This week, my mom celebrated a birthday. I am legally not allowed to tell you her age. She is at heart, a Southern Woman. The kind with ideas about how to iron things, fry a chicken, make biscuits, what comprises proper undergarments, and one who is in a constant state of apoplexy about my chewed up nails. I remember her telling me once that with the right manicure a woman can accomplish anything. There is something to that, I think. The idea that a woman’s power isn’t devoid of her femininity but, rather, her embrace of it. That said, I haven’t gotten a manicure in 11 years.
When I was 14, I had the local radio station call my mom on her birthday. This was in South Dakota. When the DJs asked my mom her age, she responded, “A lady never tells her age!” with a a voice so perfectly dripping in condescension and rage, the DJs were left stuttering apologies.
When people ask me what I want to achieve in life. I often think of this tone of voice and hope that one day, I can too, with a single phrase, cause people to shake in fear.
Also, she reads this, hi!
Many years ago, when my parents lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, my mom and her friends started a book club. This was a perfectly, white, middle-class Florida affair. And I imagine it as lot of women with big necklaces, drinking out of those wine glasses decorated to say things like, “Wine time!” and “Wine mom!” I have no proof of this. But I imagine a lot of bright colors, bracelets clacking, a lot of husbands kicked out of their homes for the night, canapes, and giddy swears. A couple of the women from that club, are still some of my most staunch fans and followers.
I was just started to get my writing published then. I was publishing on sites like YourTango and DragonFire (now the Smart Set) and other sites that have completely disappeared. My mom, full of pride, would print off my writing and hand it out to the women in the group.
One day, she called me with glee to say that a writer had moved into the neighborhood and she and her friend were going to invite him to book club and she was going to give him some of my writing.
“Mom,” I said, “don’t.”
A few days later, when we talked again, she said she had gone over to his house and invited him and handed him a print out of an article I had written.
“He said he’d come!” She said.
“Mom, who is this?”
“It’s that guy, you know, LaHaye something.”
“THE LEFT BEHIND GUY?”
She wasn’t sure. It sounded right.
The next day, I googled writers in St Pete and frantically called my mom.
“THAT WAS DENNIS LEHANE YOU INVITED DENNIS LEHANE! OH GODDDDDD!”
“Whoever he is,” she said, “he is rude, he didn’t come to book club. Now don’t swear, Elizabeth.”
Not long after, he moved. I’d like to think it was because he was afraid of my mom’s wrath.