Thursday, July 1, 2010

Glares And Other Arts

Well, another Mother’s Day has come and gone. All 3 of our sons paid great homage of course with cards and calls and songs, all making me get sloshily weepy. Isn’t it maddening that as we age those blubberings blubber up easier and faster than ever? That we just can’t control them as we did in our strong other years?
And I got a brunch too, and the weather was perfect, if you like knock-down wind, bright sun and low temps. I mean it was some special kind of day. I’ll never forget it.

But as I sat in my home that night thinking about motherhood and remembering how incredibly lousy I was at it and how our poor dear sons had to actually teach me how to be a mother, I began to recall how I could, with just a little subtle body language, actually control them when mere words were impossible to use at that particular moment. OK, I would have had better results had I used a whip and a chair but that was and is against the law I think, so I had to resort to looks and severe body stances.

Since grandparenthood has happily fallen to me, I find I’ve never actually lost my gift; I use the same tactics on our grandchildren when they’re in my charge, and, I am proud to say, with some modest success, although in the main they mostly look at me with a pretty bored expression when I turn all that bossy body language on them, and say, “What? What??”

Like all parents, I could, or thought I could, control our boys in public, sometimes at home, by turning to face them, widening my eyes, widening my nostrils, inhaling loudly, pushing forward my clenched jaw, pursing my lips and then leaning forward and glaring. Oh the art of The Glare; I doubt it’ll ever be a lost art, I mean not if we practice and make every effort to pass it down to our descendants. Hey, it’s a great gift. Some of us have it, some of us ain’t.

Our kids, just like everyone else’s, were smart and knew well the interpretation of my delivered body language when they screwed up, and they knew to cut it out, whatever “it” was at the moment. OK, they knew to cut it out, but depending on circumstances, they didn’t always. And that’s when The Glare was turned up full volume and delivered like one of those Ninja or James Bond thrown razor things, whatever they are. Were. I could shoot The Glare across a huge, crowded room and stop our sons dead in their erring tracks when I had decided their deportment needed a little tweaking. I could deliver The Glare like a laser.
I dunno. I’ve maybe have lost my edge a bit. When our grandchildren decide to push the envelope in a restaurant and I level The Glare on them, it doesn’t seem to work with the triumph of the old days. It sort of does, but the grandchildren now kind of glare back. Frankly, they don’t have nearly the finesse; that comes with age, time and practice, but they’ll get it. I can see the torch is being passed, and I’m proud, proud, proud.

I knew a woman years ago, actually around 62 years ago, who never had any of-her-loins kids, but she was a teacher and oh my, she had a Glare like a white hot thrown javelin. Her name was Miss Alma Torres and she taught French. She was barely 4’ 11” and most of us in the 5th grade were lots taller than she, so she had to have a very reliable arsenal at the ready. She could pitch a blackboard eraser with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile and managed to nail aberrant students right in the middle of their foreheads or the backs of their skulls if one of them had had the temerity to turn and look behind him or herself. Not allowed today, but it was a sure-fire successful discipline back then. Miss Torres was some wicked accurate at heaving erasers and the occasional piece of chalk, but her Glare was flawless, diamond sharp, and it absolutely never missed. And yes, I’ll confess here that I was a frequent recipient of little grey-haired Alma Torres’s Glare and still have the scars to prove it. I collapsed like a stabbed balloon when her Glare came my way, and remember receiving that far more clearly than getting a piece of chalk ricocheted off the top of my skull for chewing gum in class or forgetting how to correctly conjugate a French verb.

I remember once when I was out in the playground and was preparing to heave a clot of mud in the direction of one of my 5th grade sworn enemies. I had it all squashed into shape and ready to go, when I happened to glance into the shut window of the fifth grade classroom. There, her chin just a few inches above the windowsill stood Mlle Torres, her steel-cut blue eyes shooting The Glare straight at me. Stopped me cold. The mud ball melted and ran through my fingers, puddling next to my oxfords. That woman had talent.

We kids always thought her last name fit perfectly—doesn’t “torres” mean bull? There’s a constellation named “Taurus” which is pronounced exactly the same as “Torres” so we kids just took it to be a perfect fit for our French teacher. To us, she was a tiny, charging, enraged fire-breathing bull with glaring eyeballs she could turn on us and burn on us. Wow, what a woman. She never had any trouble with the kids in her classes. I saw her briefly decades later at a funeral and when she turned to look in my direction, I actually felt my knees go weak. She taught me well. I can still speak enough French today to properly order Café au Lait, but I never got to be quite as good as Alma Torres at The Glare although it wasn’t for lack of practicing. I do however think if you asked our sons they’d say I was moderately good at it.

I keep it pretty well honed. After 52+ years of our being together, Mongo has become somewhat impervious, although if we’re out at a gathering or in any public place or even at home and he starts to say or do something wrong, as so many, many husbands are wont to do so many, many times, I can toss off a good Glare and still pretty much stop him in mid syllable. I’ve still got it, folks. It’s good to be the Queen.

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