Pains & Automobiles
mother has gone Hollywood.
by taking acting lessons, or dressing inappropriately for her age
or commissioning frightening plastic surgery or anything like that.
Worse. Mom just gave me notes.
happens when the folks and I are road tripping from their current
home in Torrance to check out the retirement community of Temecula.
I can't imagine how Temecula could be more retired than Torrance,
but that's beside the point. I naively believed this would be an
excellent opportunity for me to power-nap in the car while my dad
drove. Nothing gets me more excited then someone else offering to
drive in L.A. I do my best sleeping in cars. And I totally intended
to perform my daughterly duty and rustle up the mandatory excitement
for the floor plans at the Sunny Days Senior Experience Condos when
we arrived there.
I should've remembered is that in my family, parental ambushes are
launched when the unsuspecting kid is confined to a moving vehicle.
in the backseat of Dad's '90s-era Accord, oblivious, picking dog
hairs off myself. Sir Gus Ippotamus, ("Gus" for short),
is the usual guest of honor in the Honda. This special Shar-Pei
is the love of my parents' life, their favorite child, and as his
full registered name correctly implies, the world's most high-maintenance
and pretentious dog. I catch the dirty look my father shoots me
over his sunglasses in the rear-view mirror. Maybe it was a bad
idea, moving the "Wrinkles Are Sexy!" blankie so I could
sit on the actual upholstery. Dad slams on the brakes just as I'm
about to pluck a hair from my tongue, grinning as I nearly bite
my thumb and index finger off. Yep, I'm definitely in the dog house.
back to my mom going Hollywood. She's been quietly riding shotgun
in the Gus-mobile for the last hour when she turns suddenly and
fires an exploding round in my face: "It's nice you sold a
story to that show Medium, but I think you should write something
this might not seem like all that shocking of a statement. I've
gotten notes before. Airplanes aren't in and of themselves controversial.
this is the first time in two years my passive-aggressive,
Republican, "the entertainment industry is evil" mother
has acknowledged I quit practicing law to write. As far as career
choices go, Lawyer = parents' wet dream. Writer = parents' worst
I broke the news I was giving up my high-paying, respectable law
job for the scandalous, artistic unknown, it was treated like a
death in the family. First came denial -- the topic was ignored.
Then came anger -- holiday party plans were canceled, because
would my parents tell their friends? If the pretending was working
for them, I assumed it would work on their dear pals. I, the destroyer
of my parents' social life, assumed wrong. Bargaining and depression
came as a package deal. My dad sent me newspaper classifieds for
job openings at prestigious firms such as Ambulance, Chasers &
You, with attached post-its begging me to apply so my mom would
stop crying. When I politely informed him this was not the usual
employment route people who graduate from accredited law schools
take, there was reversion to anger. How dare I throw away my career
after he put me through school!? When I gently reminded him it was
I who took out the seventy grand in student loans to pay for law
school, well, let's just say there was severe backsliding in their
grief cycle. All the way back to denial. Until now.
nice you sold a story to that show Medium, but I think you
should write something about AIRPLANES!"
too stunned to respond. Dad joins the pitch, "You know
mix-ups at the control tower, and jets almost crashing and stuff!"
nods vigorously and squeals, "Exactly!"
do these people think they are? Sherry Lansing and Jerry Bruckheimer?
Sherry and Jerry, who up 'til now have refused to recognize my decision
to write, are now telling me what to write! This is SO NOT the form
their acceptance was supposed to take.
inkling of insight comes when I remember my mom is obsessed with
'70s disaster films. Earthquake, The Towering Inferno,
The Poseidon Adventure. And then there are her all-time faves,
the airline thriller trilogy that is Airport, Airport
'75 and Airport '77. (She doesn't count the fourth installment,
Concorde: Airport '79, because "that one was crap."
So weird, yet so wise.) I don't know why she loves these movies
so much. I suppose it spices up the monotony of suburban life, watching
mass destruction from an Ethan Allen couch. Come to think of it,
between Mom's bad hearing and Dad's aversion to movie candy prices,
these could very well have been the last films my parents saw in
an actual theater.
that's when I realize my mother is reaching out, inciting me to
write about something she likes so she can find some common ground
and understand me. She's waiting at the gate, hoping I'll make my
connection so we can fly together. But first, a few mechanical difficulties
on my part.
airport movies you love are a tough act to follow, Mom. Especially
these days. Between Flightplan, Red Eye and Snakes
on a Plane, I'm not sure I have anything fresh to add to the
air peril genre."
mom's head whips around. "Snakes on a Plane? What's
about snakes. On a plane."
rolls her eyes, disgusted with me and my no can do attitude. "Really
Tonya, like I give a damn about snakes, Jodie Foster or Rachel McAdams.
Something scary must have happened to you at some point on an airplane."
does she know, I'm way more frightened that she just name-dropped
Rachel McAdams than I've ever been on any 747.
I miss my mommy and I'm desperate to win back her approval. "Well
was more funny than scary, but a thing did happen on a flight a
few years ago."
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