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What’s My Item?


The Escape Hammer

The Escape Hammer

 

My mother – who has been mentioned before in this blog, affectionately, if weirdly – has been affectionate and weird again, just in time for the holidays.

This has become a holiday tradition – considering that my birthday is exactly one week before Christmas – if Christmas is on a Thursday, then so is my birthday – I usually get a double-dose of wackiness in December.

My mom, much like myself, is unconventional. Only imagine how unconventional SHE is, if, when I open a present from her, I never fail to be perplexed and amused.

None of the regular Mom-type gifts from Betsy. Forget sweaters, shirts, scarves, or earrings. I got a cool frying pan once, that I still use – it’s amazingly easy to clean, which is to be expected from my fanatically tidy Mom – no matter what you char inside of it, it just wipes off, and it’s not even non-stick. I have no idea where she found it, or what she paid for it, but every time I caramelize onions, I think of her gratefully.

Which is, oddly, probably exactly what she had in mind when she gave it to me.

Last year she gave me homemade dishtowels, potholders and place mats – in assorted, non-matching colors. It took me a few days to figure out exactly what they were, but they were nice. The potholders don’t keep your hands safe from the heat, the place mats are a little too thick for the table, and the dish towels are kind of an odd size – plus the colors are pure Betsy: but my little one loves them, because they’re sort of rainbow, as in “I used up all my cotton yarn on you.”

Still, the thrill of opening a gift from Betsy is like nothing else. There is no way on earth one could possibly ever guess what’s inside, because there’s no way anyone else got you the same thing.

Wait – that’s not quite true. You CAN get a heads-up on what you got from Betsy – if you manage to get a hold of one of my sisters: because Betsy does things in triplicate. Whatever I get, my sisters also get. So whoever opens first, knows what the other two got.

This year is the quintessential Betsy gift. My mother, in addition to being Joan Crawfordesque in her quest for the most immaculate living space possible, is also Grizzly Bearesque in her quest to keep her “babies” – all of us adults, now, with cubs of our own – safe from any harm that might befall us.

Harm includes: rain, snow, sleet, ice, sunburn, disease, random cartoon safes falling from the sky, hangnails, paper cuts, broken bones, hurt feelings (commenters, beware), and a host of other ills that plague her soul daily.

Her coping strategy is usually “out of sight, out of mind,” which allows our thousand-mile distance – she lives in a southern state, I live in New York – to mitigate her anxiety somewhat. That, and a massive capability for denial, for example:

Me: “Mom, I took the kids to the city today to see the exhibits at the Met – we had a really good time.”

Mom: “By yourself?”

Me: slapping forehead, muttering “stupid self, stupid self…” “Oh, no, Mom – We just happened on a regiment of Marines here in town, and they offered to escort us down. Wasn’t that lucky?”

Mom: breathing a deep sigh of relief “How nice. What nice boys. Did they enjoy the Monet?”

So this year, although I live in a landlocked area, and work from home, and rarely drive more than a few miles to anywhere, I opened a small rectangular package containing a small, heavy, extremely sturdy double-pointed steel hammer.

Upon inspection – lots of inspection, which included a Google search – I learned that this was the “famous” Escape Hammer – proven by the Mythbusters Show as being able to shatter the windows of a submerged automobile, in the event of such a disaster.

“You screw it somewhere easy to reach in your car,” Betsy explained, excitedly. “And then, if your car is ever underwater, you can get out the window! I got one for everybody. And Mythbusters tried it and confirmed that it works, so you won’t have to die.”

Reassuring – and especially interesting, as I happen to be between cars at the moment, and I doubt that Enterprise would appreciate my screwing anything to the Dodge I’m currently renting.

But who wants to worry Mom?

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Embarrassment? I’m Bulletproof.


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Elizabeth Williams Bushey in concertI’m a grownup. That means I can eat frosting right out of the can if I want to. (Yes, I said the CAN. Is there anyone who still makes homemade frosting? Okay, then, you probably aren’t a parent with a job. And if you ARE a parent with a job, and you still make homemade frosting, and get everything else done you’re supposed to do, then you must be my very nice, but gobmackingly perfect sister. Please forward a package of your frosting in one of your gazillion extra organizing tubs.)

I have a vehicle. I can drive to the mall anytime I please. I’ve got a cell phone, too, complete with a butterfly charm from the Icing at the Galleria. How cool am I? I have a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, and I rock with it. I even perform onstage. With a real wireless headset mike. (Testing. 1, 2, 3…) I am SOOOO AWESOME.

Oh, wait, I forgot – I’m the Dork of the Universe.

I’m someone’s mom.

Please do NOT TALK TO MY FRIENDS, MOM.

Please do NOT KISS ME, MOM.

Please DO NOT EMBARRASS ME, MOM.

Now: I, my own self, am nearly impossible to embarrass, being a rather outspoken, outgoing sort. (Anyone who sings in public doesn’t exactly have a low embarrassment threshold.) But one does have to remember what it’s like to NOT be a grownup.

We were in McDonald’s, happily enjoying our happy meals.

“Mom!” Urgency crept into my daughters’ voices – an alarm so deep I wondered for a moment if an armed gunman had entered the establishment.

I bent my head, the better to hear their agonized whispers.

“Ourfriendfromschooljustwalkedin. PLEASE DON’T EMBARRASS US.”

Okay. I don’t mind being considered a dork by my kids, even though in reality, I’m fairly cool. They’re supposed to think I’m a dork. I’m the one teaching them right from wrong, sending them to bed, etc. If they DID think I was cool, I’d be messing up.

But there I was, sitting quietly in McDonalds – a restaurant I don’t even like all that much – minding my business, not doing any of the things they generally hate, like talking to their teachers, or their friends’ parents, or performing.

I’ll admit my baser instincts got the better of me. C’mon, we all – a little bit – hate it that our kids don’t know how cool we really are, don’t we? Don’t we all wish, deep down in our black hearts, that our kids could have seen just how awesome we really are?

“You would have WANTED to be my friend when I was your age!”

Isn’t that sometimes what you want to shout? “You would have thought I was cool THEN!”

So, more than a little peeved about accusations before actions, I stood up.

“You mean, embarrass you by doing something like… dancing to no music at all?”

I began to dance. Slowly, deliberately… embarrassingly.

“Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, Mom, pleasepleaseplease sit down, I’m begging you!”

“Something like this? Is THIS what you’re afraid I might do? Or maybe…”

“MOM!”

I sat down with a smirk. “Eat your dinner. She didn’t see.” She didn’t. Naturally I was watching. I DO take care not to embarrass them. Whenever possible.

I do recall that feeling when you’re a kid. Grownups realize everyone else in the universe is so wrapped up in themselves that they’re not paying anywhere NEAR the amount of attention you once thought they were. But kids are still the center of their own universes – the heroes of their own movies, and everyone else is a cameo player.

Extreme self-consciousness is so vivid, so much a part of your life, that any hair out of place, any fold in the cloth of your shirt, any label that’s not up-to-the-minute current makes you feel like a pariah.

You know you’re a real grownup when you realize the “pariahs” – the ones who dance to their own music – are who make the world so very, very interesting.

Kids love McDonald’s because it’s predictable; it’s always exactly the same chicken nuggets, precisely four, precisely cookie-cuttered into the same eerie, unnatural shape.

We grow when we peek beyond the predictable, to investigate: who that is dancing around the corner?

Look: no, really. Look.

(photo credit: © 2006 Tom Bushey)

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