My mother came for a visit to the UK, our first American visitor. It was a wonderful visit, except that my mother was convinced I was trying to kill her the whole time. The motive was unclear (at first, anyway), but the methods were many:
1. Death by podiacide. I don’t think “podiacide” is a real word, actually, but if one way to murder is to force someone to walk a few blocks, my mother would accuse me of having tried it on her. To be fair, she has almost always lived in the American suburbs, which we know don’t always rate highly on the walkability scale. This is pretty much OK with her. Plus, she has a fancy new “power blue” Volvo sedan, so my mother enjoys a mostly – we’ll call it “leisurely” – lifestyle. It was a shock to that dear woman’s system when she discovered that we, car-less in London, pretty much hoof it anywhere within a mile radius, and use public transport to make up for the rest:
Mom: “How are we getting there?”
Me: “Walking, Mom.”
Mom: “How many blocks?”
Me: “About three, Mom.”
Mom: “How many is that in American blocks?”
Me: “Probably the same Mom.”
Mom: “Then what after that? A bus? A train? How many damn trains do we need to transfer between?”
Mom: “My knees are killing me. I’ve never had a problem with my knees.”
Me: “You never really moved before, Mom.”
2. Death by use of motorized transport that drives on the “wrong” side. It was bad enough crossing the street: despite my holding her arm and guiding her across, inevitably she would catch sight of some vehicle that from her perspective shouldn’t be where it was. And then she would emit a sound that was a cross between a scream and a gurgle. “GRRaaahhh.” When the five of us took to the actual road, renting a Zipcar to head to the Cotswolds, my mother was so happy to be riding in a car she practically beat me with her handbag so she could ride shotgun alongside my husband. (I pressed myself between the two kids in the back.) She then proceeded to do the scream/gurgle every time we went around a bend.
3. Death by hypothermia. Always a firm believer that we purposely kept our US house cold, she was appalled, but not surprised, to find that we didn’t even know how to turn on the heat in our London house. This was, of course, not an issue until the weather started to turn – which was, of course, coincidental with my mother’s arrival in the UK. We urged her to stay in her top floor bedroom, which was the warmest, while we tried with great consternation to identify the issue with the heater. She dismissed this advice and instead appeared in our downstairs common spaces wrapped in several layers, including one (maybe two) robes and several throw blankets crisscrossed over her upper body, in a Refugee-Meets-Mrs. Roper kind of fashion. But in case the overall look wasn’t making enough of a point, she added vocals: a loud “brrrr” as she moved from room to room, seeking warmth.
4. Conversely, death by hyperthermia – via un-iced beverages.
Mom: “Where’s the ice?”
Me: “It’s right here, there are six cubes in this little rubber ice tray.”
Mom: (Jaw drops.)
Me: “Mom, you will be fine.”
Mom: “I always knew you were against ice.”
And then later, during a showing of the play “Wicked” in the West End, after buying a Diet Pepsi at the bar:
Mom, frantic: “This Diet Pepsi is WARM!”
Me: “Oh no, Mom, seriously?”
Me, deadpan: “Mom. Call the police.”
5. Death by starvation. You can’t always find the same snacks in England that you can find at home (CheezIts!! Are you listening, Tesco???), and my mother found our pantry selection sorely lacking when she went in search of a midnight snack. This became especially acute when, despite a hearty pub dinner, there were no chips (sorry, crisps) in the house to munch on when we got home.
Despite all this, there were tears when she left, alive and well, and has even promised to come back in the Spring, when we’ve scheduled a quick stay in Cornwall that will require us to walk up a steep hill into town. Better start training, Mom. Thanks for being our first visitor to the UK. Love you!