without it. Best I can figure, that actor—the tall guy, the one in the movie—must have come in and taken it.
Momma: Now you’re just sassing me.

Yeah, I am. It helps me pass the time until I find the damn TV remote.

Yes, I checked the refrigerator. Now you’re just being sassy.

Susan Bankston lives in Richmond, Texas, where she writes about her hairdresser at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc., at juanitajean.com.

 

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Susan Bankston

Susan Bankston lives in Richmond, Texas, where she writes about her hairdresser at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc., at juanitajean.com.

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