Monday, January 21, 2008

My Family and Other Animals

You might think that after my Terms of Endearment blog post to my mother on Friday that I would give her something meaningful for her birthday. Perhaps a watch engraved with a touching quote, a beautiful potted plant, a star named after her. But no, I did something better, something more fitting to our relationship and to her. I took my mom to Walgreens and she filled her basket with fake nails (on sale!), orange soda and barbecue chips. And she was happy.

We also went to The Palace of Fine Arts and fed the ducks. We were going to take Zoey to the Exploratorium, but I thought she might still be too young to teach her how to dissect a cow's eyeball or to learn about *centrifugal force. So we stayed outside in the cold January sun and fed the ducks, the swans, the pigeons, seagulls and a pushy little black bird my mom was calling a greeb. My mom has always been a bit of a Dr. Doolittle with the animals. When I was little our cats frequently dragged half-dead trophies into the house, limp broken birds that had certainly flat-lined somewhere along the way. My mom would smear a bit of peanut butter on their beaks like a suburban Lazarus and in no time at all those birds would be let free out the kitchen window. Somehow the rats never had a chance.

A few years ago my mom bought an African Gray parrot she named Huxley. She told my brother and I that because the bird would live to about 60 that one of us would have to forge a relationship with it as we would inherit it upon her passing. As a selling point she added that it would be like she was always there with us as Huxley would have her voice; she would talk to us from the grave. I am sure that you will understand that both my brother and I are afraid of this bird for many reasons, not the first of which is his razor sharp claws and bear-trap beak. But my mom loves him to death. He sits on her shoulder and poops down her back; they spoon under the covers. Huxley has taken to imitating my mom's phone conversations verbatim. Hello? Oh hiiii! Uh huh? Yeah, yup. Okay, okay, and then heh heh heh. He does a perfect imitation of my mom's fake phone laugh. Color me crazy but I just don't want my mom fake laughing at me from the Beyond. To date this is one of my brother's and my biggest disagreements: which one of us has to take that damn bird when my mom dies.
*Centrifugal force (from Latin centrum "center" and fugere "to flee") is a term which may refer to two different forces which are related to rotation. Both of them are oriented away from the axis of rotation, but the object on which they are exerted differs.
In other words, me and my mother.

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