My Uncle Lou was a rodeo rider for a time in the 1940s. He did very well for a while. He looked good on a horse, and he wore an impressive shirt with fringe hanging from every possible place.
Then, in the spring of 1949, Uncle Lou decided to ride a Brahma bull at the big Pendleton Roundup in Oregon. (Today they are called Brahmins, but in those days they were Brahmas.) This was a lot more difficult. Brahmas weigh half a ton, and they’re not in the mood for foolishness.
Still it paid better, or it would if he could stay on the bull’s back. All Uncle Lou had to do to win the large cash prize was to stay on the topside of the bull for 10 seconds. (Today’s riders are required to hold on for 8 seconds.)
He managed nearly three seconds when the bull, named Old Rusty, threw him hard. Old Rusty then demonstrated his overall displeasure with the whole situation by rolling on my uncle. Several times. This reduced Uncle Lou’s bones, from the hips through shins, to bone chips roughly the size of pea gravel.
I don’t know how Uncle Lou managed to drive home when he got out of the hospital, but I think he operated the clutch with a stick held in his fist. When he rolled out of his truck in a full-body cast, my grandmother began shrieking and ran out the door screaming. Grandma was not a believer in anger management. She’d never wanted him riding that bull anyway and she told him so many times.
“Oh, nooooo.” shrieked Grandma, adding a “touchdown”-style arm wave as she ran, impressive in a woman her age. As a further touch, she threw herself, weeping loudly, against my uncle’s plaster chest, banging on it frequently to illustrate her general displeasure. I was very impressed at this show of motherly devotion and concern. It was obvious that my uncle would not soon forget this experience.
I could hardly wait to grow up and use this impressive technique so my children would know how much I loved them.
Well, I tried, but take it from me, it doesn’t work with today’s adult children. They just don’t appreciate the fine points.
For instance, I have a son who hurt his back carrying a very heavy load. This really calls for the whole Formal Rant with double arm wave, punctuated with multiple “I told you so’s.”
But will I get to use it? No. I know when I’m beaten.
I just texted him, “How’s your back?” and he texted back, “About where it should be.” And that’s all we’ll say about that.
I do wish my children understood that there are certain things mothers must say and do to keep their membership in the Mom Franchise in good standing. You know, useful warnings they might not remember such as “Drive safely” and “Dress warmly” and “Don’t you dare bring that cat in the house.”
My son asked last time we were together, “Mother, what army are you planning to feed with all this food?” Doesn’t he realize mothers feel required to cook an army’s worth of comfort food for visiting kids? How else would they know they are loved?
Today’s moms must learn not to overreact, and it’s a good idea to learn to text, too.
Sometimes, if your family isn’t nearby, you can create a stand-in family.
That brings me to the 53 small guests who are waiting patiently in my living room. These visitors are not grandchildren. They’re not even alive. They are part of the Lakewood Puppeteers puppet collection which opens at the Lakewood History Museum on Saturday. The puppets have been visiting me for three months while they get ready for display.
At first they just got in my way and, like the real visitors, I began to think they’d never leave. But when the museum called last week to tell me it was time for the move, it felt just like when the kids leave. I cried.
I did the whole “Little Old Italian Lady Rant,” complete with shrieks and some cursing. It was very satisfying. It really surprised the gentleman from the museum though.
So, the puppets are leaving on Friday, all 53 of them, and of course I’ll miss them. I’ll bet they don’t call. They probably won’t even text. What’s a mother to do?