(Note: I have previously written about my mother here and here.)
So I called my Mom today because I hadn't talked with her in a while, even though she lives just down the street from me.
My stepdad answered the phone, and we chatted for a bit. He yawned a few times because, even though it was just past noon, it was his bedtime. He works the graveyard shift over at The Palms. This is why I generally can't call my Mom in the afternoon, because my stepdad is sleeping.
When I mentioned that I'd been leaving messages for the past 3 weeks or so without getting a call back, my stepdad just said, "Well, you know she hates checking the machine. But I've been telling her you called. I don't know why she hasn't called you back."
I mentioned that the last time I came by their house, my mother didn't answer the door, even though she knew I was coming to bring her her favorite cranberry juice. I just left the bottles by the garage door and hoped for the best.
"I must have been out shopping or something," my stepdad said, yawning again. "But you know how she gets. Hold on, I'll get her for you."
After a few minutes my Mom came on the phone with her usual soft, drawn-out "Hello" that always makes me think I just woke her up.
"Hi, Mom," I said. "Did I wake you up?"
"No. I'm up," she replied. "Is everything okay?"
I told her I was just calling to see how she was doing because I hadn't heard from her in a while.
"Well, I know you're busy," she said.
"I'm not too busy to pick up when you call," I told her.
"But I know you've been busy with your business and the shop opening up," she told me. "Plus I don't want to jinx you."
"I know you're going to open your shop soon," my Mom said. "And I don't want to bring you bad luck."
"Why would you bring me bad luck, Mom?"
"I've been having lots of bad luck flying around me these days," she said. Then her voice took on a harder edge. "I've been fighting it, though. I didn't want to talk to you until I've beaten it."
"Mom, that's ridiculous," I said. "You're not going to bring me bad luck."
This is a recurring theme with my Mother, the subtext of which is that she thinks I'm embarrassed of her. This is why, for years, she was convinced that the Princess & I had married in secret, just so we wouldn't have to invite her to the wedding. My only defense against this line of reasoning was to repeatedly pledge to her that, when the Princess & I got married, my mother would be invited to sit in the front row.
The fact that this is exactly what happened at my wedding has apparently not reassured my Mother that I am not, in fact, embarrassed of her.
"I'm trying not to jinx you," my Mother said. "That's why I'm fighting it every day with my prayers and my spells."
"So, you've been avoiding me because you're worried that you'll infect me with bad luck if we talk on the phone?"
"That's how bad luck works," my Mom explained. "It goes from person to person. Just like an infection."
I was suddenly sorry for introducing that particular metaphor into the conversation.
"Mom, I want you there for the grand opening," I told her. "You won't jinx it. I promise."
"Maybe I shouldn't come," said my Mother. "If something goes bad, you'll blame me."
"Mom, nothing is going to go bad," I said. "And even if it does, I doubt it will be your fault."
"Of course, you won't think so," she replied. "You don't see things that I do."
"You're right, Mom. I don't. But I want you there anyway."
"Are you sure?" my Mom asked. "I'm having a hard enough time fighting off the bad luck now. I don't want to make things worse by infecting you and your business, too."
"Mom, I want you there on opening day," I said firmly. "We're not sure what day that is, yet. But I will let you know as soon as I can."
"Okay, I'll come," my Mother said. "As long as you think it's a good idea."
"Good," she said, actually sounding happy for a second. "But now I've got some work to do. I don't want you getting infected before I'm ready to protect you."
And, with that, she hung up.
I considered calling back to say a proper goodbye, but I figured she was busy.