the other night, i was thinking about these two cats my family had when i was a child. there was a black one named primo, & a fluffy black & white one named groucho. groucho was not at all grouchy. she had a black mark that resembled a bushy mustache right under her nose. you don’t want to know how old i was before i cottoned on to the groucho marx reference that gave her her name (hint: well into my 20s). the cats were sisters & my parents had adopted them as kittens shortly after they started dating. they died within months of each other, ostensibly of old age, when i was 7 or 8. my parents claimed that the cats were 17 or 18 years old when they died, & i clung to this advanced cat age for years (decades, really) as proof that maybe charlotte will live to be equally as old (she will turn ten this summer).
but the other night, i realized that my parents started dating five before i was born. if i was eight years old when they died, they were only about 13. that might not seem like such a far cry from 18, but five years is a big difference when you’re speculating about how old your beloved cat may live to be. why on earth did my parents claim that the cats were five years older than they were? were they just really bad at math? (that would certainly explain our constant familial money woes.) & why did it take me over twenty years to do the math myself & realize the inconsistencies?
this reminded me of a story about my mom & her gullibility when adults told her things that were patently untrue. one day when i was about 16, my mom walked into the living room, stopped dead in her tracks & said, “that’s not true at all!” my siblings & i were just hanging around doing nothing, & we asked her, “what’s not true?”
“um. nothing,” she said.
“what? what’s going on?” we asked.
“well…when i was five years old, my grandpa leimgruber told me that if you pick up a newborn calf on the day it’s born, & then pick it up again every single day after that, eventually you’ll be able to pick up a full-grown cow. but i just realized that obviously one day you just wouldn’t be able to pick it up anymore. it would be too heavy.”
my siblings & i laughed our asses off, because…duh! how could she possibly have believed this ridiculous tall tale about picking up full-grown cows for 35 years? i don’t think adding five years to a cat’s age is quite on the same level as the cow thing, but it does make a person think about how one of the great joys of hanging out with kids is getting to tell them all kinds of ridiculous shit & seeing what they will believe well into adulthood. i can’t wait to just make up a great big pack of lies about inconsequential nonsense & feed them to my own child. like darlene does to DJ in this episode of “roseanne”:
my mom’s birthday was back in january, & even though i hadn’t spoken to her in a year & a half, i sent her an ecard because i was going through one of my routine fits of nostalgia in which i imagine what my life might be like if i had a passably normal relationship with my family. you know, the kind of relationship where we acknowledge one another’s existences, maybe talk on the phone every now & again about topics unrelated to me putting my mom’s gas bill in my name (i declined to do this), perhaps have a working knowledge of what state we’re each living in these days…i wasn’t holding out for a mother-daughter spa vacation or anything. just something not completely dysfunctional.
my mom wrote me back with her latest news: she was supposed to be getting married in the coming week, to a very nice devoutly muslim iraqi gentleman named ibrahim. they had met on the internet, because my mom spends pretty much all her time on the internet brushing up on her knowledge of various arabic dialects, studying the koran, & agitating for arab self-determination in the middle east. when i was a child, she spent all her time making power crystal wands by affixing big chunks of quartz to copper pipes & wrapping the pipes in leather, & then proceeding to beat the shit out of windshields of people who took too long in front of her at the wendy’s drive-thru with said power wands before heading off to the mall to buy another denim minidress. we all contain multitudes, i guess.
tragically, my mom explained, ibrahim had died on thanksgiving in a roadside mine. in iraq. where he lived. it is worth mentioning that they had never met in person & i don’t know if they were planning to get married over the internet or what, because he had no plans to come to the states & she had no plans to leave the states. she did try to join an aid flotilla to gaza, but was turned away due to her poor physical health. i don’t doubt that she had big plans to somehow get to gaza & then desert & make her way to iraq somehow. anyway, the wedding was off because ibrahim had died. “so i’m single…& not looking. LOL!” she wrote. LOL indeed…i guess? what the fuck?
this bizarre e-mail exchange continued, but eventually i wrote that my siblings & i had some concerns about her propensity to become engaged to every dude in iraq with access to a webcam. my siblings were concerned that perhaps these dudes were hitting up for money & she was sending it to them–such as she has, considering that she has been squatting in my brother’s apartment for the last four years. she was outraged by this suggestion & wrote to me, “neither baraa nor ibrahim EVER asked me for a DIME. baraa once asked me to send him some blue jeans, which i could have done, because i have free access to men’s, women’s, & children’s blue jeans in all sizes, but i didn’t even do that so as to not set a precedent of sending gifts.” i wrote her back & said, “i’m not going to ask about your miraculous pipeline of free blue jeans for all occasions. i’m just telling you that we have been a little concerned about your decision-making.” but privately i was thinking…free men’s, women’s, & children’s blue jeans? is she running a counterfeit jeans ring out of my brother’s carhole or something? how does anton bugleboy feel about this?
a couple of weeks ago, i read an article about FBI criminal informants. it heavily profiled a crazy dude from michigan who fashioned himself as a wealthy austrian prince, wining & dining the glitterati of new york city. part of the way he financed his lavish faux-royal lifestyle was by running a counterfeit jeans ring back in michigan. i was like, “…mom?” & then i was like, “why is this my life?”