If Mom were a superhero, she would be The Piddler.
When she needs to wash her hands, she’ll look through coupons first. If she needs to pick up the dry cleaning, she’ll stop at the antique store on the way. And when she needs to go to work, she’ll watch a rerun of Ab Fab, then show up half an hour late claiming, “Traffic was just awful today,” which, turns out, is every day.
I’d like to say that old age is responsible for this poking trait, but Mom’s always been a world class stoner without the weed.
When I was a Sid-and-Marty-Kroft kid, we’d always roll into church during the second hymn. I can still recall Birdie Cullen’s glass eye popping over to sneer at us as we inched down the red carpet to an open pew in the front (always in the front!) while the congregation sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” completely off key.
[Church was where I first realized that God hated me, but we’ll get to that later.]
My sister, clever mother of five beautiful children whom she manages with aplomb via color coated folders and spreadsheets, often gives my mom the incorrect time for family functions so that mom is sure to arrive on time.
“I gave her an extra hour,” my sister huffs as she opens the door for Mom who is now thirty minutes late for the event (an hour and a half if you go by the time she was told to be there.)
My brother, a staunch Libertarian who spends most of his Saturdays cooking tenderloin on his Smith and Hawken grill while wearing his sherpa-lined Crocs, bellows to his Belarusian wife, “Expecting her to be on time is like expecting Bill Maher not to cuss. Ain’t gonna fucking happen. Have a radish, monkey?”
“Thank you, Puffin,” she coos before turning to adjust a place setting, most likely from Williams-Sonoma.
They make me sick with their love.
But I’m happy for him.
One time, The Piddler made us late for a funeral.
Somebody’s uncle had died, and we never missed a funeral. They served bar-b-q beenie weenies afterwards, usually with cellophane toothpicks.
On this occasion, we made our way down the red carpet to a pew near the front (of course), right behind the weeping mistress who outed herself that day.
She was the widow’s best friend.
There was a slapping fight in the lobby afterwards. The wife lost her wig. The mistress lost her dignity. I permanently lost my appetite for beanie weenies.
[Why do friends fuck each other’s husbands?]
[Why do Protestant churches all seem to have red carpet? Isn’t red the color of Satan? And whores? And fire? I contend there is evil envy in the church, but we’ll get to that later, too.]
(So many questions, so few acid trips.)
Once again we had to pass Birdie Cullen, always a fixture at any church function, which included funerals, weddings, baptisms and bingo.
Birdie’s face never moved whenever we passed her. She would be transfixed on the pulpit, seemingly entrenched in the pastor’s words, but then that glass eye would whip around to find us, like the Weirding Way fighter training module in David Lynch’s Dune; and boy, could that eye shoot daggers faster than a pissed off carnie.
It was just a matter of time before Birdie’s eye started killing. Of this I was sure.
“Don’t stare,” The Piddler reprimanded, then waved to the church organist, Randy Butterman, the first closeted gay man I ever met.
(Mom and Dad were professional dancers, so I only knew the braggart kind.)
Incidentally, we were late for the funeral because The Piddler wanted to deadhead her geraniums.
Another time, The Piddler made me late for a concert I was supposed to play in high school. I was fourteen, an especially sensitive age.
We arrived at the auditorium fifteen minutes late (in retrospect, not too bad for The Piddler) because Mom wanted to make a quick stop at the drug store to get a new pair of pantyhose since the ones she had on had a run. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and The Blue Law forbade her from buying pantyhose on Sunday.
[You were also forbidden from buying washing machines or frying pans, which I found ironic since most religions like to keep their women cooking and cleaning, preferably barefoot where I’m from. The Blue Law seemed counterproductive. But life is full of these wonderful paradoxes.]
Though Mom was a practicing Presbyterian, she didn’t conform to a lot of religious hoopla, especially if it meant she had to go anywhere with a run in her stockings. After a meaningless but heated conversation with the pimple-faced clerk, she left without a new pair of nylons but did manage to procure a new romance novel, which she read at all the stoplights on the way to the concert, much to the chagrin of neighboring drivers.
When we finally arrived at the concert hall, the orchestra was already deep into the Summermovement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and I had to creep through the violas during the simulated thunderstorm.
To add fuel to the fire, The Piddler kept snapping my picture as Sammy Black, my super duper badass crush, watched me stumble with my cello through a maze of moving elbows. Flash after flare, The Piddler seemed to capture every nanosecond of this bright red moment. At least the flash was in time with the music, and it did add to the stormy atmosphere of the movement.
When I finally arrived at my chair, my nemesis, Sandy Ween, grumbled, “Figures.”
I jabbed her in the head with my bow.
The Piddler snapped a picture.
Later that evening, I asked The Piddler, “When will you develop the film?” I wanted to relive my magnum opus with Sandy Ween over again.
“You know what’s funny?”
“What?” I replied.
“I completely forgot to put film in the camera.”