Tag Archives: mom

To catch a fugitive: Christmas Edition

30 Dec

Image source: google images

My sister lives about 30 minutes from my parents, so our tradition is to drive up and have dinner with her family on Christmas Eve. This year was no exception and it was almost 9pm when we pulled out of her driveway to return to my parents’ for the night.

Ten minutes later we were stopped at a red light near Briarwood Mall. Through the intersection, we saw three cars, all parked in weird places and at odd angles. Steam rose from the hood of the third car. “Do you suppose there’s been an accident?” my mom asked.

We were still puzzling it out when the third car suddenly reversed and peeled out, flying toward the mall and away from the accident at a break-neck pace. “Do you think he’s fleeing the scene?” my dad asked from the backseat.

That was the only nudge my mom needed to zip through the light and investigate. She pulled through the intersection, pausing next to the remaining car, where a man was standing outside it on his phone, looking incredulous. “Did that guy hit you?” my mom called out to him.

The guy confirmed that he had. “And did he just take off?” my mom continued. Again, the guy nodded. “Yeah – he just hit me and left. Can you believe that?”

“I’ll see if I can get him,” my mom told him, goosing her Prius into  action. Had she owned a police light, she would’ve rolled her window down and smacked it on the roof. We sped into the Briarwood complex, the parking lot and surrounding streets deserted from the earlier crush of shoppers.

As we started winding our way along the street circling the mall, something caught my mom’s eye off to the side. There, parked at a drive-thru bank, was a car with its lights off, steam still rising from its hood. “That’s him!” she yelled, cutting a wide, obvious u-turn to circle back to the bank.

Time-out as we assess my mom’s performance as a private eye for a moment:

  • Pros: eagle eye, fearlessness
  • Cons: discretion, stealth

No sooner had we pulled into the bank parking lot than the “perp” hopped back in his car and sped away. (He’d been standing outside it, presumably assessing the damage and calling a friend to pick him up). Mom, no shrinking violet (see pros listed above), pulled out right after him yelling for me to call the police.

What then ensued was was a game of cat and mouse as we tailed this guy all through the Briarwood parking lot, with my mom trying to get close enough for us to read the license plate, my dad trying to figure out the last four digits on the plate, and me shouting the letters we could see to the police dispatch, all as the guy did his best to lose us. It was a scene worthy of Home Alone.

Finally the guy DID manage to lose us – mainly because I urged my mom to stop matching his speed. (Sorry, mom!) We’d only been able to identify three of the seven digits for the police, but they also had the make/model and year of the vehicle, so between that and the fact that his radiator was probably out of fluid and would grind the car to a halt soon, they seemed fairly confident they’d find him.

“If only you guys had let me really chase him, we could’ve nailed his ass,” Mom sighed.

“Well, if you’d been driving my van, we could’ve used my binoculars to get the plate without needing to chase him,” Dad sighed.

At that I had to laugh, imagining the call the police would’ve received about US if my parents had gotten their Christmas wishes:

Image Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_nkdggYHwcLc/S2nAWRTFJ3I/AAAAAAAAAuE/hvEaRCQoHMY/s320/prius2042.JPG

“I’d like to report a Prius driving recklessly in the Briarwood parking lot. It’s going about 60 mph, ignoring the pavement markers. It appears to be driven by two white-haired grandparents – and one of them seems to be trying to birdwatch!” 

 

However you spent YOUR Christmas, I hope it was memorable! 

From Russia, with (Not Exactly) Love?

9 Oct
Mom and Alicia on our train TO Naples - when everyone was healthy (but apparently tired).

Mom and Alicia on our train TO Naples – when everyone was healthy (but apparently tired).

 

I thought the Cold War was over, and – Putin aside – Americans and Russians generally got along now. I may have been wrong. That, or we encountered a group of Russians who were having an incredibly bad day as we left the Amalfi Coast.

Monday we took the train from Salerno to Rome. It was the same train we’d taken to Naples earlier in the week, so – having learned from our first ride – we wisely chose seats on the western-side of the car so we’d be shaded for the ride.

We were a bit nervous about the journey because my mom had woken up sick as a dog the previous day. She’d been in such bad shape (a self-rated “1” on a scale of 1-10) that we’d explored the airline’s policy for changing tickets so she wouldn’t have to travel until she was better. But, trooper that she is, she rallied for journey from the coast back up to Rome.

