Wednesday, March 23, 2011

**On Meeting My Son's Mother for the First Time

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 24, 2011]  © 2011

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting my son’s mother for the first time. 

You have no idea how long I’ve waited to use that line.  (OK, 33 years.)   My older son, Rory - the blond blue-eyed one who looks like me as opposed to my biological son who bears no resemblance to me at all  -  was finally able to meet his birth mother, Erika, and introduced her to the rest of the family soon after. 

This was definitely a Locator moment.  Erika cried, I cried.  Erika is a lovely warm sweet person, the long-awaited missing link.  She also comes with a duplicate in the form of an identical twin.   Our grandson, Elliott, is trying to sort out this Guinness Book of World Records of grandmas:   me, Nana (his maternal grandmother), Grandma Jean (my former husband’s wife), and now Oma Erika and Oma Twin.  Even Rory says he is going into hiding on Mother’s Day in May.  Hopefully, 1-800-Flowers has a multi-mother discount.

I know this was closure for Rory to finally meet Erika but it was for me as well.  I’ve always felt a strong connection to Erika, my forever-16-year-old silent partner and sine qua non co-mom.  I’ve thought about her thousands of times, although I have to confess that the first 950 were in the form of “Who spawned this child?????”  From his earliest days, Rory was a handful, quite possibly the most diabolically creative child (and prankster) ever to be unleashed on this planet. 

The Rory stories are so plentiful and varied – like a terrorist, he never repeated anything twice – that they are just referred to in family shorthand:   “The Cleveland Airport crisis” (he was just faking the seizure), “the Mom’s office fiasco” (the campus police dropped charges) , “the Chinese restaurant disaster” (we felt compelled to leave a 70% tip),  and yes, even “the Bomb Squad debacle” (in Rory’s defense, the HazMat guys should have realized right away it wasn’t a real bomb BEFORE they cordoned off the area).  

 As Olof always said, “Rory looks for excitement.  And finds it.” 

I actually chronicled many of these incidents which now have considerable entertainment value but which at the time I was planning to use as my defense.  Because there were at least 200 occasions when the 20 years in prison would have been worth bludgeoning that kid to death.  

Of course, I didn’t tell Erika that. Or that if I sent Rory to his room, he’d open up both his windows and whack on his bed with a tennis racket shrieking “Please don’t beat me, Mommy!”  Or worse:  “No, no, don’t touch me there!”  (Those stranger awareness classes in grade school were perfect fodder for someone of Rory’s creativity.)

His handmade Mother’s Day card the year he was 10 read:  “You’ve been like a mother to me.” 

So among my burning questions to Erika were:  “Were you into practical jokes?  Embarrassing your family in public?  Siccing social services on your parents?”

No, she said, puzzled.  Why?  She did admit, however, to being a “total handful”, the despair of her mother.  OK, so there’s definitely a “handful” gene going on here.

Rory is now a happily married successful professional and a total love.  He still likes to keep his hand in the pranks just for old time’s sake, most recently appropriating the library card number taped to my computer and ordering me up a long list of books including a guide to coping with hemorrhoids and colitis and another on the intricacies (graphically illustrated) of lesbian sex.  Another, The Book of the Penis, sported its own convenient eight inch ruler on the binding.  Actually, they all turned out to be really educational reading; I sent him a book report on every one. 

I made it one of my life goals to live long enough for Rory to have a son.  And he does.  But Elliott, at four (an age by which Rory had long exhibited holy terror tendencies) is the sweetest easiest kid imaginable. It is so totally unfair.  But Rory recently had a daughter.  I’m trying to imagine a female Rory.  And the possibilities are totally delicious.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Talking To The Tomatoes At Vons

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published March 10, 2011]  © 2011

It’s a phenomenon I call “Talking to the Tomatoes at Vons”. 

You’ve seen it yourself:  A well-dressed La Jolla matron is poised over the tomato station in rapt conversation with the produce.

Several possibilities immediately come to mind, none of which are mutually exclusive:
(1) She is certifiably nuts.
(2) Her conversational companion has fallen into the tomato display and is awaiting assistance by the next available associate.
 (3) There is a Bluetooth ear piece hidden by a perfectly coiffed blond head.

The social dilemma of determining whether people are off their meds or just oblivious cell phone users has been widely documented.  But People Who Talk to Produce is a newer phenomenon. 

Of course, People Who Talk To Produce often talk to canned goods, hard cheeses, and pasta sauces as well. Once you get going talking to food, it’s pretty hard to stop.  I’m finding this an alarming development.

Pretty soon it will need a DSM-IV classification.  Drugs will be used to treat it, including Paxil used off-label.

Since Vons is pretty much the cradle of civilization in La Jolla, it’s pretty hard to go there and not encounter someone you know.  More problematical is encountering someone you know who is not carrying on a conversation with an invisible someone else. 

There is a woman I see there frequently whose son grew up with mine.  She walks toward me smiling brightly, gesturing with her hands.  She appears to be waving.  I push my cart in her direction, smiling and waving back.   “Hi!” I exclaim as she approaches.  She points at her ear, and keeps on walking. 

Minutes later I see her Communing with the Cauliflower.   

Obviously, Customers Who Commune with Cauliflower and Chat With Cantaloupes are a direct result of hands-free phones.  Pushing a cart and holding a phone to your ear just didn’t allow you to adequately squeeze the squashes, handle the honeydews, palpate the papayas, or even fondle the foccaccia. 

But freeing the hands seems to have had a curious effect on the mind as well.  There seems to be some mechanism in those ear pieces that transports people to another dimension where they become the Anointed One in a private universe of dispensable deaf mutes.

If I knew how to set up a web site, I’d create one called  Not just Vons, but in bank lines, restaurants, sidewalks.  OK, so 95% of cell phone conversations border on the criminally inane.  But mixed in to all that oral vomitus are Social Security numbers, nasty gossip, addresses, alarm codes, more nasty gossip,  intimately personal medical information, financial details,  really really vicious gossip, and travel plans including dates people WILL NOT BE HOME.  The kumquats are pretty good about keeping secrets, but can the rest of the world be trusted?

If I could figure out how to use the camera part of my phone, I could even include a photo of the speaker.  Or a video clip.  But I would probably have to worry about hearing from someone’s lawyer.  Because even though the person said something in full earshot of a bin of Idahos, there is probably a law on the books protecting privileged communication between a person and a potato.

None of this really helps to answer my original questions, however.  I confess that what I really want to do when I see people talking to the tomatoes at Vons is tap them on the shoulder and ask:  are the tomatoes answering back?