sideways rabbit

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imagine (There's no TV)


If there's an upside to having multiply divorced & remarried Baby Boomer parents, it's that your child ends up having so many sets of grandparents he's bound to experience an alternative lifestyle along the way. (I'll say nothing in this post about the inevitable who-to-visit-at-the-holidays fiascoes.)

Yesterday we motored the 100 miles over the mountains to Knoxville, TN, to visit my mother-in-law "Mama C" and her long-bearded hubby L.B. ... L.B., a whip-thin fellow with an old-school Mississippi accent and love of literature, is Mama C.'s fourth husband: finally, her perfect match.

In the spot where 98.9999 percent of Americans would keep a TV, Mama C. and L.B. instead sport a ginormous portrait of their icon John Lennon. It's a silkscreen, not a flat screen, but as you can see from the scale of this photo, it's more room-filling than some people's home theaters. (I should mention that their cozy little house is just shy of 600 square feet.)

Mama C.'s brand of hospitality is an original mix of Old Hippie and Old Southern. This is a woman who brings her own spoon (an heirloom silver spoon) and china bowl to the Motel 6 when she travels. In the bowl goes her homemade granola. Some grandmas make gingerbread men. Mama C. will serve her five grandchildren cunning little "tofu men," carved with an (antique) cookie cutter and slathered in that gritty, "real" peanut butter you squeeze out in bulk at the health-food store.

Mama C. doesn't hurry, ever. She wouldn't if she could. She wouldn't any which way. One time we had to take her to the airport. We were already late -- they were holding the plane for her -- and she thought nothing of dallying in the parking lot, determined to figure out whether the striated dianthus sown in the median landscaping exactly matched the variety that once bloomed in her own mother's Myers Park home in Charlotte. My husband, who was traveling with her (they were attending his brother's wedding in Martha's Vineyard), barely escaped this scenario without a brain explosion.

On the other hand, when Beau was hospitalized for pneumonia at age 2, she was the one who read to him for hours without once glancing at her watch. Mama C. can draw out a 16-page picture book to last approximately 50 minutes. And my poky little boy, who would take half a morning deciding which way to exit the truck if we let him, is made of much the same stuff. He didn't get this quality from his own parents: Scott and I are both jumpy and irritable. Our nerves work overtime. We don't relax.

Nope, he definitely got his syrupy vibe from Mama C. It doesn't matter if it's skipped a generation: a leisurely outlook is as inheritable as olive skin or trick knees.

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