So we found ourselves sitting on the shady side of the car, my mom slumped in a seat with a wad of toilet paper in her pocket to combat her perpetually runny nose, crossing our fingers that we’d be able to make it to Rome with as little hassle a possible.

Things were looking good – until (about an hour into our journey) we pulled into the Naples.

At Naples, it felt like the entire population of Italy was boarding the train. We looked at each other, relieved that we had claimed our seats before the masses joined. And then, without warning, there was suddenly a group of five very large people hovering over us, frowning and pointing at our seats.

My sister, our translator for the trip, said, “Scusi…” then asked a few questions in Italian about the seats that elicited blank-stares. She tried English. They shook their heads, still frowning. Then – hearing them talk to each other – a lightbulb went off and she harkened back to her college years and tried Russian. Boom!

Turns out, the five angry people hulking over us were Russian and had reserved the exact seats we were sitting in. While there were plenty of other empty seats in the car, they were hellbent on having the precise seats that were on their tickets. The thing was – they wouldn’t show Alicia where on their tickets the seats were indicated. She wasn’t asking to challenge them, but rather the figure out how the seating arrangements worked since we couldn’t find any seat numbers on our tickets.

They just kept glaring at us and jostling us and speaking loudly to each other. My mom looked confused. I sat there uselessly holding a half-eaten apple.

[Back-story: Just before the train stopped, my sister asked if I wanted to split an apple. She handed it to me to start – then began composing a text message, which took about ten minutes. I’d eaten my half of the apple well before we’d pulled into the station, but had continued to hold the core, waiting for her to wrap up the text so she could have her half. In the middle of this, the confusion ensued, so I was slowly realizing we were going to need to move, I was going to need to somehow move a backpack and two suitcases down the car and my hand was incapacitated because it was lamely holding a half-eaten apple.]

Finally, I knew what needed to be done. I handed my mom the apple and said, “C’mon – we need to move. They reserved these seats.” I gestured to some other seats down the car. “We’ll just go sit there and get out of the way while we figure out where we’re supposed to sit.”

Much like a puzzle, where you need to move one piece to a temporary spot to make room to move the right piece into place, we needed to maneuver into a temporary space to get out of the Russians’ way so they could claim their seats. But they were standing in the temporary space and got angry when we tried to move into it, despite the polite hand gestures and earnest looks I was giving to show our intention was only temporary.

We finally managed to extract ourselves and move down the car, my sister and I relaying our bags to a new location while my mom carried the apple. We eventually got a nice Italian guy to look at our tickets a show us where the seat numbers were hiding – and got situated in our new block of seats on the opposite end of the car. (To do so, we also had to displace another group of people, but we were nice about it and took the time to point out on our tickets – and theirs – where the seat numbers were located. I’d like to believe our interaction was educational as opposed to confrontational.)

Once we were parked in our forever-seats, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. My mom offered up the apple, which was now browning and had been through too much – by which I mean “held by a sick person” – for anyone to want to eat. We wrapped it in a bag. Alicia pulled out her knitting and resumed working on a scarf.

“Well,” I commented. “That was certainly a cluster.”

Mom nodded.

Alicia got a big smile, “At least I got to speak some Russian!”

I’m not sure we did anything to strengthen US-Russian relations with that little interaction, but at least we didn’t start an international incident.

When I shared this with Alan after returning home, he got caught up in the frustration of the story. Before I could finish, he was offering up Russian phrases he’d learned while living in Georgia. I don’t speak Russian, but even I could tell he wasn’t using the word “mother” to talk about my mom’s health.

Probably best that he wasn’t on that leg of the journey.

 

Chicken Three Ways

25 Mar
A threesome of chickens.

A threesome of chickens.

Wait. Before you think I’m dramatically changing the focus on this blog and have a sexual interest in poultry, let me explain…

Tonight I’m giving thanks for having some culinary skills. I think my life would be infinitely less rich if I didn’t know how to cook. I may not have won Top Chef (yet!), but I do know my way around a kitchen. I routinely surprise myself with the meals I can construct on the fly with random ingredients in my fridge.

The meal that prompted my most recent pat on the back was this: A chicken roasted from scratch (thank you, 40×40!) served with the most amazing roasted asparagus… then plucked and used to construct… white bean and sausage cassoulet… and garlic penne with chicken and asparagus. A week of meals, all created in less than an hour (if you ignore the hands-off cooking time).

