“Plunder the Smorgasbunder” #59

Posted on July 8, 2011


When I walk into the kitchen, my mother is anxious, nervous, smiling, energetic.  The mail has just come and she is holding an envelope.  She wants me to sit down; she has something to tell me.  I’m paranoid that she’s found my blog, as she’s been snooping around my room lately, and I’m starting to break out into a nervous sweat.  “What is it, Mom?  Did you find me a nice Jewish guy at Waldbaum’s?”

“No, Myra.  Listen to me.  Um.  Well, okay.  I found your poetry and I submitted it to the Long Island Circular.”

“What?!” I say.

“I know, your Mommy really loves you and wants to do good things for you.”

“But…why…” I try to say while gasping and containing my anger.

“You won,” she bursts out.

“What do you mean?” I croak.

Holding the letter in her hand, she reads, “We are pleased to inform you that your poetry entitled, “Thinking is Overrated” has won first place, and you are invited to attend our awards dinner on 7th.”

I put my head in my hands while saying, “Holy shit.”  Part of me is excited to have won anything other than a place on jury duty, but part of me is furious that she went through my stuff.

She is beside herself with excitement.  “I already told your grandmother, and she’s coming up from Florida to come to it.”

My grandmother, whom we’ve always referred to as “Bubbie,” has come to view me as a sort of unlucky pariah who things never work out for.  “Poor Myra.”  It’s how the whole family sees me.  That’s why she’s coming all the way up from Florida.  Because she probably figures I’ll never have a wedding or a kid or a corporate promotion, so she’s got to celebrate these kinds of “accomplishments.”

I fake a “Thank you,” and tell my mother I have to go upstairs and look at my poetry for a minute.

I run upstairs and lock myself in the bathroom.  Maybe I’ll be happy later, but right now I feel violated and furious.  I hang up a bathrobe and start screaming at it, as a real conversation with her would never yield a fruitful result.  Neither parent can be spoken to.  Crazy is crazy, and I’ve come to accept that.  However, I need therapy, and with no money or job to speak of, I must settle for their avatar – Stained bathrobe therapy.

“Are you fucking kidding me?  Why is it okay to sneak into my bedroom and snoop through my stuff?  My personal words?  Who do you think you are sending out my work without my permission?  Another pea-brained idea of yours!!  I can’t stand you sometimes.  You don’t think about what you do!  You don’t know how embarrassing you are!  And now you’re probably going to wear your tracksuit to the awards.  There’s no end to the shame.  You know what would help me, I’ll tell you.  Stop wearing frosted lipstick in public.  Stop trying to set me up with every single man at Costco.  That would be a great start!”

My mother yells from the stairs, “Myra, are you okay?  What’s the screaming?”

I say, “Oh, I’m just yelling at Vito, he ate my Doritos.”

“He better not shit on the rug.  I just had them steam-cleaned.”

By the time my grandmother arrives and I’m helping her apply blue eye shadow, without any time to make sure I look superb, I’ve started to warm up to my mother for her valiant attempt at helping me do something other than get married.  Kudos to her.  She’s trying.

We walk into the Howard Johnson’s in Medford, one exit away from us on the Long Island Expressway, and I wonder if anyone will shout out, “Where’s the beef?” to Bubbie, like they used to.  She looks just like the old lady from the commercial.  Even though she can walk, she overemphasizes her walker to reap maximum attention.  She really puts it on at public events so she can secure prime seating and/or VIP status.  My father gets his narcissism from her.

As we’re checking in at the front table, a woman gets up, walks around, and comes directly in front of us, embarrassed.  When she figures out that I’m Myra, she speaks in hushed tones, but my family is around me like a football team at time-out.  She truly apologizes.  There’s been a miscalculation.  I am not the winner.  “But, please, all of you, stay for the dinner.”

We huddle, the once-again disappointed team of rejects.  The 94-year-old linebacker with white hair says, “What a crock of shit.  You should give them a what-for.”

My father actually looks disappointed for me.  But, then I realize he’s just hungry.

During the awards ceremony I hear my grandmother muttering, “crock of shit,” among other cantankerous slurs.

Before too long, I see them get up, and I follow them.  They go right to the buffet before anyone else gets there, and my grandmother reaches into her walker seat to pluck several handy Ziploc bags.  Her and my father attack the buffet, storing as much as they can into the bags.  They are still berating the turn of events while simultaneously plundering the smorgasbord.  My father stuffs a sushi roll into his mouth, while screaming, “Linda, come try one.”  My mother used to be such a proper, graceful lady.  Now she’s putting a tray of baby lamb-chops onto her to-go plate.

I turn my head to see the approaching line of people just staring at them.

I’m always surprised at my growing threshold for embarrassment.

I tell them I’ll be waiting in the car, and we should go NOW.  This is where, if I smoked, I’d be chain-smoking.  Maybe this is why, as a kid, I used to repeatedly “smoke” the bubblegum cigarettes.  It was my way of releasing nervous energy.

When I get home, I don’t really care about anything, and just stuff my face with one of my grandmother’s Ziploc bag of skewers.  Yum.  I’m grateful for their thievery as I sit Indian style next to Vito, who tries to lunge for the hour d’ouevres when I’m not looking.  With a full mouth, I shout out, spitting beef pieces, “Hey Mom.  Thank you for sending my poetry in.  That was really nice of you.”

“Oh, Myra.  Sometimes I feel so bad.  Things never seem to work out.”

“You know, Mom.  Sometimes you just have to look for the good things.”

She looks at me, when my grandmother suddenly shouts, “Like free food?!”

“Yes!  L’chaim,” I scream, holding up a skewer.

Posted in: Aging, Humor, Life