©2011, 2018 Mirror Image Edutainment, Alan John Mayer
Living with Mummy was not all war. Sometimes there was peace. Living in Aurora, Colorado, mother’s neighbor across the street was Mrs. Clinkingbeard.
Ruthie, as my mother called her, was a petite, thirty-five year-old mother of three, who showed up at our house regularly. My mother, ever the entertainer, took it upon herself to teach Ruthie, wife of a nurse intern, an appreciation for the finer things in life.
Lesson 1 began at four o’clock, martinis, and hors d’oeuvres.
Lesson 2, “You need to stop buying your clothes at Goodwill” Mummy advised.
Mr. Clinkingbeard, or Jim, as Ruthie called her husband, was a tall man who weighed nearly twice as much as his petite wife, and stood a good foot over her. He was, in the opinion of this twelve year-old family bartender, (me the writer) an agelast (one who never smiles), a chauvenist. One day, Jim Clinkingbeard came to our house, and looking right through my mother, said to his wife “I am hungry. Get home and put dinner on the table”.
My mother stood up, extended her hand and said “Hello. I am Christina. I guess you must be Jim. It’s nice to meet you, too. When you come into my house (and it really was only Mummy’s house) you speak to your wife with love, and respect. She’ll be home when we’re done with our martinis. Now go home, and give her a reason to want to follow you.”
Little Ruthie had apparently never heard anyone speak with such authority. The little woman melted right there, nearly swallowed up by my mother’s mint-colored overstuffed brocade chair, afraid what would happen when she got home. Speechless, Jim Clinkingbeard turned around, and walked out of Mummy’s house, never to return in search of his wife, where Ruthie appeared often, seeking refuge, and culture.
One day, as Ruthie was leaving, I overheard a conversation in the foyer. The topic again was Ruthie’s wardrobe. “What I wear on the outside is not important. It’s what I wear on the inside, on my heart, that is important.”
She betrayed me anyway. Hypocrite.
“That may be so,” said Christina, the designer dress purveyor, buyer for a boutique “But it is what you wear on the outside that is going to make your husband want to take it off to get to the inside.”
The two women came to some agreement, and Ruthie stopped dressing at Goodwill. If Had mother been a size zero, she would have dressed the little woman right there. A couple of years later, after visiting Mother’s boutique, Mummy began buying outfits in size 0, marked them down, and passed her fifty to eighty percent discount on to Mrs. Clinkingbeard as “gifts”. With time, Ruthie became a regular customer with personalized home delivery, and Mummy, who loved nothing more than to dress women in elegant wraps, loved to shop in New York for her. She didn’t care for whom she was shopping, as long as it wasn’t anything larger than a 12. Mummy almost hated fat people.
“If you need to wear anything larger than a size 12” she once said, when forced to work at Lane Byrant “You need to stop eating, and move”.
Just a few years short of her childrens’ college graduation, Ruthie returned to school to finish her B.A., graduated, turned her husband into an ex, and took on a position teaching high school Home Economics. As a teacher myself, I connected with her. After Ruthie and her three children moved, Ruth remained friends with mother. She once said to me,
“Alan, you are the only person I know who bends at the knees, so I am not left hugging your belly button.”
Over the years, Ruth accompanied my parents on vacation to Mexico City, Aruba, and Hawaii. Years later, with her children married, she brought a widowed architect over for one of Mummy’s scrumptuous dinners. Charlie courted Ruthie, like a charm. They fell in love,
(whatever that is)
and three years later, Ruthie Clinkingbeard became Mrs. Charlie Clark. Charlie appreciated and loved his new, “little woman”. Ruthie and Charlie honeymooned in Germany, on a tour of the Mercedes factory in Stuttgart, and ended by buying a new Mercedes, which they drove around Europe before shipping it home. In Bonn they stayed with friends of my mother, whom they had met a year earlier while in Denver.
For their tenth anniversary, Mother Christina invited the Clark’s over for dinner in her living room with the cathedral ceiling, and the eight eighteen inch square windows running the roof line.
But this was no ordinary dinner.
With my father’s help, if not by herself, minus her glass vitrine displaying all her shiny goodies, she moved all the living room furniture into the breakfast and dining room. In the middle of the living room, a twenty by fifteen foot red Moroccan rug on top of white wall to wall carpeting under the fourteen foot ceiling, she set two overstuffed brocade chairs at an antique round three foot table with lion claw legs.
As only Mother Christina can do, she set the table with her monogrammed Irish linen tablecloth and serviettes, her Hutschenreuther Koenigliche dinnerware with the platinum hand painted rims, her silver service, monogrammed, two white candles in silver candlesticks, and a Rosenthal vase filled with delicate pink tea roses. On the table she set a little silver service bell to ring the serveuse, the waitress.
All those years, Mummy had saved her bell. Sad, after the war, she had only me to jump.
Christina greeted Ruthie and Charlie
(it was never Charlie and Ruthie)
at the door,
dressed in a bronze silk floor length gown, flowing with feathers.
“Bon soir, Madame, Bon soir Monsieur” she invited them in. “May I take your coatz, and hat?” Next, she handed them a menü (German and French intonation alike) which she had printed in French, as they got comfortable in the empty living room, she explained the “specialité de la maison”, a seven course meal
(she had prepared herself.)
Beginning with appetizers, she crept into the kitchen, and listened for the bell. The two wedding anniversary celebrators were at a loss what to to, until they realized, when they rang the bell, Serveuse Christina appeared,
After serving each course, she returned to the kichen, closed the door, and waited for the bell.
“Ease everyzing to your zatisfactión, Madame?” she asked.
Through seven courses, she played the game to the end, and after dessert, she presented them with two after dinner mints on a small round silver tray, and a card reading, Thank You for your patronage.
“That was delicious” Ruthie was amazed “What was it?”
“Pah-káhj, it comes in a package from Pepperidge Farm. You’ll find it in ze frozen food zection at King Zoopers.”
The couple rose from the chairs, Mother Christina stepped to the closet in the foyer, pulled out their coats, helped Ruthie into her (she had to have a fur) coat, and bid the Clarks, “Merci — bon soir, Madame, bon soir, Monsieur.”
Forty years later, Ruthie and Charlie have traveled the world together and are still happily married, enjoying their nine grandchildren between them and my mother’s unusual sense of keeping them entertained.
And so it was when I was
Alan Obermayer And now Mother is 100, and along with all but one of her hench women, all three characters in this story betrayed me. Sad.
Now a prayer.
There is one life.
This life is God.
This life is perfect.
This life is my life now.
I give thanks.
And so it is.