June 13, 2004

my mum

I'm about to head out to NJ to attend a family dinner celebrating my mother's retirement. After 17 years, she's finally saying goodbye to her secretarial job at the Salvation Army (or the Sally Anns as she and her fellow Scots like to say). Whenever I told someone that my mother worked for the SA, they automatically assumed that she was one of those people in uniform standing next to a kettle ringing a bell at Christmas. Nope.

Anyhoo, after stints at Cunard Lines, Hahne's department store, King Tours and the SA, my mother is finally calling it quits. She's off to Scotland for about three weeks and then returning home where she can spend her time with my also-retired father. He worked at NYU from the day he landed in this country. Similar to the confusion surrounding my mother's employer, most assumed my Dad was either a professor or a doctor. Nope. He's a skilled carpenter who won the respect and admiration of those doctors and professors with his fine craftsmanship.

But back to my mother. She's quite an interesting character. Soft-spoken and sweet and sometimes stingy with a laugh. She holds tight to her religious convictions and vocally objects to profanity and "crude" talk, as she says. But that doesn't mean she's all stodgy and doesn't have a sense of humor. When my mother cracks up, it's because something is REALLY funny. Saying the word "fart" won't send her into fits of laughter. Instead, it will send her into a lecture. We were totally not allowed to use that word. She'd prefer that we not discuss gas at all but as children, if it came up, we either "banged", smelled a "bang", protested that we were not responsible for said "bang," etc. She hates scatological humor and won't tolerate it. I, on the other hand, giggle uncontrollably when it comes up. I guess it's still a novelty with me since it was forbidden in my house. Kind of like soda.

My mother is quite good at impressions too. I've been told that I'm a good mimic and this is where I get it from. Stories from her childhood, encounters at work or retelling of conversations with her Scottish and Irish friends are always accompanied by a dead-on delivery of the appropriate accent. She's got quite a gift for it. One of my favorite stories involves a parent-teacher conference when my oldest sister was in kindergarten. She had an awful teacher who should not have been allowed anywhere near kids. Only a few weeks into the school year, the teacher pissed off many parents with her ridiculous assessments of 5-year-olds. A fellow Scot named Betty (who despite having lived here for over 30 years has not lost a speck of her accent) is rather rough and tumble. She smokes like a chimney and is quite salty. She's also barely over 4 feet tall but when she speaks, she strikes an intimidating pose. The "daft" teacher said to Betty, "Your daughter doesn't know how to use scissors." Betty bellowed in her thick Glasgow accent, "That's because I don't let her play with scissors!" Written that way, it may not seem all that funny. With my mom's delivery it's a hoot: "That's cuz ah don' let her play we scessors!"

So Mum, even though you'll never read this blog and because we're British and don't say much of this crap out loud, I'm so proud of you. You've worked hard and deserve to spend your time doing what you love -- worrying about your daughters, telling stories, hanging out at church, baking Irish soda bread and Empire Biscuits... and then working them off at Curves.

Ta gra agam ort.