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
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 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.