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L. E. Hughes

Away With Words: Nutty Mothers
By L. E. Hughes
May 9, 2006 - 7:30:00 PM

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My mother is nutty. I guess all mothers have some degree of nuttism—a direct consequence, not necessarily of bearing children, but certainly of raising them. Mothers get weird as they get older; they go from rocking the cradles of the world to being completely off their rockers and my mother takes the nut cake.

Forrest and I recently joined my parents on a four day road trip. On this short excursion my mother must have eaten a ton of peanuts…okay, that’s an exaggeration, but man, she was like the elephant lady—she couldn’t get enough! She shared them with me, but she insisted I eat my peanuts like she does: one at a time, instead of tossing my head back and throwing a handful in. I told her to eat her peanuts her way and I would do the same. Mama ate so many that she had peanut shards all over her lower lip; her mouth just couldn’t take anymore. I ate so many that I didn’t think I’d ever eat another one, but just last night Forrest sent Holland to the store for a can. She came back with my absolute favorite: honey roasted. So here I sit writing and eating peanuts, one at a time so I can still type. You know what? They truly are better individually.

One other thing I found peculiar about Mama was her gum collection. She had eight packages of different types and all the packages were held together with two—not one—two rubber bands. She shared her gum with us as well, but we weren’t allowed to chew it until the flavor cleared our sinuses. After finding out whether we wanted licorice, cinnamon, wintergreen, Freshmint, spearmint, peppermint, peppermint vanilla or original flavor she unwrapped that particular package from its rubber band restraint and instructed us, “Now, suck the flavor off first and it will clear your head.” I thought I would choke, sucking on a piece of gum, so I turned my head away from her and chewed. I don’t know why I thought the passage of time and my childhood meant I could get away with anything. She caught me and a scolding followed on how the sin of not taking full advantage of the gum’s decongestant powers was wasteful. I asked her, “If I eat my peanuts one at a time can I chew my gum without sucking on it first?”

Since I returned home from the trip I’ve been thinking about my mother’s idiosyncrasies and that led me to the realization that I have several of my own and so do my friends. I don’t eat the grapes that fall to the bottom of the bowl because those are the dead ones. My friend can’t get out of her car after a shopping trip until her checkbook is balanced.

Why do mothers exhibit these strange behaviors? Think about it: motherhood starts off with hours, sometimes days, of torturous, all consuming labor pains and goes downhill from there. We breast feed until our eyes dry out, change dirty diapers until our nose hairs are burned beyond use, clean up spit-up, lug tantrum thrashing toddlers out of the grocery store (yet still manage to carry ten bags of food under the other arm), make hundreds of panicked trips to the emergency room (like when a child makes her sister swallow pennies or when the climber in the family falls off the ceiling) and that’s all on a good day! We spend the equivalent of twelve straight years doing all-nighters with wheezing, measled, vomiting, or poxed kids. We persevere through toilet training, elementary school bullying and bake sales, middle school broken bones and broken hearts, and what I like to call the black hole of the teenage years. Theologians have said Adam and Eve were teenagers when they were booted out of heaven for eating the forbidden fruit. Of course they were—who but a teenager would cause havoc in paradise?

After surviving the trials of raising our little darlings, it’s little wonder mothers are reduced to peanut popping, gum sucking, dead-grape-fearing kooks that can’t get out of the car.

I want to wish all women everywhere, quirky or otherwise, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

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