May 10, 2015
So anyway, this Sunday was Mother's Day all over and everybody who had a mother they knew about paid observances, each as to their wont. Mr. Howitzer drove over the bridges to Colma with his pellet gun and flowers to attend to the mausoleum of Dame Edna Howitzer. The flowers were for his mother. The pellet gun was for the crows which seemed to like to gather around the family plot for some reason, and he could not get the groundskeepers to pay heed to his complaints. Which served to confirm his patrician opinion of the hoi polloi's course temperament.
The Cribbages got together with the Blathers to trundle their surviving mums over to Scott's Seafood for the elegant champagne brunch there. As the elderly Maryanne Cribbage was helped out of the limo, she remarked, "You don't have to go to such a fuss over me, Sonny. I am going to give it all away when I pass away to that group you call 'pinko commies'."
"Now, now mother . . .".
"I am. I am giving it all to Greenpeace. So you can just relax."
Sonny Cribbage muttered something under his breath.
"What is that you said?"
"I said the anchor-outs were turning the estuary into an old, nasty ditch. A ditch is what I said."
"It looks fine to me."
"It's getting cleaned up. Come along, mother."
Over in the Plushly Apartments a phone rang.
"It's so nice to hear your voice. I so seldom see you and you never call."
"I tried calling you on the cell I got for you but you didn't pick up. Did you get the voicemail?"
"Uh, well no. It sort of broke."
"It broke?! Did you drop it?"
"Now the man at the store said maybe if I let it dry out it might start working again. After a few weeks. Do you use the rotary phone I saved from when did the switchboard for Ma Bell?"
"Mom, we don't have rotary service here. It will not work."
"Well what kind of cheesy place do you live where a plain old telephone won't work? Genie are you living in a dive?"
"Mom nobody has rotary service anymore anywhere in California. Eventually even the regular pushbutton phones are going away."
"I don't believe you. How come mine still works?"
"Is that the phone Tim got you from Sharper Image?"
"Well yes, the other one stopped working. I guess it was just old and tired -- like your mother."
"Mom that phone just imitates the action of a rotary. Inside it acts just like a touch-tone."
"Well that sounds like going backwards against progress if you ask me. Here I am alone all the time with no one to talk to or care for me and I never get out . . .".
What happened to Susan? And Tim and Mona? I thought they were coming over with the kids . . .".
"O they are so delightful! Joshua and Kate and Stevie and Nicholas and the baby . . . ! At least Mona gave me grandchildren. Not like some of my children . . .".
"Mom . . .".
"Whatever happened to that girl Valerie you were dating?"
"Mom, that ended fifteen years ago. She didn't like trout, remember?"
"Always such a loner type. Never wanted to share his toys with the other kids. You know Genie, there is a girl at the bowling alley where the Senior Group goes to relax . . .".
"Mom . . .".
"Listen Genie, her name is Darlene and she is divorced, but that is okay because I said you live in California where they get divorced all the time -- except not you. You have never, ever been married. Not even once."
"Mom, you live in Boston."
"She lives in Worcester. Which brings me to ask, when are you coming home?"
"Home? You live in a retirement community. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I have been living here for forty-five years."
"You could come for a visit; maybe you would like it. You know Darlene really knows how to handle the balls at the alley. She's divorced, you know. She really knows how to handle the balls . . .".
"Don't be shocked, Gene, you are old enough to know how to do it. Now we are going to have a party for Kate and I want you to come, because it is very important. She is almost engaged to Ari Cohen and in June she is going to be circumcised in their religion and we have . . .".
"It's important in their religion when the children come of age, you know. The girls get circumcision veil and the boys get . . . uh, I forget . . .".
"I think you mean Bat Mitzvah. Girls don't get circumcised."
"Oh Bat Mitzvah! That sounds familiar! But whatever. You have to come out for that because this is the union of two very different families. Maybe. Possibly. Gene I want you here. And Darlene will help with everything."
"Why this Darlene?"
