La vita è bella (My Beautiful Life)

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that I wrestle with ambivalent feelings.  I LOVE being a mom to my three grown children and know I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been fortunate to have been a stay-at-home mom for most of their lives.  Mother’s Day however, reminds me of my own little momma who celebrates 10 years in Heaven on Mother’s Day weekend this year.

As much as I’ve loved being a full-time mom, being a grandmother is that much better, times a thousand!  My grandson and I have a relationship that’s entirely different from what I share with my children. He told me only two weeks ago that he liked spending time with me. There is no greater feeling in life than that kind of affirmation. It’s so funny to hear your children complain about the grandkids you get to spoil with protests like, “That’s not fair! You never used to let US do that!”

The older I get, the more I realize that the lessons my mother taught me growing up have come home to roost and I sometimes find myself saying things my mother used to say to me, even though I vowed, “I WILL NEVER say that to my children!” 

My little Sicilian momma, Antonina, was a skinny little bird of a woman who barely weighed enough to keep from being blown away in a strong desert windstorm. But, my oh my, that little black-haired woman (black from a bottle, that is) could put the fear of God into you with a look and a subsequent finger waving!

Her diminutive size belied her hot Sicilian temper that could spark and ignite faster than an Italian sausage sizzling on a fiery charcoal barbecue.  When Mom gave you the look you knew the finger waving was only seconds away and your best defense was to retreat to a neutral zone.

I’m convinced that Sicilian mommas invented the look.  My mother’s look was resplendent with just the amount of eye roll. The look was punctuated with a piercing scowl and pinched mouth that could reduce you to tears and liquefy your bowels in a matter of seconds, especially once she raised the finger of doom and pointed it a mere inch from your nose.

Sicilian mommas discipline with loud voice inflections and frantic hand gestures; which explains my own propensity for hand-waving. If I were ever to lose the use of my hands, I’d be rendered totally mute, incapable of speech.  A contest of wills and verbal battles between Sicilian mothers and daughters is a sight to behold. With all the gesticulating and hand waving going on, an innocent bystander could be caught in the cross fire and sustain serious injury if they weren’t able to duck quickly enough.

My own daughters and I have benefitted from the lessons my mother taught me and we’ve established a circle of safety for our own well-being whenever we engage in any type of verbal repartee.  Of course we still communicate with hand gestures and voice inflections, but we observe a 12 to 18 inch perimeter of safety so as to avoid inflicting bodily harm to each other.

Even though my mother was tiny and loud at times, she also possessed a gentle soul. She loved her own three children fiercely and would have walked through fire for me and my brother and sister. Because of her own rigid upbringing, my mother oftentimes could be undemonstrative with the softer side of her character.  I often compare my mother with a Tootisie Roll lollipop; all hard and unyielding on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. Once my mother let her guard down and you were able to penetrate the soft underbelly of her fragile emotions she left no doubt that she loved deeply.

In spite of what kids believe growing up, we mothers don’t have eyes in the back of our head and we don’t always know if our children are telling the truth or not. Most mothers – myself included, are like the Secret Service in the fact that we would take a bullet for our children without question.

Being a mom is a gift from God I try never to take for granted.  There have been times my children have driven me to the brink of insanity.  (Oh, that year my oldest daughter was 12 and the youngest was two and we did puberty and the terrible two’s all at the same time!)  Luckily though, there have been times my children have rescued me from that fall to insanity with a timely hug or a loving word of encouragement.

As I get older, I find I’m becoming more friend than parent to my adult children. We enjoy hanging out with each other and we’ve established boundaries that keep me from rendering dictatorial edicts. They allow me to offer suggestions … but only when asked.  I feel privileged that my grown children still want to be active in my life and still include me in their lives. I don’t want to waste time sweating the small stuff with them.  I’ve learned from my mother that life is entirely too short for that kind of nonsense.

My mother, Antonina, or Lee as she was known to those who loved her, passed away quietly in her sleep the day before Mother’s Day 10 years ago this month.  She and I didn’t always have the easiest relationship, but there isn’t a day that passes that I still don’t miss her. With time the bad memories have drifted away only to be replaced with warm feelings of appreciation for the woman who bore me and reared me.  As mothers, none of us can ever be “the perfect mom.” My mom taught me that it’s okay to be a little loud and a little hard when necessary as long as you learn to show your soft gooey side from time-to-time.

