Friday, May 4, 2012

Martyrdom and Maternal Maelstrom: An Béal Babes (The Mouth of Babes)

So as it goes in this great cycle or circle of life, hakuna matata, sort of chillin-out type universe, I was asked at dinner one recent night, between bites of meatloaf, pasta, and broccoli, “Why didn’t you ever sign me up for basketball?”  This coming at the almost tail end of a high school career, didn’t even take me by surprise.   That’s how chillin-out I’ve started to be in at least one realm of life.   He, being of the youngest birth order, is new to this game of  “Oh, how have you failed me, let me count the ways”.  His older siblings, I believe, have a short list that they have started to share, but I think they might be holding out.   Or they are simply divine having been reared by me.   These lists can stretch a good 50-60 years.  I should know, I still like to resort to mine from time to time in the presence of my own mother.  She appreciates it as much as I enjoy being greeted with, “Oh, are you going to prison?  Snicker snicker, teeheeeheee”, referring to a quite chic striped fly away cardigan I wore, that one time, before rolling it into a ball and throwing it in the trunk of my car until today.  It looked quite chic, thank you very much.   After the basketball failing I figured, “What the hell?  I may as well look like a prisoner since I failed my child so deeply by not signing him up for basketball.”

He may have been slightly serious.  My daughter, home for a visit, tried to make sense of his inquiry and also hoped to keep me from going buck-wild mad.  “We’re not Catholic,”  she stated.  He didn’t agree.  He would like very much for me to return to the fold and embrace the reality that I am Catholic, and get all this Irish Catholic behavior in order and accounted for.  He also knows that a large percentage of the CYO team of his early youth was not remotely Catholic even by way of maternal maelstrom.   She was adamant, but gentle.  A gift I don’t possess.  (A gift she reserves for all others, not me, snicker snicker teeehheehee) “It’s true, they only allow 2 non-Catholic players on the team.” She persists.   He was not convinced.  This may or may not be an urban legend.  I am not sure.  I recall other reasons he was not signed up for CYO basketball in his early youth, the religious affiliation defect just one of many.

For starters, there was swim team practice for three children with three different start and end times.  Really.  5:45-7:00, 6:30-8:00, and 6:00-7:45.  Why? The coaches didn’t ever cross-check the roster and notice the vast majority of us were bringing children that were all related and would at numerous points all be in the pool at the same time?  No?  Really?  It didn’t matter to the swim team what your religious affiliation was, although, come to think of it, if you were Catholic, you had the opportunity to go to church on a Saturday evening, most meets took place on Sunday mornings, so the rest of us had to often choose between faith and fitness at every turn.  Friday night practice interfering with non-Christian faiths, hmmmmm?

Back on focus, aside from faith and church school attendance that occurred on those Sunday mornings that we sometimes had to miss for the “team”, and the reality that religious affiliation and sports has more to do with community make-up than a Catholic conspiracy theory, basketball was not offered because raising three children is complicated.  They were involved with:  baseball, crew, babysitting, Irish step dancing (briefly), driving lessons, running, acting, after-school jobs, art club, stage crew, softball, sleepovers, homework, proms, SAT classes, music lessons, voice lessons (briefly), college hunts, and a couple of thousand other activities, give or take.  One minivan and one mother to man the carpooling community caravan, it’s a wonder I didn’t pack them all into the car and drive off the side of the road lest I let one down and not sign up for CYO basketball.

Another reason I missed out on the sign-ups for basketball?  I wasn’t hooked up and on the "A" list of parents and/or children that were recruited for CYO basketball at the age of 7 or 8.  The list of reasons for this lack of recruitment status is long and rather useless at this point in the game.  Maybe I wore prison striped sweaters, maybe I sat at community or school functions either nervously agape or crustily frustrated.   Social graces being a very weak area for me at the onset-which quickly turns into the on-going certainly didn’t help but if you refer back to the list of events and activities they were/are involved in, my social inabilities have not entirely hindered them, well except for the CYO basketball thing.  Perhaps there may have been another time or two, and a run in with me and a coach, maybe one, but if you look at the whole picture, I think we managed ok and then some. 

This normal and accepted way of pointing our fingers at our parents for all of our misgivings, shortfalls, and dastardly outcomes, or simply missing out on the NBA recruitment path, gives me thought.  I wonder if I can turn it around?  Tomorrow night at dinner, London Broil on the grill, salad, and baked potatoes, I am going to slip in a few comments.  “How come you didn’t clean your room carefully in May of  2002 while I was going back to school for my Master’s Degree?  Maybe if you had I would have been able to spend more quality time with you and relaxed enough to be a little more pleasant when your smelly, sticky-fingered, loud friends tore through the house and ate all the food.  Remember that?  What?  You don’t think that happened that way?  Oh yeah, it did.   Oh my God! That really smelly friend, the one that smells like asparagus, when his Mom picked him up I was so angry, I think I gave her the stink-eye or some family curse from Ennistymon.  Yeah, well I didn’t realize she was the CYO treasurer and well, basketball just wasn’t ever going to be on your hit parade.  Why didn’t you just clean your room?  I don’t get it.”  Then, I'll just turn and clear my plate, lightly, gently, but with that sort of pondering head-tilted questioning stance.

I mention the meat and potato dinners because, that’s the hearty stock that the last in the birth order likes to eat.  Manly portions, with basic accompaniments, like duck fat or butter, fresh herbs for seasoning and whole milk.  I indulge, as a mother can.  In a few years he’ll tell his wife or some such partner his heart condition is a result of his crazy mother’s cooking.  He’ll lament and carry on.  He won’t recall that while I admittedly enjoyed the French fries in a local restaurant that were cooked in duck fat that one time, I had no need to reproduce the experience in my own home.   I did not imagine ever purchasing duck fat to butter/fatten? my bread, and while I did purchase it, I never used it.   I like a steak, I like a good steak a great deal but it is not something I eat on a regular basis.   I have however, thoroughly enjoyed preparing Irish stew throughout the past couple of winters and if he has a way to find fault in that, well Pog Ma Thoin1 is all I can say to that.  Of course that won’t win me any more social grace certificates, but it will help me choke back the Anglicized curses and urges to reach the front row seating of martyrdom and maternal maelstrom  any sooner than I am surely heading towards. 

1.  Pog Ma Thoin: Gaelic for "kiss my ass"  Phil Long style: "Kiss my Irish Arse", which is the translation I was raised on.  We were not permitted to curse and adding the r and e and removing the second s covered our arses quite well indeed.

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