The relationship between my mother and me has always been special, a friendship marked by candor, laughter, verbal sparring matches and, most precious of all, juicy gossip sessions. We dish about everything from the latest celebrity scandal — Oh, that Mel… he always did have the crazy eyes, Mom and I somberly agreed — to our own mishaps, to other families’ quirks. Especially other families’ quirks.
The summer of 1990 was no exception when my mom and I, a wee high-schooler, giggled about the antics of my friend Jen’s mom. Her mother was a Barbizon School of Modeling graduate, a tall, broad, heavily made-up woman with big brown eyes and a small voice. The details of what, exactly, she did to tickle our funny bone that particular time escape me now. But if I had to put money on it, it probably had something to do with her habit of mentioning just how much she resembled Kelly LeBrock, of Weird Science and “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” fame.
The ONLY thing Jen’s mom had in common with Kelly LeBrock was a habit of making eye roll-worthy declarations.
“Thank goodness we’re a normal family,” my mom proclaimed once we had recovered from our laughing fit.
It was a statement of fact, not a question, and yet my silence hung over us like a giant question mark. I lifted an eyebrow — no easy feat with virgin brows as big and bushy as a cheese-fed hamster. Was mom serious? I couldn’t imagine. Mom was a realist, a call-’em-like-I-see-’em kind of woman who had ditched the rose-colored glasses in favor of the (sometimes brutal) lenses of honesty a long time ago. This was the woman who made fun of my admittedly pathetic art projects instead of blowing smoke up my ass; the woman who offered compliments only when truly deserved, making me appreciate them all the more; the woman who surely must know that our family may be many lovely things, but “normal”…?
“No?” Mom asked, reading my expression with her usual eerie perceptiveness.
“Mom,” I drawled as only a teenage girl can, making it sound like maaaawm. “You’re a hardcore Lutheran-turned-Atheist. We’ve never gone to church. My sister got pregnant and married when she was the age I am now. We sell gloves at the flea market for a living. And you think we’re ‘normal’?”
I hooked my fingers in quotation marks to punctuate my point. FLOP. My mom sat back on the couch, shocked. I immediately regretted sharing my smart-ass observations. Afraid I had hurt her feelings and ruined our fun time together, I could feel the pit in the bottom of my stomach expand upward, closing off my throat and making it hard to swallow, let alone breathe. Quick, change the subject, I thought, racking my brain for more silly tidbits about Jen’s mom. I was about to relate how she draws on her eyebrows with a pen when —
A howl cut through the silence. My mom doubled over with laughter.
“Of course! Yes. There’s nothing normal about us!”
Mom continued to howl. I broke into a wide smile, relieved.
“We work across the aisle from a man named Booby Bob,” I giggled.
We laughed until the tears were streaming down our cheeks. It was true; our regular space at the flea market was situated directly across from an obnoxious man, Robert, who sold brassieres out of boxes. “Booby Bob,” as he called himself, prided himself on being able to determine a woman’s bra size upon first glance — often pointing at women who walked by and shouting out, “A good-sized C!” Or…”There goes a B squeezed into an A!” It was a curious sales tactic, at best. I was surprised none of the women ever lodged a complaint about the loud man pointing out the size of their breasts. I was also surprised how many of them bought bras from him.
In a way, Booby Bob was my parents’ work peer. Normal…? We clearly were not.
My mom still frequently brings up the time I rocked her world with this insight. “I really did think we were normal,” she reflects, shaking her head. Whatever “normal” means. But, hey, I enjoyed being unique. Who wants to be just like everybody else?
Now I wonder how Miss Skye will perceive us, her crazy parents, and the upbringing we provide for her. There are some in my extended family who have already questioned how one could possibly raise a child in Los Angeles, with logical arguments such as, “I just can’t imagine how a family could LIVE there!” As though we’re raising our child amongst the Piranhas in the Amazon River. Which is an absurd comparison — everybody knows the Amazon River has better public schools.
We may have no Booby Bob with whom to enrich her life, but we do have a drag queen who bikes around town in a sequin mini-dress — COMMANDO. That should not only give Skylar something unique to discuss with classmates, but also an unwanted anatomy lesson that I will have to try to explain.
And you thought YOUR sex talk with your kid was weird.
Mr. Candy and I have a happy, healthy marriage (knock on wood), which also doesn’t exactly pass for “normal” these days. Especially in Hollywood. Pile on top of that Mr. Candy’s habit of bursting into song, LOUDLY, with no concern for the actual lyrics — or knowledge of what a note is — along with my passion for Hip Hop (the uncensored version) and job writing about our family’s antics…. and, well, we will surely embarrass the hell out of Skylar with our unabashed abnormality. I can already hear her now…
I can’t wait.