"She's half Jewish. Gene, come out and meet Darlene. We can all make yontif together. We have trout in Boston . . . ".
"Mom, no, I can't get away . . .".
"Oooooooooowwwwwwwww! All my little ones are growing up and getting married and moving away from their poor, lonely mother! And I raised them when they were such cute little babies, mewling and puking and full of crappy diapers. All by myself. Your father never helped. Ooooooooooowwwwwwwww . . ."
"Remember that Halloween when you put on your pirate costume and you had that accident at the Steinhauser's?
"Mom. No I don't remember."
"You went pissy boo in your costume and that's when we found out you didn't put on any pants underneath! How everybody laughed! You were so cuuuuuuute. Not like now."
"Mom, I don't want to remember that . . .".
"You never call, you never drop by. I could slip and fall into that toilet and wind up just like that sad cellphone all dripping and useless and no one will hear me calling 'help!' Help a poor old abandoned woman left all alone. Helllllllllllp! Oooooooooohhhhhhwwwwwww . . ."
"O for pete's sake."
"That's okay Eugene. You just go ahead and enjoy your live all by your self with your trout for company while your poor, dripping mother stares out at the flakes of snow falling, each flake as cold as the hearts of some ungrateful people . . .".
"Okay mom. . . "
"Ooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww . . .".
"Mom. I'll come out."
"O that's super. I tell Tim to fix up one of those airline deals with his company. He can come pick you up at the airport. I am sure I can get him to drop everything as this is so important."
"Yeah, I am sure he'll like that. Happy Mother's Day, mom. I gotta go now."
"Okay, I gotta get things ready. So many things to arrange. And tell Darlene!"
At the other end of the spectrum, the Household of Marlene and Andre took their mothers out as part of the annual ritual to Mama's Royal Cafe in Oaktown, those that still had mothers here on the West Coast. This included Sarah and Suan and Pedro. Tipitina's mother had long since passed away in Shreveport and Marsha's mom lived back in New Jersey at the Weehawken Maritime Retiree's Home. Rolph, of course lost his mother suddenly that fateful day on the bridge over the River Spee in Berlin, so they gathered together with Xavier, Piedro, Jose and Jesus who all had mothers living in various parts of Mexico to whom they sent such money as they had managed to scrounge up, and the group collected to make a day's outing in a Ride Share car up to the Berkeley Rose Garden.
Occasional Quentin, who at any time could have been called a motherless child, got with Marlene and Adam and the waif Little Adam, who had come to the Household after being thrown from the car by his cruel stepfather. They went down to the beach until Snuffles the bum called Quentin over for company and to share his gallon of ninety-nine cent wine.
Of Javier, nothing had been seen for days, and it was expected he was either getting into trouble with another wild woman or had already been murdered by one of them and they would get the news from the police any day now.
"Wussup with Quentin? How come he is so wierd," Adam asked.
"Hush now. No one in the Household is wierd, only troubled in their own way. You can call him simple if you like," Marlene said.
"Yeah, well, why is he so simple then?"
"Adam, he lost his entire family in a ferry accident years ago," Andre said.
"After that some people . . . took advantage of him with the drugs and so he went simple," Marlene said. "He actually has a kind heart. Remember how he showed you how to make a sailboat out of paper?"
"Yeah, I guess he be cool." He paused a long time before snuggling up to Marlene, the girl with the barren womb who would never have children of her own. "I seen kids who sure be messed up. I guess I got lucky rollin' them bones. Sure enuf."
Andre looked at him and the creases on his face turned up so the scars on his face given him by both his father and mother back in the IDU days of his own early childhood seemed to fade out into the tats. The time of broken glass and belt buckles across the face gone faded into ancient history. "You make us feel lucky, Adam."
And the girl Marlene let her long black hair fall over the child that was become theirs, a gift from the fly-toy gods who use us for their sport, safe for the moment from all that is out there that would steal the laughter of a young person. Becoming now a madonna and child, recapturing the lost innocence conserved . . . .
Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked in front of the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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