Early Lesson in Diplomacy

Early Lesson in Diplomacy

A Story by Marie Anzalone
"

the apple doesn't fall too far

"

A Mother’s Sense of Humor
for Deb

I found an old picture of my mother the other day, buried in a box of school assignments, writings and other various items saved from when I was 7, and placed for some inexplicable reason into my Aunt Marilyn’s attic for safekeeping. After so many moves, and my mom’s two divorces, it is rare to find anything at all that has survived.  This indeed was a trove to be plundered, and the photo a rare gem to behold.

When I looked at it, I drew a deep breath. My mom’s head was bowed and her eyes did not meet the camera. It would be another full decade, actually, before they could. She was 26 years old in that photo, and I was looking… at myself. The family has joked nervously about us having perfected human cloning before the scientists did… but I never really understood why, until I saw that picture. The resemblance is eerie. There is nothing of my father in me, I think. I am a Doppleganger now for my mom at 26- same eyes, face, hair, structure- except, I almost always met the world’s gaze. I started thinking back to her at the time this photo was taken; where we were, how we lived, how she moved through the world. They are some of the earliest memories I have of her as a woman of her own right.

At the time, ee were living in a trailer on 5 ½ acres of Paradise in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal mine country. I never spent more time at home than was necessary- I’d pack my backpack and head into the woods and strip mines every day. It never occurred to me to wonder what my mom did at home. She spent those years as a virtual prisoner in her husband's home, seving him like a 50’s housewife. She was not permitted a car, or friends, or a job. She cooked and tended house and gardens. Luckily, she had a gaggle of older sisters (8 of them) and the sense of humor of a stand-up comedian. And the best poker face I’ve ever seen.

The sisters stopped by almost daily back then, and indeed, some of them still do. They took her shopping and out on misadventures of every sort. My cousins and I grew up not knowing or caring whose house belonged to who, while we were regaled with tales no child should ever be subjected to. There was never a chance actually of me ever growing up normal, or not writing. That deck was stacked against me when my Mother dealt me my genetic code at birth. For I resemble her in more than looks. And she is the only person I know about whom I can honestly say the local Mafia owes a favor to. But that is just for starters.

My mother hid her resentment all those years under an emotionless mask. She is the least demonstrative, but truly warm person, I know. Her delivery of everything- from a request for affection, to a dinner menu, to a hilarious story- is deadpan. She could put the Brits to shame. Looking at the picture, I remembered an incident that occurred around the time the photo was taken.

Walk back in time with me, and imagine the scenario, one night in a trailer, somewhere around 1983.

My father comes home from work, and tells my mother she is to cook an elaborate meal for his friends, the Thompsons, who will be there in two hours. For whatever reason, he has been trying for months to impress the husband, Robert, socially. Possibly because Robert is the Postmaster General, and the paneling in their house is actually painted- who knows. We’re going off a child’s memory here.

My mother hated the Thompsons. Even I noticed that Robert always sat next to her at dinner, with his hand under the table. Diane- his wife- was the model for the word “insufferable”. She picked at my mom’s cooking, she handled the utensils like they were infected with the Plague, and generally looked down her nose at everything about us. Her own son was a horrid biting little monster, but she prattled on endlessly about everything he did.

My mother had no choice. She could not refuse. She couldn’t get a headache, or feign illness, or call for a rescue from her sisters. So she cooked. She set the table. She graciously accepted the Thompsons into her home. She served them, waiting on them hand and foot. She suffered Robert’s groping. She smiled at Diane’s inanely self-absorbed conversation.

When dinner was over, Diane stayed at the table, while my mom got up to clean. My dad and Robert went outside to discuss manly things. Glasses were placed in the sink. A pot of tea was started on the stove. Silverware was collected. The dishes were stacked.

