The Tactician

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.



jin said...

Isn't it a law that ALL parents have to do that to their kids on occasion?!!?
One parent anyway.
My Mom's cool.
My Dad's like your Mom.
Oh the SHAME.

Coaster Punchman said...

Well, you promised us dysfunctional mother stories. And so they begin!

Dale said...

I think it is law Jin. My Dad's the quiet one.

Hey CP, I've only just begun.

X. Dell said...

I see. This explains much.

Erik said...

I adore other people's mothers.
To be fair, though, after living there off & on a few years, the prices are kinda high. And the coffee (though at least not Nescafe) a bit crap. And the weather.... Oh, hell.
I'm meant to BE other people's mothers, aren't I?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, you're a flight attendant. Ever been in a crash? You were? How'd that work out for you?"

Anonymous said...

Wait, are we related?

Anonymous said...

When I was getting ready to leave Taiwan after my stint there trying to convince those poor hapless Buddhists to become Mormon, I somehow managed to convince my parents to show up and spend ten days touring the island, visiting the few people I managed to convert and looking at the sites where I'd be utterly, utterly miserable. My mom made a few social faux pas but she compensated liberally for that by BUYING ME LOTS OF STUFF. LOTS AND LOTS OF STUFF. She bought me more souvenirs in ten days than I'd bought in 18 months. It was great.

However, the same (as in, the "it was great" part) cannot be said of the trip I took with my parents down along the Mississippi so we could watch my big sister graduate from law school in Texas. There were a few very bad scenes.... There we were in Memphis and my mom didn't want to see Graceland?! I had to throw a three-ring conniption fit to get her to go to Elvis's house. And afterwards, she loved it. (Duh, who wouldn't?)

I think it has something to do with age. I was still young (early 20s) for the first trip and not quite so young (early 30s) for the second. I think once you pass 30, there's just no decent way to travel with your parents. Do you think your sister would agree with me?

barista brat said...

ok - that was friggen' funny.

Cup said...

I love your Mama stories, Dale. Luckily, my mom is much easier to travel with ... as long as you don't mind spending most of your travel time shopping. Why hit an art museum when there's a Macy's in town?

ziggystardust73 said...

I love this post, simply because I can just imagine the baffled looks on the English peoples' faces at your mother's refusal to partake in the civilities and politeness.

Nescafe. Superb.

Katie Schwartz said...

is your mother a heeblette? she just SCREAMS bridge and tunnel jewma or jew-g-ma.

Tenacious S said...

My mother in-law, while visiting us in the very cosmopolitan city of San Francisco made several loud comments about people not speaking English. I wanted to put a bag over my head.

Chancelucky said...

Isn't this what parents are for?
My wife and I have already started planning ways to embarrass our children some time in the near future. You keep an account book as they grow up, then just be very very patient.

Old Lady said...

Mmmmmmm-i feel a post coming on!!

lulu said...

My mother is perfect. She is polite, smart, funny and generally a joy to be around. I love hanging out with her, and would never ever worry about traveling with her.

My father on the other hand......

Dale said...

I'm the sum of a lot of things as you may see eventually X. Dell.

Ok Erik, I'm sending her to you to adore when the time comes! You're a special kind of mother.

I guess she was thinking of a light crash Creepy. Nobody said she was genius.

We could be Winter, I'm still trying to remember some of my siblings' names.

My sister would want to know how to get the extra souvenirs Holly and then she'd agree for sure. And so would I. I would also love to have seen your conniption. Because I've always liked the sound of that word. I'm not even Buddhist, Mormon or Elvist either!

Glad to make you laugh BB.

My mother would hit the stores and then complain about the prices Beth. She'd find the extreme bargains (as in stuff nobody would want and buy that). Glad you enjoyed.

I should con my sister in blogging about her sometime Ziggy although I think she still wakes up shuddering from some of the nonsense of that trip and only longs to forget it. Those were only the lowlights that I could remember!

Ben, you're a gentleman and an ambassador! I think the distinction is that though many of these things may be true in your eyes, you don't go about telling everyone that it is so all the time. Or do you?

She could have been in a past life Katie. By the way, your blog is insane and fun which I like.

Poor Ten. S. That sounds a bit more like my dad. In this case, he'd make the remark and then my mother would feign disgust and present herself as the cultured non-whiner.

It is exactly what they're for CL. It sounds like you're well on track to giving those pesky kids their due.

Excellent O.L. I love your posts.

I want to hear what your father says about you and your mom Lulu. Just for fun. :-)

Melinda June said...

Excellent post, dale. But it's a foreshadowing of my life...I've finally convinced my folks to come visit me, and now I've got to figure out how to entertain them, feed them, and show them the UK whilst avoiding stairs. Plus, my dad has a bit of a hearing problem, making the accents even harder to decipher.

Looking forward to that.

Dale said...

If they need any pointers MJ, I can have my mom call up with them. Tell your dad to bring his ear horn along.

Angie Pansey said...

That is fantastic, sounds just like my mom. Nicely told!

Dale said...

Thanks Angela. Are we brothers from another mother? Except you're like the sister and you're a different race and stuff?

Anonymous said...

One time, I took my Dad to the movies to see "The Talented Mr. Ripley". He blurted out in a very loud voice I might add, "Which one's the fruit and which one is the switch-hitter?"

I wanted to crawl under the seats along with the old popcorn and sticky floors.....

That was the last time I saw a movie with my Dad.

Dale said...

Bluez, that had me laughing so hard that someone came over to my desk to find out if I was alright. Gotta laugh at something like that (after the fact).