There is a quote from Maya Angelou which says:  “I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.”  These words resonate in my spirit especially on Mother’s Day, a day which prompts me to remind others to love your mothers today — as you never know when they may be suddenly taken from you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Treat your children as the gifts they are and when you are older they will love you as the gift you have been to them!

Blessings in Christ,

Kathy K.

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THE CUTLERY KILLER

She circled the room, getting a feel for the layout, gauging the temperature of the anxious guests. The patio doors had been thrown open inviting the visitors to meander back and forth between the hall and the picturesque setting of the lush flower gardens. The aroma of spring flowers comingled with the smells of the banquet hall, distracting her for a fraction.

Hoping to blend with the large group, she hung back unobtrusively. The icy weight of the weapon in her hand burned her sweaty palm. It was surprisingly heavy for such an ordinary object; sterling silver, no doubt. Nothing but the best, she mused. It boggled the mind, the unimaginable damage that could be done with so ordinary a utensil as a dinner fork. She placed a quieting hand over her ample bosom to still the abnormal thump of her heart.

The waistband of her black skirt dug painfully into her mid-section, momentarily stealing her focus and her breath. The combined body heat from the crowd and anticipation of her mission dotted her upper lip with a slight sheen of perspiration.

Breathe normally, she admonished herself. You’re a pro being paid for a job. Don’t overthink it … just get in there and do it!

Spotting the target, she maneuvered her way through the throng to gain a better vantage point. Drawing closer, every detail of her intended prey was clearly visible.  Running her tongue over her lips, the flavor of her fruity lip gloss lingered, teasing her taste buds. She hungered for the kill. She tugged on the edges of her suit jacket with her free hand to cover the slight roll threatening to escape its tight binding.

Bumped suddenly from behind, she turned and all color drained from her perfectly made up face. Reverend O’Dell’s pudgy wife, Doris, and her equally pudgy daughter, Precious, stared at her accusingly. Her cover blown, she scanned the room for the nearest exit.

Her conscience wrestled within – abort the mission or full steam ahead? Warring emotions and her deceased mother’s words rang loud and clear in her head, “Manners matter, dear.”  In the end it was no contest. Propriety won out.

“So good to see you,” the frumpy duo chimed in unison.

“And you,” she gushed back with forced enthusiasm. With precision reflexes, she transferred the weapon to her opposite hand pulling it up her sleeve out of sight, freeing her right hand to shake each of theirs.

After an exchange of polite chitchat with the chunky minions of judgment, she excused herself. Seeking refuge in the nearest ladies room, her ears burned from their accusatory inquiries.

“What are you doing here,” they’d asked. Unspoken condemnation wrinkled their noses with a stench all its own.

Retreating to the safety of the restroom, she locked the door against unwanted intruders. Placing the fork on the counter, she unbuttoned her suit jacket releasing the roll of flesh from its polyester prison for a brief respite. Grabbing a towel, she blotted the dampness clinging to her jowly cheeks and upper lip.

She should never have agreed to this mission. The eventual outcome could prove far too dangerous. It wasn’t that she lacked confidence in her ability to complete the assignment. She’d committed more heinous acts than this in the past. This was nothing!  This job would be a piece of cake for her.

Cake. Hah! Good one, she thought.  But, there was no denying the recent doubts. The physical demands the job required were taking a toll on her body. Lifting a hand to smooth her hair, a button on her blouse popped open against the strained fabric. A sausage roll of exposed flesh hung over her waistband confirming her fears.

Maybe it is time to retire she sighed.

Leaning forward with both hands on the counter, she stared at her reflection shuddering at the revulsion reflected back at her. She pulled the taut fabric together praying the button would tether her bulge long enough to see this thing through.  Buttoning her suit jacket against the excesses of her midriff, she silently rebuked the Reverend’s wife and daughter for fueling her doubts.

It was only natural they would be surprised by her presence here. This was a far cry from their usual Wednesday night meeting place. She should have asked them what they were doing here.

