Thursday, November 03, 2005

My Mother's Ingenuity

Ingenuity: skill in planning, inventing, cleverness

My mother is a genius. Have I mentioned that before? She was born at the end of the depression era; grew up in a coal mining camp; went off to a boarding school for girls; began college; met/fell in love with/cheated on and finally married my father. She lived in a few different countries; bore three children; suffered five miscarriages and dealt with various pets through the years. She taught school, taught piano, is the church organist and Sunday School teacher. You name it, if she hasn't done it, she thought about doing it.

Adapting is a way of life for my mother. When faced with the circumstance of not being allowed to play with the other children in the coal mining camp, she was determined to host her own birthday party. She invited the children (her school friends) over to the house and while she sat inside the fenced yard, she made peanut butter and crackers and passed them to her friends through the gate who were not allowed in her yard. She would not be stopped.

Adversity is no friend of my mother to this day. A few years ago, she had taken a liking to the concept of turning old tires into flower planters for the garden. It just so happened that we had an old steel-belted radial tire that had seen better days, and she was set on her new craft. It turned out that the tire was just a little too large, and she wanted to cut it down.

A truly odd sight to behold is one where your mother is on her hands and knees with a serrated bread knife sawing through a steel belted radial. A deaf ear meets any advice you attempt to give. She knows what she is doing. Her family finally steps into the fray when, in her desperation, she pulls out the handy-dandy electric kitchen knife. Knowing that no good will come from an electric, hand-held appliance meeting a steel belt, her children finally debate the dangers of her actions, and she acquiesced. The tire is thrown away and a large plaster planter is purchased at the nearby garden store.

Her ingenuity does not fade with her years. About 15 years ago, her first granddaughter came into the world. Kristin stole the hearts of all the Bell family, and was quickly followed by her sister Katy and her cousin Allison. Three little girls all in a row! The guest bedroom at the Bell house began its transformation to a room with pink walls (of course), darker pink trim; with dollies and teddy bears lined everywhere! There was only one problem… a draft coming in from one of the two windows.

Some normal people would have perhaps caulked the window to keep out the chill. But they are not the genius my mother is. Caulk is expensive, takes time and effort, and is unattractive. But TOILET PAPER!!! There's the solution. Cram toilet paper into the cracks for a quick, easy seal. However, that leaves its own problem… an unsightly mess. What to do? Stand back for a moment, assess the situation, and come to the only rational conclusion one has left… paint the toilet paper pink! It will match the wood trim and no one will be the wiser.

Certainly the adult daughter would not be the wiser when she sets out to remodel the same room some years later. She'll begin painting the trim and will come upon the window that appears to be caulked closed. "Funny," she thinks, "how do they plan to ever open this window again? I suppose they are not planning to open the window. I can't leave it pink and I can't seem to dig it out. The caulk moves from its pink stage in life to its cream stage.

Her mother is ecstatic when she comes home to her new guest bedroom. She is thrilled beyond words. She hails her daughter's charms to anyone within hearing distance, and praise goes from her lips for weeks.

Then one night, she approaches the daughter, after the newness of the room has worn out.

"Well, I've got to try and fix that window you painted shut," she said with a tone that was not generally flattering.

"What are you talking about?" I replied.

"You know… the window in the guest room. You painted it shut."

"Mom… I did not paint that window shut. It was caulked shut. It was permanently shut before I ever got in there."

"What are you talking about? I never caulked that window. That was toilet paper."

"Toilet paper?" My facial expression could never be adequately described.

"Well yes, I was trying to keep the cold air out."

My hands had covered my face at this time. I ran my fingers through my hair as I looked back up at the ingenious woman who gave me life. "Mother, you painted the toilet paper pink." I said this calmly and forthrightly and with no surprise in my voice. I mean come on; this is the same woman who uses toothpaste for both spackling holes in her plaster walls and cleaning her silver. It's not just for brushing teeth anymore.

A confused look came over her face and was gone in the instant that reality checked back into her life.

"I did?" The surprised sound was almost too much to bear. The longer the conversation was going, the more difficult it was to keep a straight face.

"Yes, you did. Did you want me to leave it pink?"

"Well no." Her answer came with an incredulous timbre, and then she seemed to begin to speak to herself. "Hmm… I can't imagine why I would have done something like that." She paused for dramatic effect and then moved on. "Oh well, no matter. I'm starting to dig it out now. Would you like to help?"

"No thanks… I’ve got the toothpaste out… I'm going to reseal the cracks in the driveway."


Requelle said...

Ma Bell... ya gotta love her!

underscores_are_annoying said...

okie dokie Aunt Cathy!!

*Nutcracker 2005*

*Saturday December 10th at 7:00pm
*Sunday December 11th at 2:00pm
*Friday December 16th at 7:00pm
*Saturday December 17th at 2:00pm

much love homegirl!!


**p.s. Mom, Dad, Papa, Aunt Chandi, and Aunt Indira are all going on the 11th if you wanna go!! with them.