Surviving Motherhood--September 1966 by Erma Bombeck.
I have discovered that one of the rich rewards of motherhood is casting maledictions on your children in the event they become parents. It's a unique way of saying, "Just wait, kid . . . you're gonna get yours."
One of my earliest recollections of this tribal custom dates back to my childhood when one day I was nailed in the act of throwing mud balls at Mother's corset flapping on the clothesline.
Enraged, my mother shook her fists at me and yelled, "May all your children have ingrown toenails!" Observing that didn't shake me, she added a bonus. "And may your tears be so salty you spit brine for a week!"
I'm not saying I fully comprehended all this, but from her tone I sensed she wasn't wishing me a happy birthday. I noticed Grandma talked this way too. Sometimes when Mother had had a bad day Grandma would smile, rather pleased with herself, and say, "I told you, Missy, if you made your bed of thorns, you'd have to walk through it in your bare feet."
Or when she really wanted to sink Mother, she'd say, "Didn't I predict that lip of yours would grow so long you'd have to take a tuck in it?"
Throughout childhood, the words of wisdom continued to flow until I felt like I was living with a couple of hollow-eyed gypsies. Words of encouragement, like "May you have a wart on your nose on your wedding day and heartburn on your honeymoon." Or, "Take care, missy, little girls who sass their mothers live to see their best friends chalk dirty words on their tombstones."
None of this made much sense until I had children of my own. Now, casting curses on my children is a way of life. It's the most comforting way I know to get rid of all my anxieties, hostilities and frustrations.
And the beauty is that the kids don't comprehend a word I'm saying.
I have one that's a real teaser. I just drop my shoulders, let my arms fall limp to my sides and nod my head tiredly. I don't say anything at first until I am sure I have their attention. Then I say, "Wait . . . just wait . . . until you're a mother." (Occasionally, my son, who is very bright for 11, will remind me he's a boy and only the female species bear their young, but he gets the message. I know he does.)
Casting curses isn't the easiest thing in the world. To work up to a pitch you need incentive, like the other day when I found a pile of dirty socks stuffed in the Erector set box.
I yelled at the top of my voice, "I hope you have identical twins . . . two weeks apart! May your patio face southwest. May your father belch loudly at the father-son banquet. May you have a rainbow over your playpen!"
When they get home from school, I'll think of some more.
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