When I was kid, I had a lot of time to observe my mother. Though she worked, for some reason, I have lots of memories of spending time with her. Or at least our being in the house at the same time. I got from mother a love of tea and toast and gossip. Maybe not really gossip, just the inter-family bitch and moan was probably more like it.
We’d sit every morning at the dining table, drinking our tea and munching our butte-drenched toast and she’d tell me all about how she was being shafted by the rest of the family. Not really the rest of the family more specifically her older sister – Aunt A. Those two had a serious love/hate relationship going for all the years they were both on the Earth at the same time. The scope of it went beyond sibling rivalry – it was a lot more like keeping up with the Jones’s. Aunt A was always flashing some new gadget, furniture suite or piece of bling in my mom’s face and my mom always felt less because she didn’t have anything to flash back. Or when she did get something it was passe’ to Aunt A by the time my mom had one.
Anyway, after any type of family event, whether wedding, shower, birthday, bowling match, card game, house party or bingo extravaganza, Mom would be brimming with resentment to share with me over tea and toast the next day. The list was endless – so and so said this – cousin whosey bobbit looked at her funny, uncle boopy gave her the cold shoulder. She took no prisoners and told all during our morning chats (well she was chatting and I was listening). All the gory details in full description and 3-d play by plays of the entire lollapalooza. Whatever.
And the thing that always fascintated me about these little mother daughter chats was the look on her face as she told me. As though I could see the wheels turning and hear the bells ringing between her ears. And always after it was over, she’d say something like – ‘they’ll see.’ Which was meant to mean that she’d get her pay back one way or the other. Because she was keeping score. She kept score about everything. How good the gifts were that she received, from my dad, her kids, her relatives and friends. Scored how we did our weekly chores. How many birthday cards she got. How many phone calls on her birthday. My mom was a real score keeper – if it was an Olympic sport, she’d definitely have brought home the gold every time.
The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’m starting to think that I’ve inherited this charming attribute to some degree. I find myself counting things. Noting how Joe treats me compared to Suzy. Whether the waitress was nicer to people at the next table. And on and on. And I have to say it bothers the hell out of me. Of all the many talents my mother had this is one I really don’t want. Can I give it back? It seems to have a mind of its own, actually. Maybe I should name it and keep it in a cage and feed it bananas? It should definitely get its shots, lest it infect others with its paranoic germs. It doesn’t come around all the time – usually only in moments of weakness or frailty, stress. Obviously, when I’m too weak to fight it off and beat it with a stick. I think I’ll name it Basil.
I wonder too, if other people have a Basil. Some of you out there might be nodding and saying, ‘sure, I feed it prozac’ or some such. But you know I’m not one to go that route – I can barely drink, imagine me on drugs. Not a pretty thought. But do other people have their version of Basil? And if so, what the hell do you do with it? I mean, how can you just erase an attribute from your personality? I sure haven’t found the way. The best I can do is hide the notepads and pencils from him and hope he will nap most of the time from all the carbs I feed him.
Because the truth is, I don’t want to keep score anymore. Shit, I hope the bastard doesn’t eat me.