Sunday, August 15, 2010

Home alone

The other day I was fondly remembering how my mother cooked endless meals for us when we were kids in Switzerland. She also spent a lot of time driving us to the doctor, cleaning the house, and picking up all our sheddings and messings; and while I have no recollection of her being bad-tempered about this with us, I do remember her listening repeatedly to a Bruce Springsteen song about getting shot at point blank range. I figure now that she must have been recalibrating the meaning of moving from the third world to the first-world nation.

Anyway, in a fit of gratitude, I took her out to dinner at a somewhat fancy restaurant. All that slaving for us has worn her poor body out to the point where a wild, splurgy dinner out means soup and a sandwich, followed by going to bed. I don’t know how anyone can drag out this latter process for an hour, but she has some shamanistic routine involving pots of cream, mysterious medicines, aromatic sleep aids, and an unbelievable amount of pottering around.

At any rate, at the end of the meal she announced her post-prandial plan, which was to go to bed. In the spirit of sharing, I announced my post-prandial plan, which was to go to my favourite neighbourhood bar and have a beer or two.
“How nice. With whom?” she asked.

“By myself,” I said.

Apparently this was the wrong answer. Her eyes developed the Hood of Anguish, which is what your mother’s eyes develop when she thinks that going to a bar by yourself is how alcoholism begins.

“Going to a bar by yourself is how alcoholism begins,” she said. I think I saw Ingmar Bergman giving her the thumbs up from behind a pillar; I definitely heard a ghostly violin playing just behind her left shoulder.

“I’m just going to have a beer, you know,” I said.

“By yourself,” she said, shaking her gory locks at me. “In a bar.”

Mother-daughter dynamics being what they are, if I’d had any doubts about the wisdom of my plan, which I didn’t, they would have vanished instantly. I smiled my steeliest smile, wished her a vigorous bout of putting herself to bed, and sauntered off to my bar, where I had a pleasant evening drinking my beer, listening to music and staring at the wind-blown trees. I was so irritated by her foreboding, though, that I had a couple more beers than I would otherwise—it was happy hour after all. In fact just thinking about the foreboding makes me need a cocktail…

No, but seriously, the fine art of going out for a reflective, solitary drink is dying. Even the waiter who attended my table kept looking around in befuddlement, saying, Ma’am is alone tonight? Yes, I said, ma’am is alone. Nice night, isn’t it? He looked deeply uncomfortable and scuttled off.

I sat there, nobody bothered me, I paid my bill like a responsible citizen, and buggered off home. It was great. I bet that if I’d had testicles instead of ovaries, none of this would have been anguishing, or befuddling, or uncomfortable-making; the Hood wouldn’t have appeared. How irritating can a parent be?

The worst thing about a nagging mother, though, is not having her around. I’m so fond of ignoring her ambient anxiety that a commentary-free life seems less luxury than chore. She’s gone off to visit others of her children (on the flimsy grounds that she loves them too) and while I should be out dancing on tables somewhere, all I’m doing is moping and missing her. In case she’s reading this: I may have to go and drown my sorrows.


dipali said...

I am quite sure that I will morph into my mother, despite all my efforts not to. I think it comes along with the kids, the potential for endless paranoia:(

Mike Todd said...

Very nicely written piece, and a fun read.

I don't have the confidence to hang out alone in bars. But I have a baby now, so unless they start serving alcohol at Babies R Us, it's no longer an issue.

gouri dange said...

gosh i know the Hood. and really the worst part is that i'm now Hooding offspring, nieces, nephews, partner, friends. when I'd sworn i would never.
gouri dange