Without missing a beat, my mother carefully placed the dishes side by side on the floor, while she filled the sink. Our Dalmatian, Kelly, licked them clean of scraps and stains. Ravenously, hungrily. My mom allowed herself one little smile- I saw it- before calmly picking the dishes up off the floor, drying them, and putting them back into the kitchen cabinet. She never made eye contact with Diane, or missed a beat in the conversation- just went back to washing the glasses and silverware while chatting mindlessly.

Later that evening, after the Thompsons went home, she implored of me, “Could you please help me wash the plates before bed?”

I never stood a chance. I have inherited all of my mother’s genes- including the ones coding for her sense of humor.

On the bright side, Robert and Diane never had dinner again at out house, and no-one ever dared tell my father why. I learned much of everything I ever needed to know about diplomacy from my mother that day, when I was seven. I'm so glad I found the picture to remind me.

 

© 2009 Marie Anzalone


Author's Note

Marie Anzalone
"diplomacy"= the art of telling someone to go to Hell in such a manner that he or she looks forward to making the trip.

for those who have been wondering... this is a true story. This is Mom, being herself.

My Review

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Featured Review

I love how you present your stories Marie.
Giving us a little of the past, and a little of the future, but still firmly connected to the story's present.
Again, such a personal and uplifting piece.
While I read I'm reminded of what my mother has passed on to me, and also the things I've seen in her that I'm still trying to put into practice.
Keep posting these pieces. There's a healing element to them.
Something special that reminds us of whats important...

P.S
Love the Author's Note.
Any dictionary with those kind's of definitions
I'd look forward to reading...^-^


Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

that is an awesome story, I love your mother, and in her place, I hope I would think of such a brilliant solution

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I love that! And your definitiion of diplomacy? Mind if I pass it around to the women in my family?

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What an extraordinary lady! Oh, and your mom, too! If you two ever get together, everybody else in he room will be standing about, going "Whu-u-uh?", while you crack each other up with a lifted eyebrow! I had so hoped that she'd have found a way to suspend a loaded rat trap on her skirt, perhaps under her apron, so that when Robert made his unwelcome foray, he'd've gotten a well-deserved rebuke, that he'd be powerless to speak of! Speaking of which, eight or ten loaded mousetraps placed around the kitchen, Dining Room and sofa might've put Diane off her game, too! Oh, the possibilities!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Very good!!!

I think that was a great way for your mother to handle the situation. And very funny also!!!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This is a wonderful story. You could expand on this, though there isnt a need. I got caught up in the emotional expression, the very real and genuine telling. Whether this is accurate to actual fact (which it might be) or not is irrelevant, It is worthy of being published somewhere for sure. raining.

Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

You are her clone, and you're right - it's not just physically so. The physical resemblance is quite stunning, though!
I have to say, deadpan is the perfect adjective for your Mom, I never would have thought to describe her that way but it is perfect! You do have a gift with words :)

Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Oh my freakin' deity of your choice! The woman is a genius! I bow to the master.

An excellent walk down memory lane! Well told and...just freakin' funny!

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Great story, with a clever funny twist. I think the aside about walking back in time with me is kind of a jolt to the reader and takes them out of the story. It might have been better for the narrator to tell the story to another character. The mother certainly is a wonderful character. I enjoyed the story very much.

Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

I love how you present your stories Marie.
Giving us a little of the past, and a little of the future, but still firmly connected to the story's present.
Again, such a personal and uplifting piece.
While I read I'm reminded of what my mother has passed on to me, and also the things I've seen in her that I'm still trying to put into practice.
Keep posting these pieces. There's a healing element to them.
Something special that reminds us of whats important...

P.S
Love the Author's Note.
Any dictionary with those kind's of definitions
I'd look forward to reading...^-^


Posted 9 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on August 9, 2009
Last Updated on August 13, 2009

Author

Marie Anzalone
Marie Anzalone

Xela, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala



About
Bilingual (English and Spanish) poet, essayist, novelist, and technical writer working in Central America. "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start argume.. more..

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