Mom taught my two sisters and me that any trip wasn’t all it could be unless you were arrested, got lost or injured and we’ve taken that lesson to heart. “We’re not lost, we’re having an unexpected adventure,” she’ll say. We often return pock marked with bruises from biking, hiking, sledding, skating, and Segwaying in her wake. As far as I know she’s never been arrested (except for a night on Sullivan’s Island involving fireworks which came close). It’s probably still on her wish list.
Stamina is her secret weapon so we prepare for trips with her like marathons. “You should see all that is happening here,” she boasted about her hometown of Detroit, “it’s a real renaissance.” Why did I challenge her? My exhausting tour began when I arrived at the airport and actually included two symphony concerts in the same day, an eerily empty people-mover, ramshackle houses covered with polka-dots by an outsider artist and lunch at her favorite dive in a neighborhood that’s the kind of place moms usually warn their daughters not to go.
Follow the crowd? She doesn’t do that. And so, one Christmas Day in Austria she, my daughter and I ended up on a boat floating on an underground river to a sound track of blaring yodeling. A few Japanese tourists and the three of us had zipped ourselves into white coveralls, straddled a long pole, held onto each other’s waists and slid down deep into the earth. Ahh, Christmas in the salt mines. Afterwards we slogged through the snowy streets searching for an open café. The only one we found was full of a Swedish youth group eating hot dogs. Mom taught them “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain”. We sang together with gusto trying to drown out the ear worm of yodeling that the Japanese had loved so much they’d bought the CD.
Feisty is a trait she’s passed down to us. At a posh spa in Miami several years ago, our waiter asked about our dietary goals. Many people had come to lose weight. At Mom’s instigation we’d smuggled in bottles of wine, cookies and snacks. “Stand up Lila,” mom commanded. “Look at this woman. Does she need to lose weight? No!” she said to the waiter, “Now heap those plates and keep ‘em comin’.” After a few beauty treatments and exercise classes Mom motioned us aside, “Psst, let’s make a break for it.” We ditched the terry cloth bathrobes, slipped into party dresses and hightailed it across the golf course to a nearby hotel where we danced with conventioneers and drank martinis until
She’s insatiably curious and will talk to anyone about anything (any everything embarrassingly enough). So that’s how I was able to prank her, my sisters and niece during a trip to Chicago. Somehow with all the city has to offer, Mom was most looking forward to the Polish parade. “It’s the biggest in the country!” I handed out official looking PRESS badges to each of them. “My editor has assigned us to better understand Polish wisdom by asking people to explain these quotes.” I gave them pithy phrases I’d culled from the closest thing I had, a book of Yiddish Wisdom: “A fool falls on his back and bruises his nose…” “If you have money, you are wise and good-looking and sing well too…” “It is easier to guard a sack of fleas than a girl in love…” Immediately on task, Mom started interviewing people in the elevator. She accosted people all along the street and by the end of the day was surrounded by new circle of laughing Polish friends.