37: My Very Unpredictable Mom

37: My Very Unpredictable Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

My Very Unpredictable Mom

Prudence keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy.

~Samuel Johnson

We never knew what my mom would do next. She was adventurous, impulsive, and unpredictable, and she never worried about what our family—or anyone else—thought about her.

We were not wealthy, but my mother loved to travel. She reveled in saving nickels and dimes, little by little, to take short trips. Every time she went out the door on another short venture, the neighbors would laugh at her and say, “There goes Mary again—with her suitcase and her five dollars.” She didn’t care. Mom was on her way to another new experience.

One year, she even managed to get to the New York World’s Fair. When she arrived there with her friends, they suddenly decided to stay in the hotel and not venture out at all—after traveling from Pennsylvania! Mom wasn’t about to miss that huge World’s Fair, so she went to it by herself, and came home with glowing reports, showering us with loads of brochures about our exciting future. I don’t think she missed a single exhibit.

My mother was also ingenious. Her own mother was extremely ill when Mom was a child. That forced my mother to quit school in the sixth grade to be her mother’s caregiver. But my mom’s mind was sharp and inquisitive, and she absorbed facts like a sponge. When she grew up, she and my father were raising our family on my dad’s income. As our expenses rapidly increased, Mom wanted to work, but she had no office skills and could not type—so she became a waitress.

While working at the Press Club in our city, she soon learned that if a person got their favorite drink, the tips were higher. So wherever she traveled, she’d learn the favorite drink of that city, and memorize how that drink was made. When reporters would come into the Press Club and want a drink not known to our city, she’d take their order, go to the bar, and from her remarkable memory, she would teach the bartender how to make it—which glass to use, salted rim or not, the exact ingredients—and gain another very satisfied customer, plus a nice tip.

She became so good at her job that she eventually became the head supervisor of a posh country club’s dining room.

My mother was also impetuous. When my husband and I moved to California, she came out for a visit. There was a vineyard next to our tract of new homes. Our neighbor next door built small motorcycles. Always curious to learn something new, Mom went over to his garage to watch his progress. Soon the air was filled with the blasting roar of an engine tearing through the rows in the vineyard!

Thinking my neighbor was testing one of his newest creations, I glanced out, and was horrified to see my mother, astride a motorcycle, tearing up and down through the rows of grapevines and laughing as she bounced over one dirt hump after another!

We were terrified that she’d crash and injure herself, but she managed her ride just fine, pulled in, clicked off the engine, and came back to our house beaming, saying what tremendous fun it was.

On another California visit, I took her to the Los Angeles County Fair, which was known as the largest in the world. She was like a little child, eagerly inspecting one exhibit after another and enjoying all the new and interesting items.

A feature at the fair was the Monorail, which rode underneath the rail to give fairgoers an airborne look at the expansive grounds. Of course, my mother wanted to ride, but we got so busy looking at exhibits that by the time we got to its entrance, it was late. The Monorail ride had closed.

The next day, we went back to the fair so Mom could get that ride. But lightning began to flash, the clouds opened up, and rain began to pour. Because the Monorail ran on electricity, it was immediately shut down—with the passengers still inside!

Fire trucks were rapidly called into play. One by one, the passengers began to be removed, brought safely down a ladder to the ground.

As we watched, a distressed look formed on Mom’s usually happy face. “Gosh, I wish I were up there on that Monorail,” she said, as she eagerly watched all the exciting action.

“Don’t worry,” I assured her. “The fair runs four more days. We can still come back for you to get that ride.”

“Oh, no, that’s not the problem!” she said. “Just think! If I were up there now as a passenger, I too would have to be helped down that ladder by a fireman, and what an outstanding experience that would be!” That was my mom, the adventurer.

She could also be a prankster. One year, during one of her California visits, we took her to the famed Farmers Market in Los Angeles. It’s a unique place where Hollywood celebrities often shop. While we saw no celebrities, Mom had a wonderful time exploring all the unique foods and other items, and buying gifts to take to the family back home.

A few weeks later, I was talking to my aunt, Mom’s sister, by phone. We were discussing all the interesting things Mom had done during her visit with us.

“And how did you enjoy all the unique goodies Mom brought back from the Farmers Market?” I asked.

“Oh, they were all fine,” she said, “but your mother was up to her usual tricks.”

Probing further, I asked, “What are you talking about?”

“Well,” she said, “she invited us all over to tell us about her exciting visit, and to give us the gifts she bought at the Farmers Market. Everything was fine, except for one item. Your mother served each of us some special chocolate-covered delicacies that she had bought there, and they were quite delicious.”

“Well, what was wrong with that?” I questioned.

“The chocolate was fine,” she said, “but it wasn’t until we had each eaten all of ours that she told us we had just eaten—chocolate-covered grasshoppers!”

I howled with laughter at that one.

But Mom also used her ingenuity for good. Whenever she felt that a city law was harmful—especially to the elderly—she would check the laws as they were written, do some homework, and then go down to the City Hall meetings to appeal for change. Since she always had her facts down pat, she sometimes got those laws revised. My sixth-grade-educated mother was never afraid to stand up to anyone, even the honorable City Council and Mayor.

My children have often told me that I’m just like my mother, which I consider to be a wonderful honor. I feel that I’ve definitely inherited her intense love of travel, adventure, ingenuity, curiosity about new things, and yes, even her quirkiness. I’m extremely proud—and grateful—that I had her for my mom.

~Kay Presto

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