©2012, Mirror Image Presentations
“A gracious good afternoon” I said, imitating the voice of Ernestine, the telephone operator, “have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?”
“Yes, I know who you are,” said Mummy. “You are an operator.”
“No” I said, “I am no longer an operator. I am a supervisor, snort.”
“So you’ve been promoted?” inquired Mummy.
“Yes. You know, I am a high school graduate, snort.”
“No one ever could do it as well as you,” says Mummy.
“Except Lily Tomlin” I say.
Indeed, I met Lily Tomlin the first time, at the age of fourteen, at one of her performances at the Ice House in Denver. For years, I drove everyone crazy with my “gracious good afternoon”.
Mummy seems to have gone into her own zone again, so I ask,
“Did you watch the finale of America’s Got Talent?
(That particular year, I cared.)
“No, konnte nicht,” she says. I remind her of a proverb she passed on from her father, “Can’t is dead and his brother Won’t lies next to him,” Kann nicht is tot und Will nicht liegt daneben.”
“Ja,” she says, “I know, I know. I can’t get my remote to work.”
“This is an excuse you have been using for years, because you are too impatient to get your glasses, turn on the light, sit down, and read the instructions.”
“Ja, you are right.”
“You have every excuse in the book,” I say, “but only for those things that aren’t suited to your particular interest.”
She begins telling me about her neighbor who dropped by, and what is happening in her life. Then, suddenly, as if interrupting herself, she says, “Ach, hat er dann wieder aufgehaengt — he’s hung up again.”
“Hello?” I ask the Universe, laughingly.
I call her back.
She answers, a feisty, “what happened?”
“I was listening to you all along. Suddenly you said, ‘Ach, hat er doch wieder eingehaengt,’ I laugh. “Then you hung up on me. It’s too funny, because you weren’t even listening to me listening to you.”
Again, she begins talking about her neighbor. After listening for a minute, I interrupt.
“Will you please listen to me? I have something important I need to talk with you about” I say.
“Ja, talk. No,” she says, “I have to do this my way — with dialog. So, now, what did you want to tell me about? — I am listening.”
I take one deep breath. Again, she opens her mouth. “Ja, well,” and goes right back to the raspberries, “do you have raspberries?”
“You mean in California? Of course we have raspberries.”
“Ja, well, I know you do, but how much are they?”
“I have no idea. Why? You want to send me some? I imagine they are 3.99 a box.”
“They were on sale. I bought three boxes, and they are sweet and juicy” she says.
“None could be better than those we plucked from our garden on Troy Street,” I say, referring to the property which my mother and I gardened (in exchange for the privilege of enjoying it) for many years.
“Ja, that south western corner was a good corner,” she said. “We’d get two huge bowls every day. Always gave a bowl to the neighbors.”
“I remember. We grew raspberries, strawberries, honeydews, squash, tomatoes, rhubarb, dill, chives, green beans, and lettuce. I thank you for providing me with a wonderful garden, in which I could make my imprint. That garden was the perfect outlet for me,” I said, not mentioning it kept me out of her house, and blonde hair —
every three weeks.
“Is there anything important?” she interjects, suddenly. “My raspberries are waiting.”
“Yes, there’s always something important,” I say, but listening is part of the equation of communication.”
She goes on speaking.
Finally, she says, “so, you said there was something important. What is it?”
“Yes. Something important. Can you allow me ten seconds to gather my thoughts, please?” I take a breath and begin to count slowly, while she makes not a sound.
By the time I get to the count of three she interrupts. “Ja well, I have dessert waiting, so tell me about it later. Good night.”
With that, my Mummy hung up. Her strawberries were more important to her than whatever it was I needed to speak with her about.
Forty minutes later my phone rings. I used to read, “Christina calling”. Now it reads “Mother.” I just let it ring. What just an hour ago had seemed so important to her, was now seemingly un-important.
And that was my good news for the evening.
P.S. And this is why today, in 2015, I no longer speak with Mummy on the phone. For more laughs, read on, click “like” and share.