Scene: Me in Seattle, Mom in Los Angeles. I’ve had three beers. I talk with my sister on the phone:
Me: “Well, she’s gonna need some weed.”
Me: “Seriously. Get her some weed. She has to stay put in a chair. Get her some weed.”
Sister: “I don’t have any …”
Me: “Right. But who do you know?”
Sister: “Iris is here …”
–A beat and some shuffling–
Me: “Put her on the phone” (pause) “Hey, Dollface. Iris, give my mom some weed. … Yes, edibles are good. She likes to eat. Make it happen, please.”
–Another beat and some more shuffling–
Me: “Okay. So Iris is going to give Mom some edibles.”
Sister: “Okay …
Me: “Keep me posted. Love you. Bye”
My mom had broken her ankle in Los Angeles and I was making a drug deal for her from Seattle.
There was little else that I could do for her, being two states away, but I knew that marijuana helped pretty much everything. Even if it just meant keeping that woman sedentary in a chair with her casted food raised up in a chair and a bowl of ice cream off to her left. Weed means munchies, sure. But it also means sitting still. And I was dealing with a woman who, after a full hysterectomy, got up and vacuumed the whole fucking house. She’d rarely vacuumed before (I usually did), but, under doctor’s orders not to do anything, she decided to do everything. And she got a hernia. Just because she was instructed not to.
So, from Seattle, I scored my mom some weed.
My mom is known for falling down. Not even just into holes. She falls on flat ground. Holes, too, yeah. But mostly flat ground. The occasional slightly raised sidewalk. And, when she goes down, she squawks like a felled bird. And when she fell and broke her ankle this time, she said, “I squawked and said ‘ow, ow, ow!’ and imagined you and your dad just rolling your eyes and laughing.”
Which made me feel kind of shitty.
Sure, every family vacation was marked with my mom falling down. Or stubbing her toe. Breaking it, even. She always would. It was just a thing that happened.
“Momma,” I said, “I didn’t laugh or roll my eyes. What I did was worry. When Jeannie called me on my lunch break to tell me that you had fallen down at work, I decided to give it a few hours before I called you. I wanted you to get your cast, get home, and have some wine. Which clearly you have had. Chard from Sonoma? 2011? Good year. And how’s Bernie the Dog doing?”
When I was just a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old, I used to ask my parents to tell me funny stories at breakfast. I wanted to spit milk or juice out of my mouth, all over the table and the plates of food, and their stories let me do that. The stories of my mom angering a bull by running into his pen and then running back out, tripping, and dirtying her pink dress (she always wore a pink dress in this story) gave me license to spit breakfast beverages out onto the table. Stories of my mom falling down always made me laugh.
“Your sister!” my mom says into her phone to my sister, glaring at me from the driver’s seat of my car, me stomping around somewhere near a gas pump somewhere in the South, Louisiana maybe, during my escape from Florida.
My mother driving through the fucking Southern United States with me. Flying to fucking Florida on a fucking red-eye from fucking San Francisco and picking me up out of the fucking hole that I had fucking fallen into, driving me back to fucking California.
“‘Your sister!'” my sister says to me, these days, any time that I’m acting up.
And we fall down with laughter, together. Every time.
My favorite thing about my mom, always, is how she smelled when she picked me up from daycare: like suede and the wind. And how her hands felt in my hair when she gave me braids. Or put those spongey pink rollers in my hair.
And her laugh.
My mom always lights up a room with her laugh. Sometimes, she really gets a room going with a snort. The woman laughs and then she snorts. Then she laughs and she snorts some more. And then she wanders around and falls down somewhere and she laughs and snorts some more.
She is a woman who cut her teeth on a farm in Missouri and then went to high school near the beach in Southern California. Once upon a time, she got arrested for playing Frisbee past curfew in college. She spent some time in jail. That happened in the early ’70s. But that was before she grabbed her backpack and caught a flight to Europe. She tells me that she learned how to make Enchiladas in Spain. She met a family during her travels and they took her in, taught her how to cook all Spanish-like. I totally believe her. With a smile, a laugh, and a snort like hers: of course she made family friends in Spain.
Before Spain, my mom learned how to make pasta from an Italian family that her parents sent her to live with during the summer of her 16th birthday.
On a trip to Greece, my sister fell down and sprained her ankle. I iced her ankle and made sure that she got the best pizza in all of Greece. I may or may not have told the story of my sister’s fall with a great amount of charm and a fantastic laugh. But, I didn’t snort.
My sister got our mom’s smile. And her nose. And her propensity for falling down. It happens all the time. Every time that she falls, she squawks just like our mom. She also cooks with the creativity and confidence of our mom. It’s almost like she’s got Europe in her veins.
I got our mom’s eyes. And her hands. Her tenacity. Her name. Her first name is Mary. My middle name is Maria; I’m named for her.
Which is why, when our mom falls down and breaks her ankle, my sister is there to make her a delicious dinner, to pour some wine, to have some laugh-snorts. And it’s also why, when our mom falls down and breaks her ankle, I broker weed deliveries.
Because that’s what I can do from here, for there, to make her laugh.