Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fear and Limas

My presence had been requested.

After six months in exile, my parents were finally back in their repaired house and asked me to come help them unpack and organize, apparently the oldest daughter's responsibility.

We spent a lot of the day pulling books out of boxes to go on the shelves of Dad's library, discarding unwanted titles such as "The King: Clark Gable" and "Bastard Out of Carolina" and scads of Readers' Digest anthologies from the '60s.

Who ever thought it was a good idea to read condensed versions of books?

While Mom and I were downstairs polishing silver she never uses, Dad called down wondering where the family coat of arms was. Given how many boxes and piles of stuff still crammed many rooms, it was anyone's guess.

I didn't say that, though. The first thing out of my mouth was, you mean the one that says "Huic habeo non tibi"? Given my lack of schooling in Latin, it came out pretty fractured and my mother - a Catholic school attendee who did take Latin- grimaced at my attempt.

But I was pretty impressed with myself because I hadn't seen that coat of arms in years. How I was able to pull that motto out of my ass the recesses of my brain is beyond me. I remember as a child staring at it with no clue as to what it meant, much less how to pronounce it.

Today I asked. "Have no fear," Dad tells me. So the naked man kneeling atop our family's coat of arms is fearless? Does that make us bold or idiots?

By late afternoon, they were running out of steam and I was ready to escape their overly warm house for a bit. When I announced I was going out for a walk before the sun set, my mother's reaction was typical. "I think you got plenty of exercise today!"

I'll be 90 and she'll still be telling me what I need to do. So I headed out to walk the road alongside the river, savoring the cold air, gray sky and mirror-like reflections of trees and houses on the still water. I even saw an eagle flying overhead.

Back at the ranch, Mom was ready to get in the car and do a few errands before meeting Dad for dinner at a local restaurant. She wanted me to drive since it was getting dark but didn't hesitate to critique my driving while I rolled my eyes.

Maybe I'll have to be 100 before she stops with the mother-knows-best routine.

Arriving at the restaurant before Dad did, she wouldn't so much as order something to drink until he arrived. I, on the other hand, had no such problem.

When he did get there, he was as excited as I was that one of tonight's specials was Brunswick stew, while Mom reminded us that she thinks lima beans taste like green paste. She's been telling us this since we were kids.

We each ordered a bowl anyway and she looked away.

The huge serving of stew was delicious, full of chicken, ham, limas, corn and tomatoes and better than the last batch I'd bought at the Frog Level volunteer fire department, although that jar of stew had been accompanied by an offer to find me a husband, unlike tonight's.

Maybe I should have taken them up on that offer.

Meanwhile, my Mom had decided to order chicken nuggets for one simple reason: she has not once in her life had them. Wasn't entirely sure what they were. And people think I live a sheltered life.

 Overheard at the bar: "He got up and put on Johnny Cash at 9:00 in the morning." I'm not sure what that's indicative of, but it didn't sound good. Maybe she just isn't a Johnny Cash fan.

We finished with a monster slice of coconut cake made by none other than our server, a nonstop smiling presence greeting, serving and chatting up customers.The kind of person who delivers an ice cold beer to my Dad because once, a few years ago, he'd asked for a beer from the bottom of the cooler. She never forgot that request.

Kind of like I never forgot that "huic habeo non tibi" business. Mom's just now eating chicken tenders and I'm just now learning the family motto. And yet, I think I absorbed it by osmosis.

Do I sound like I have any fear?

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