My mother took her cue from less savory sources

My mother took her cue from less savory sources
                        

My mother had a peculiar sense of logic when it came to feeding her children.

“If I get those,” she would invariably say, referring to Chips Ahoy or Frosted Flakes, “you’ll just eat them.”

Which explains why we grew up on Fig Newtons and Grape Nuts.

Those things lasted from the moon landing through Watergate.

Our pantry also was hardly ever without Nilla Wafers, Quaker Oats or something called Treet, which, if I’m not mistaken, had a shelf life of 500 years.

When Mom went to the store, it was as if she was seeking out the least appetizing food products in the place and loading up on them.

At the time I assumed she was just being mean, punishing me — and by extension my siblings — because I’d done something wrong.

Maybe I’d fibbed to her or used foul language or “forgotten” to make my bed for five straight days.

God knows there was no shortage of offenses of which I was guilty.

As her first-born child, I was the one who was always in her crosshairs, and it’s no accident that Mom had a litany of pet names for me including “guttersnipe,” “rotter” and “wretched flea.”

Later in her life, Mom would admit she and my father probably made most of their parenting errors on me, which was sort of heartening and made me feel a little less bad.

“We did better with your sister and your brother,” she said, “much, much better.”

There was one thing my mother instilled in me, though, from a very early age, and it’s been part of my personality ever since.

I’m good at holding a grudge.

Other moms went with the “forgive and forget” biblical ideal.

My mother took her cue from less savory sources, particularly Vito Corleone, aka “The Godfather.”

Cross her once, you rarely got a second chance.

She stockpiled slights like cordwood and kept them fresh for decades, just waiting for the perfect time to strike a spark and watch the whole thing go up in flames.

I’m a lot like that too.

Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to see someone who has done me dirt get what he or she deserves, though I’m seldom the agent of their unhappy denouement.

No, I’m a big believer in the Karma Wheel, the old “what goes around, comes around” school of thought, and I’m always gratified when someone who’s hurt me gets blindsided by fate.

Faithless friends.

Awful bosses.

Clueless teachers.

Terrible colleagues.

These are a few of my favorites, and I like seeing them suffer.

Is vengeance a character flaw? Does it demean me, make me less likable? Has it turned me into a bitter — not a better — man?

I don’t think so, but I’ll be the first to confess I’m about as flawed a human being who’s ever slid out of the womb.

Mom always called me “a child of excess” — yet another of her monikers applied frequently — and I get that.

I mean if she dropped her guard and somehow a box of Lucky Charms magically appeared in the kitchen cabinet, I’d inhale it.

Same thing with beverages.

Most of the time Mom made do with instant lemonade or skimmed milk, but once in a blue moon, she’d give in to my plaintive wails and let me mix and match eight bottles of Cotton Club pop to take home.

That night I’d gulp down both grapes, then I’d target the orange and the cherry, leaving only the lemon-limes and the root beers behind.

“But I was thirsty,” I’d say, offering such a weak defense that Mom hardly even listened, just steeling her determination that it was going to be a steady diet of pineapple juice from then on.

How I hated that evil stuff.

Speaking of hateful things, my work schedule called for me to have to miss last Sunday’s Super Bowl.

I think I was the only person in America who relied on a decades-old VCR — a balky, unreliable machine even when it was out-of-the-box new at the turn of the century — but I had no other choice.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is nowadays to avoid learning the result of the biggest sporting event of the year?

It requires going completely off the grid.

No computers.

No smart phones.

No TV, radio or newspapers.

No human contact.

That last item was the one that tripped me up. I was within 10 minutes of heading home when this guy wandered by and said, “Looks like I’m going to have to pay off my bookie.”

He meant no harm, probably, but those 11 words gave it all away.

Life is like that. You take every precaution, you plan your moves, you remain vigilant and still some dope spits in your chip dip.

That reminds me. If you ever want to make Dorothy Dip — my mother’s specialty for many years — all you need to do is stir two tins of Underwood devilled ham into a cup and a half of sour cream, blend in a splash or two of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, hit it with a little Tabasco and sprinkle with paprika.

These were things that only showed up in Mom’s shopping cart when we were expecting company, but every now and then she’d let me sample her creation before the doorbell started ringing.

I’d take only a smidgen, making my mother smile, but we both knew I could have made the entire bowl vanish. After all, I was — and happily remain — a child of excess.


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