Friends who are intimidated by the kitchen often ask how I learned. Here’s my answer: I had a good role model. My mom didn’t teach me to cook – or instruct me on specific recipes – but she has modeled a few things for me:

  1. Be curious. She often flips through cookbooks or magazines and earmarks pages for things she wants to try. She doesn’t always make them, but they add to her knowledge base.
  2. Don’t be intimidated. Cooking isn’t exactly a mystery when you’re driving off a recipe. Someone else is giving you explicit instructions – so as long as you can read and follow directions, you can basically cook anything. This might explain why – after being impressed by Chicken Divan at a “Brunch with Bach” (the gold standard for our community’s quarterly cultural events) – my Mom found a recipe and tried her hand at it. It rocked.
  3. Improvise. I don’t think I can open any of my mom’s cookbooks without finding recipes that include her handwritten notes of modifications she’s made – either based on what she had on hand, or the family’s preferences. I think her experimental notes would earn an approving nod from scientists.
  4. Take risks. I can’t remember the specific risks my mom took, but I DO remember the occasional meal hurled straight into our compost bucket – which tells me she was pushing her limit. It also makes me realize I’m doing something right when I spend four hours trying to create crunchy spiced nuts and then end up having to write-off an $8 bag of walnuts because it’s all stuck to my wooden spoon.
  5. Pay attention. You’ll start to realize what works well together – and develop your own library of what to combine when you need to add a pinch of something to get the flavor just right. This makes you confident and nimble – and able to create your own recipes.
  6. Love food. If you enjoy eating, cooking isn’t a chore – it’s an adventure.

So that’s my gratitude for the day – knowing how to cook, and having had a great role model to inspire me. Thanks, Mom!

Now if you’re interested in the most amazing asparagus ever, comment and I’ll share it. Warning: It involves a wee bit copious amounts of bacon butter.

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35dv15

Revenge is best served in clogs.

24 Oct

I haven’t posted about my noisy upstairs neighbor for a while, not only because I didn’t have much fodder for a post, but also because I didn’t want to jinx things by telling you how good he’s been.

Oh, don’t get me wrong — I’d never mistake his unit for vacant. But he’s been pretty good about limiting his walk-abouts to more normal hours, quieting down by 11pm and not starting up (officially) until around 6am most day — unless it’s the weekend, in which case he’s pretty good until around 7am.

That’s a vast improvement over his previous schedule (during which I could only bank on silence from 1am – 4am each day).

This weekend my parents were visiting from Michigan. I always get a bit tense when I have guests, hoping Michael remains on good behavior so everyone can get a good night’s sleep. Before going to bed the first night, my mom asked how the noise situation had been lately.

“Great,” I told her. “It’s much better than it was. I can actually live with the pattern we’re in now.”

“That’s great,” she responded. “You know what you should do? Take him a bottle of wine or something and make a big deal out of how good he is – a little positive reinforcement.”

I nodded thinking, “No thanks — he’s not THAT good.”

Fast forward to the next morning. I was brewing coffee when my mom emerged from the bedroom around 8am, which is early for her vacation schedule. “Sleep well?” I asked.

“Until the last hour,” she commented. “Ever since Michael got up, I’ve been hearing him.”

“Well, at least it started around 7am,” I said. “That’s at least reasonable.”

The look on Mom’s face told me she didn’t find 7am reasonable. “You know what you should do?” she asked, oddly reminiscent of the previous evening’s conversation. Bracing for another lesson in positive reinforcement, I was halfway through an eye roll when she said, “Make friends with the people who live above him. Then you can go up there and stomp around to pay him back.”

There we go. Now that’s the kind of advice I expect from someone who once gift wrapped dog turds for a guy who let his dog crap in her yard. In fact, I won’t be surprised if the next time they visit, she brings along a pair of shoes that look like this:

You say tomato, I say Gestapo.

28 Sep

Saturday morning we ran to the farmer’s market so I could pick up some fruit and greens for a salad. (Side note: I discovered kiwi berries, which, if you like kiwi fruit but HATE peeling them, this is the fruit for you – think of grapes that taste like kiwis.)

On the way there, we were breaking one of my pet urban rules: we were walking three-across on the sidewalk. Fortunately, my mom was tuned into our surroundings, and realized someone coming up behind us would need to get around. She stepped aside, grabbed my dad and me by the shoulders, and loudly announced, “Let’s wait a second so this gentleman can pass.”

The thing is, that gentleman had breasts. No sooner were the words out of my mom’s mouth, than my dad and I exchanged an uncomfortable look and my mom clapped her hand over her mouth. We dropped back a few paces and let the woman gain some ground before we spoke again.

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