For everything weird about myself, I blame my parents. I have ample proof that they are the reason I am what I am. Seriously! Read on! You’ll see it too!
When I was little, I used to slip into my parent’s bedroom, early Saturday mornings. I would sneak under my parent’s comforter and wiggle in between them.
My dad would wince at the feel of toe-shaped ice cubes planted suddenly on his hot calves. He would reach under the covers and grab my feet. I would squeal as he dragged my foot out and place it to his mouth, pretending to eat it.
Eating feet turned into tickling, which turned into me climbing up on my dad’s stomach and telling him he had bad breath.
“So, do you! Morning breath!” He would breathe out as if breathing fire, and we would laugh.
“Have you been practicing?” he would ask me.
I would produce my cold hands and curl my fingers to my thumb, leaving my pointer finger slack. And then I would wring my hand until, click, click, click, the resounding strike of a finger against a thumb.
“That’s right! A little faster, now!”
My dad would do it, too, curl his big fingers to his thumb, except for his pointer finger, which he left slack. Together, we would strike our fingers against our thumbs. Together we would make the sound of grasshopper wings.
I am somebody who can make the sound of grasshopper wings with my fingers. Can you?
And my weirdness didn’t begin and end with my dad! Check out, my mom!
My mom would turn every terrible thing, fun, as if the terrible thing wasn’t so terrible but merely an exercise in an attitude adjustment.
“Okay!” she would say, lining us kids up in the kitchen. “We are going to see how fast we can sweep, vacuum, dust, and do the dishes! Ready?” She would raise her arm as if holding a starter’s flag.
We would lean over, positioning ourselves in a runner’s stance.
I don’t think my mom ever really timed us. That wasn’t the point. The point was we were cleaning, and we were doing it together. The bonus was that she didn’t have to threaten us to clean the kitchen. She didn’t have to make promises or dole out punishments for a sparkling family room. My mother made cleaning a fun challenge, and we all worked together. We would even sing as we went.
The only downside is that now I have this surge of utopian energy whenever I see something unpleasant that I’m facing—like a toilet that hasn’t seen a bristle brush in a while.
What must that look like to somebody who doesn’t know the origin? How must I look, a devilish grin on my face as I squirt toilet bowl cleanser, watch the blue liquid swirl around the gunk and raise the brush waiting for an unseen signal as to when I can begin scrubbing? See? Insanity!
I even sing as I do it!
The song I sing to get me in the mood is from the Russian Dance scene from the Nutcracker Ballet.
A middle-aged woman, still in her pajamas, without makeup, without dragging a brush through her tangled hair, and toast still stuck between her teeth, standing in front of the vanity mirror. She takes a beat. Ready?
Her reflection waits. Get set!
“Dun ta da da dun dun ta da, dun ta da da, dun ta da!”
In my mind, the entire bathroom is clean before Clara can enter the picture and join the Russians squatting for the Trepak. I blame my mother for this.
Then there is their relationship. My parents like each other. I mean, seriously, like-like each other.
“We’ve been dating for fifty-five years,” my mom told me recently.
My mom thinks my dad is just so charming. Her eyes light up when he enters the room. He buys her a dozen red roses for their anniversary every year. That is six-hundred-and-sixty red roses over their marriage!
My dad thinks my mom is just so clever. He picks up on her subtle jokes and grins. When my dad has a bad day, the only thing that calms him is knowing my mother is nearby.
When he had a tumor the size of a softball removed from his sinuses, even before he woke up from surgery, his subconscious was searching for Grenna (Grenna, that’s his nickname for my mom—I don’t know why).
As we sat at his bedside waiting for him to wake from anesthesia, the skin around his eyes was hardened lines, and the beats coming from his heart monitor were sharp peaks and valleys.
“Jerry? Jerry, you’ve got to calm down,” the nurse said, glancing at the monitor.
His heartbeats continued on their angry spike until my mom leaned close to his bedside and placed her hand over his knee.
“Hi, honey,” she said in that soft, quiet voice of hers, a voice that could be a stand-in for Disney’s Snow White. The lines around his eyes flattened out, so did the jags of his heartbeat monitor. With my mom in the room, my dad knew he was safe.
What’s worse, my parents just like being around one another! They go on long drives to sit and talk without the distraction of anything else but the scenery.
They still go on Friday night dates, just like they always have. And they hold hands, even while walking in the aisles at the grocery store. Isn’t that bizarre? Who are these people?
These people are my parents. They are beautiful people who have worked hard their entire lives. People who know every letter, every meaning in the heavy word, Struggle, (eight kids, remember?), but it’s easy when it comes to each other.
They are people who love one another, and they are people I want to pattern my relationship with my husband after. Who is the weirdo that wouldn’t? Not me.
I love you, Mom and Dad! Thank you for being you!