I Raise My Glass to You, Mom

Posted: April 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Drink, Husbandry, Mama Posse, Manners, Mom, Sisters | 1 Comment »

I spent the better part of dinner tonight trying to hold my lips the way my mother did when she drank wine, and trying (sadly, literally) to not wet my pants laughing.

She used to do this thing when she put a wine glass to her mouth where it looked like she was playing a flute. You know, like she was sorta flattening her lips to blow, with the corners slightly upturned like the early stage of a super fake smile.

It was her Fancy Wine-Drinkin’ lips that she did without fail, every time. I mean, she could have a glass of water and one of wine that she was working at the same time and she could pick either one up at random while conducting a conversation and maybe even cooking dinner and she could still somehow remember to do the Wine Drinkin’ Lips for the wine glass, and just drink like a normal human from the water glass. It was, in a way, impressive.

Unsurprisingly, this slayed my sisters and I. And not just as kids or anything. We’d howl and slap each other laughing (that’s something us Italian Americans do) whenever we saw this, well into adulthood. And of course, we’d razz her about it MERCILESSLY.

(I still regret never having done a blindfolded test where we’d hold up several types of glasses to her to see if she could somehow intuit the presence of a wine glass. My hypothesis is that she’d know.)

So anyway, as I’m here trying to do it during our heat-wave dinner on the porch, Mark is looking at me and trying to show me what face I’m making, and saying, “Okay, so this is it?” But half the time he’s holding his lips out away from his teeth like the teeth’ve got something on them he doesn’t want the rest of his mouth to touch. And of course, that’s all wrong (and frankly, I thought, not even trying very hard), so I’m all, “No, NO, like THIS.” But then unable to keep a straight face to get the flattened flute lips really right. They need to be all pulled back like a super tight face lift with just the smallest opening to let the wine come through. The small hole there is I think what she thought made it all good manners and fancy.

And hey, compared to how I pull corks out of wine bottles with my teeth and just start chugging at the end of my harried kid-tendin’ days, it WAS fancy, man.

So anyway, Mark’s all, “Wait, are your neck veins supposed to be pulsating when you do it?” And he’s sticking his jaw out real tight like a maniac. (Not, by the way, remotely what I was doing.) But hey, it’s not like I have all this isometric lip strength that my mother had from doing it for so long. I mean, it’s not like she looked like she was bench pressing twice her weight when she sipped a pinot grigio.

Finally, after ignoring the children for most of the meal, we gave up on it. Clearly Mark was not taking my attempts at perfecting the look seriously enough, and I was starting to question whether I just didn’t have the skillz any more to nail it.

Besides, in the teeniest small way all the Mom thoughts started to get me feeling a bit sad. I mean, how am I ever going to get it right if I can’t ever watch her do it again?

Last week, on Friday, marked five years since she died. And on that day the so-great-I-don’t-deserve-them Mama Posse had a lovely just-us-and-the-kids garden party as a tribute to my Mama. But I’d likely gone so extremely overboard in stressing to them that yes, a little lunch would be lovely, but please no dead mother poetry readings, or presentations of large poster board collages with pictures of her and words like “#1 Mom!” cut out from magazines. I’d made it clear in my lacking-subtlety way that if I wanted to “go there” and talk about her, I would.

Every time one of the kids called out, “Mom!” to one of us, I think the Mamas were cringing and all pulling them aside and whispering, “Owen, I told you to call me Sacha today not Mom.”

What gals.

And, as it turns out, that day, I didn’t want to go there. It wasn’t that I couldn’t for fear of what I’d unleash, there just wasn’t anything there to really go to. So aside from Mark sweetly saying to me at one point in the evening how happy he is that he knew her, her five-year death-iversary came and went like no big thing.

Usually Ellen and I and our kids get together on that day and on Mom’s birthday in January, and I cook Polish food. We’ll sometimes pull out old pics of Mom, and Ellen–since she’s kinda a hippie–tends to have some sort of special candle lit.

But last weekend Ellen was out of town, her kids with their dad. So we’ll schedule something for another day soon. And maybe then it’ll feel more normal or natural for me to think or talk a bit, or even a lot, about Mom. And if it just turns out to be another great meal with the intention of it being a tribute to her, that’s okay too.

The one thing I’ve learned about the grief thing is you never know when it’ll strike, and it’s foolish to try to summon some disingenuous desperate emotion when you’re heart’s just not going there on its own. No one’s looking to anyone to put on a big show. And not that we have to emulate her, but Lord knows, that wasn’t how Vicki rolled.

One thing I will have to make sure of when Ellen and I get together, is that she takes a crack at the Wine Lips thing. If my memory serves me, she has a knack for imitating it. And even if she doesn’t get it quite right, I’d happily welcome another laughing sesh just watching her try.

Oh, Mama. I miss you.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “I Raise My Glass to You, Mom”

  1. 1 mary said at 10:17 pm on April 22nd, 2009:

    I just choked laughing over the comment of us hushing our kids to use our first names. Wonderful post, my dear. Much much love. And I noticed I was trying to do the lips through the whole post… Xoxo

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