When not tending her flock or putting together jigsaw puzzles, my mother could often be found practicing her other talent - being tactless. I don't think she ever really meant any harm but then that might just be a sense of familial obligation talking.
A few years ago, my younger sister in a moment of utter weakness decided to head to England for a vacation and take my mom along for the ride. Sis had lived and worked in London previously and knew her way around fairly well while Mom on the other hand, had never been abroad. The flaw in my sister's plan was in not realizing my mother's manners would remain just the same in a country practiced in the art of tea as they were at home.
There were endless remarks and comments made about the state of everything throughout the trip from the damp weather to the overpriced food and lack of vegetables to the way they drove. My sister did her best to not blush, roll her eyes or outright hide on my mother for the rest of their time there.
One evening, they were graciously invited to dinner by the mother and daughter of one of my sister's friends now living in Canada. The hostesses were unfailingly kind and put on a lovely spread. Throughout the meal, my mother curled up her nose at some of the food courses being provided and attempts at small talk fell flat. On hearing that the host sister was a flight attendant, my mother's burning question was whether she got into many crashes?
After dinner, coffee was served and my mother asked Is it Nescafe? which was her preferred brand of instant freeze dried coffee. When informed that it was not, my mother said Never mind I only like Nescafe. Offers of other beverages were made but my mother waved them away as though someone was trying to serve her shit in a teacup.
My sister was suitably embarrassed and vowed to never travel with her again and she's kept that vow.
If you ask mom about the trip, she'll recount how it was the best trip ever.
Except for the food.
And the prices.
And the weather.
And the jet lag.
And the funny way they talk.
And the lack of decent coffee.