She picked up the sterling silver weapon of impending destruction, tracing the intricate pattern adorning the hilt. The urge to plunge the cutlery into her center was fleeting, but powerful. No, she mustn’t waiver. Standing up straight, she smoothed her skirt over her generous hips and berated herself for her momentary weakness. She willed her thoughts to return to her mission, steeling herself for what she knew she must do.

Rehearsing her training, she mentally checked off each practiced step. Her confidence returned soothing her like a good Scotch whisky erasing anxiety.  Her body relaxed. A light tapping on the door jarred her from her reverie and sent a surge of adrenaline coursing through her veins.

“Excuse me, Aggie. Are you all right, dearie?” The unmistakable voice of the spry octogenarian sounded forceful, belying her 84 years.

“Just a minute,” her voice came out harsher than intended.

It was time. She quashed the internal conflict raging within. Checking her appearance from all angles, her innocuous piece of cutlery in hand, she rejoined the group.

The crowd parted unaware of the massacre about to take place. Once begun, there would be no turning back. She knew herself well enough to know she would perform this mission with speed, accuracy and absolute efficiency; a well-choreographed dance of precision, no doubt. The Reverend’s wife Doris and Precious should be afraid. They should all be very afraid. When all was said and done, would there be anyone left to help pick up the pieces she wondered.

Seduced by the power she wielded, the air in the room created an intoxicating blend of supreme authority and a heady sense of domination. Approaching her intended victim, she realized with sadness there would be more than one casualty today.  Rigid and focused, she stood beside the Mistress of Ceremonies and prepared to do her worst.

The speaker tapped the microphone, producing an ear-screeching squeal inviting complaints from the bystanders.

“Ladies … we are so honored to have Mayor Agnes Schwump with us today.  Please help me welcome her and thank her for agreeing to act as Judge for our Ladies Aide Society Spring Social. She did such an outstanding job judging last month’s cookie bake-off; we couldn’t wait to call on her again for our cake and pie competition. I happen to have it on good authority that Mayor Aggie’s first place choice of Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies, is going to be featured in the new issue of the Ladies of Bixby Cookbook.

“Mayor Aggie seems to have a God-given knack for picking winners!  I for one can’t wait for her to taste my Double Ripple Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake,” she twittered like a teenage girl.

“Now, I know you all are anxious for the Mayor to get started and she promises to give each dessert equal consideration. Including the low-calorie pound cake submitted by the Reverend O’Dell’s wife, Doris and her daughter, Precious … which by the way, is a recipe they created especially for their Wednesday night Overeaters Anonymous weight loss group.  And remember, Mayor … low calorie does not mean low taste!”  She flashed a toothy denture grin and a quick wink to the Reverend’s wife.

Drawing a steadying breath, Agnes pasted a smile on her face, intent on her assault. She mentally itemized her plan of attack. She would begin with the cheesecake in the center and work counter-clockwise from there until everything was destroyed.  With a death-like grip on her fork, she approached the table with reserved aplomb. It would be necessary to pace herself.  She would need strength for the slaughter.

Sixty-five desserts lay before her artfully displayed. No confection would be overlooked. She was being paid well to carry out her mission; a honey-baked ham and unlimited shoe rental at the Bixby Bowl-a-rama was nothing to sneeze at. She was honor-bound to see this through to the end – no matter the personal cost and sacrifice. It would probably get ugly and most likely she would suffer for it later.  But she would not back down.

Possessed with a will of its own, her fork lunged for the first victim. With a certainty borne of experience, Agnes knew the carnage would be absolute. All would suffer the wrath of her fork.

Aided by her weapon of warfare, she paused inhaling the essence of her first casualty perched on the end of the silver tines. Opening her mouth, she plunged the weapon home and swallowed savoring the taste of pure sin disguised in ripples of raspberry.

A devilish grin contorted her smile. I am the Cutlery Killer committing murder in the first degree, she mused.

The subtle seduction of gluttony holds her prisoner; cutlery merely a tool.  This Mistress of mayhem seldom bites off more than she can chew. She roams about seeking victims unaware who will acquiesce to an insatiable need to let her eat cakeBeware that deadly first bite.