Friday, January 6, 2012

Della Street And The Iron Maiden

     Regular Chubby Chatterbox readers will recall my accounts of conversations I’ve had with my eighty-six year old mother. It seems that more than a few of you have a Grandma Chatterbox in your life. I’ve learned about problems that so outweigh my own that I feel ashamed of my petty complaints. Nevertheless, when it comes to my relation- ship with Mother I follow the philosophy I apply to the rest of my life—I look for the humor in it.
     I can’t decide if Mom is slipping; she’s always mangled her words and facts, and I don’t think she has a “hearing” disability so much as a “listening” impairment. I had the following conversation with her the other day when Mrs. Chatterbox and I paid her a visit:
     “My shower water is not hot enough,” she blurted out.
     She’s never satisfied with the temperature of her shower water, even though it’s hot enough to poach an egg in.
     “I called this afternoon but no one answered. Where were you two?”
     “We went to see that new Spielberg movie, War Horse.”
     Warsaw? I haven’t heard about that one. But there is a movie I wouldn’t mind seeing when it comes to TV.”
     I can’t remember the last time my mother went to the theater, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the last movie she paid to see featured the burning of Atlanta. We regularly invite her to join us but she always declines saying, “I’ll take a rain check.” With Mom, its always raining. She’s about as social as Howard Hughes and her bladder is the size of a peanut. She doesn’t like to be far from her throne.
     Mrs. Chatterbox was smart enough to remain silent and smile at my mother like a
porcelain Madonna.
     Against my better judgment I asked, “Which movie are you interested in?”
     “It’s that new one with Della Street, where she plays The Iron Maiden.”
     I generally succeed at not correcting her or chuckling, but this time I laughed out loud, along with Mrs. Chatterbox, who quickly dashed off to the restroom to compose herself.
     The lines on my mother’s forehead deepened into furrows. “What is it that you find so amusing? Did I pull a boner?”
     I’ve tried for years to convince her not to use that expression.
     “Well, for one thing, Della Street was Perry Mason’s secretary, played on TV by Barbara Hale. She hasn’t acted in years.”
     “Young man (Mom’s the only one with a pulse who still refers to me as young) I was watching Perry Mason when you were in diapers. I read all of the Perry Mason mysteries before you were born.” (She claims to have read the collected works of Shakespeare before starting the first grade.) “I didn’t say Della Street; I said Meryl Street! You really need to do something about your hearing.”
     The name she was mangling was Meryl Streep, but she’d come close enough.
     Still scowling, my mother said, “So that’s what you were laughing at, my mispronunciation of a name?”
     If I could have kicked myself for laughing I would have. I soldiered on. “You were referring to the movie soon to be released about Margaret Thatcher?”
     “I was.”
     “I thought so. The former British Prime Minister was referred to as ‘The Iron Lady,’
not, The Iron Maiden.”
     “I don’t see much difference.”
     “Do you know what an iron maiden is?” I asked.
     “Of course I do. It’s a medieval impaling device. Bad people were killed by being locked in them. Obviously this “Thatcher” woman was named for her prickly personality.”
     Her glare left no doubt that, at the moment, she considered me one of those bad
     “So, if an iron maiden is a medieval implement of torture it isn’t likely the British would name their beloved leader after one. Margaret Thatcher was referred to as The Iron Lady, a nickname I understand she enjoyed.”
     “Frankly, I don’t see much of a difference,” she said.
      I struggled to explain the difference, and prayed for Mrs. Chatterbox to emerge from the restroom. Mother used the time to poke holes in our discussion, reversing our positions so that I was the rube who’d referred to Thatcher as the iron maiden. If such a device had been handy I’d have willingly climbed into it.


  1. The older I get, the more I identify with Grandma Chatterbox. Btw, how is that movie "War Horse"? B wants to see it, but, I dunno, doesn't look that great to me. (Just so you know, my favorite movie of all time is "Caddyshack").

  2. Sorry, Stephen, I have to go with Grandma's version of Thatcher and "the iron maiden." LOL, though.

  3. First that picture of the old lady was very disturbing. I cringed, so you did a great job. I'm hoping that isn't your mother at this point. Just saying.

    I love stories about your mom. I think as we age we all end up where your mom is. It's just part of the process and I can hardly wait. NOT!

    Have a terrific day. :)

  4. Has your mother always been a Comedian? She sure knows how to drive you crazy well enough!;-)

  5. Sounds like you were already in one and didn't realize it

  6. Grandma needs to be developing scripts in Hollywood.... cause I am down with the old tv actresses in an iron maiden horror film!!

  7. Hilarious. My grandmother lived with us until she passed away at 96 (I was 18) and I can recall simliar word mangles. Too funny.

  8. There must me something confusing about that Meryl Street. My dad once tried to describe watching her and Goldie Hawn in "She Looks Good Dead." Lucky that I was up on my current movies at the time. He meant "Death Becomes Her."

  9. My husband and I occasionally have conversations like this, so I'm tending to cut your mother some slack.

    We saw "War Horse" tonight and loved it. Best movie we've seen in a long time.

  10. I'd still swap your for mine, SP

  11. OMG…seriously – “Did I pull a boner?” ROFL…does she say that in public?

  12. For the record - those of us who lived through The Thatcher Years and lived to tell the tale would be hard pressed to tell the difference between The Iron Lady and The Iron Maiden either :)

    I'm tempted to see this film also - but the fact that it was already being advertised as "the film event of 2012" in December rose my hackles so high that they are still on the ceiling

    Families - Terry Pratchett once said something along the lines that the role of a parent was to put sufficient bends into your character that you could cope in a twisted world. I tend to agree

  13. Thank you for the laugh ; )

    I have a feeling that you cherish these moments and will recall them fondly some day when she's gone. My mother is in her fifties, so the analogy isn't quite there - but I often think of her Mother fondly. Not necessarily for the conversation - but all the weird quirky things that she used to buy for us grandkids, and she wore polyester pants until she passed some time in the early 2000's.
    : )

  14. Mrs Chatterbox is a smart woman. I would have left you alone to bail out that conversation. Your mom sounds like a pistol.

  15. Funny and somewhat reminds me of my mother when she was still living. She was always a Gracie Allen type even when young!