11/13/2020 Prompt is: Everything Changes
We noticed it first at Thanksgiving although it was probably building up all year, maybe for several years. My mother, Mimi, began to sprinkle snippets of song throughout her conversations, the way, I thought, a more religious person might insert Bible quotations or stuff from Ben Franklin (e.g.,“never a borrower nor a lender be”), which, ultimately I came to appreciate. Instead of giving someone a compliment on their dress, for example, she would sing: “One singular sensation every little step she takes.” Many times the song snippets were oddly accurate, as in seeing my face one particularly hard morning and singing: “Am I blue? Am I blue? Ain’t these tears in my eyes, telling you?”
Other times they were more abstract. Sitting together in the backyard the previous August, watching the sun set over her lovely, summer’s end garden, she began humming the end of the first act song from Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park.” There was a connection there, it did happen to be on a Sunday, but she either didn’t remember the lyrics or didn’t think them necessary to actually vocalize.
Thanksgiving was the first time our family would meet my current boyfriend, Kevin. He’d been warned but it’s a subtle thing and I don’t think he actually believed me. When we met my parents for a drink in September, Mimi had been relatively sane. My dad, Ted, seemed wholly unaffected by her lapse into “Rum and coca-cola” when the cocktail waitress came. Lots of people are silly at a bar, Kevin tactfully reminded me later although that is not the drink she ordered and I was grateful that she either hadn’t expanded her alcoholic preferences to include pina coladas, or she momentarily forgot about the song. As we gathered our wraps to go, after a lovely meeting, she did wink at me and sing, “Hmm – hmm, its so nice to be in love…”.
I was grateful that Thanksgiving that because of her age and relative cultural ignorance she hadn’t memorized any of the hip hop canon. I can’t think how “Bitch better have my money” would have gone down with my aged Aunt Anna for example, although in some ways I would have enjoyed it, Anna had the most money of any of us but was a bit scant on the generosity thing. She definitely would have used: “If you want it then you better put a ring on it” on Kevin by January.
I really liked Kevin and she did, too, I could tell. While helping put out trays of olives and cornichon she treated me to “People will say we’re in love”, “It might as well be spring” and “What kind of fool am I?” in quick, two-line succession and I was very, very grateful when my younger brother Danny came in to do the biscuits and put the marshmallows on the yams.
Dinner that year was lovely. Everybody had their claws relatively retracted although of course Aunt Anna and Uncle Syd thought that Trump would bring a needed breath of fresh air should he win the following year.
Once again, grateful that Mimi didn’t know any rap songs.
Instead, as Syd started to inform me about Hillary Clinton’s sex trafficking lesbianism I found myself suddenly breaking into the first few lines of: “There won’t be trumpets”, “Stop in the name of love”, “Corner of the Sky”, “Hey, Jude” (just cuz’) and “You can’t always get what you want” and I was about to launch into Eliza’s song from the end of Hamilton when I felt my mother’s slender but very firm hand on my wrist. She looked deeply into my eyes and softly sang: “The Party’s Over.”
Then we went around the suddenly hushed table and said what we were grateful for. When it was my turn, I stood up, turned to look at my mother and sang every single word I could remember of “’Til there was you” and surprisingly, I meant it.