For years, I played on my mother's frugality and her "omni-lectoral " nature. The first got her from Santa Fe to Boston, and the second exposed her to lefty ideas and ideals.
Detour: There's a bit on her personality change in which she ended up turning conservative here. She raised my sister and me in an open-minded, progressive, non-discriminatory house. She changed. Her reading went from everything to newspapers and conservative magazines and books.
Gaming the MomWhen my wife was seven-months pregnant with our first, we drove from Pittsburgh to Santa Fe in a U-Haul truck with furniture, dishes, clothing and perhaps 1,000 books. We delivered a very angry Wanda to her new home. Forced to move by economic and health circumstances, she became suddenly easily riled.
When I pulled the truck off the road in Oklahoma after miles and miles of seeing the signs, she was nearly purple over the waste of time. But hey, how often can you see a white buffalo? In retrospect, I admit that seeing a scruffy albino bison behind a wooden fence was memorable only because of her reaction.
By the time we had three kids, trips to Santa Fe were less frequent. The money and scheduling costs of transporting five 2,359 miles were considerable.
She was retired and it made much more sense in almost every way to bring her to see us. The almost was that we could see other relatives there. However, they were also willing to swap trips to see us and this city.
Well, I knew that woman and that she hated waste. My solution that worked several times was to send her non-refundable tickets and arrange airport transit on both ends of the trip. Sure enough, Wanda could not let the tickets go to waste. She arrived complaining about her sinuses, but then had a good time as mom, mother in law and granny. We'd take her New England places and all was well until next time.
After 9/11 though, it stopped working. She dug in and said she just wasn't going. Even if it meant seeing us less frequently, we'd come to see her and that was that.
She gave the ticket to my sister. As it turns out, that same sister made her company's ID badges. She created one with her picture and my mother's name. For this one time, my mother's frugality was observed, the ticket not wasted. Sigh.
Reds in the MailA milder version of the same aggressive gift arrived by mail. My mother turned from apolitical but very accepting of differences to right-wing. We got to the point at which many subjects were off-limits or she forbade. Finally, she said we just should avoid politics. Arts, science, people, food and many other topics were okay.
So, I sent her a subscription to The Nation. We have gotten it for many years. Of course, I knew that it contradicted many things her conservative magazines and talk radio hosts said. It also did that with facts and solid reasoning. She was always a sucker for those.
Sure enough, 48 times a year, she would read the slim pinko publication. I even let dance thoughts that it might return her to less emotional and more rational discourse.
She did wait two years and then said, "I appreciate the subscription, but please don't renew it again."
TurnaboutNow, I face the same conflict, trebled. A long-term friend and godmother to one of our boys started subscriptions for us to City Journal, Reason, and Commentary. I don't know which of these annoys and angers me more -- probably the most recent one to hit the mailbox.
There is an elegance and symmetry to this and I have to chuckle. Plus, I had a physical yesterday and my blood pressure is great. So those neocon rags are not yet killing me.
Like my mother, I feel compelled to read them. I may even post soon on Reason's piece on Disneyworld and gay wedding packages.
Our friend is an artist -- painter and sculptor. When she moved from the South to Manhattan and we all lived there, she seemed liberal enough. However, she kept company for years with a wealthy lawyer and businessman, who held very different views and got such publications as she has now visited upon us. He has died, but the damage was done.
These journals are like having a crazy uncle who visits regularly. He's not irritating enough that you'd throw him out or refuse to answer the door, but close. Being pleasant is a strain.
I remind myself that I do read conservative op-ed pieces and blogs. Having my positions challenged may be good for me and keep my aging intellect toned. I do find 1) occasional areas of agreement that are pleasant surprises, 2) insight into the often selective reasoning of the neocons, and 3) frequent proof of the unattractive and barely clothed right-wing body politic.
Can I gut it out? Will she tire of this before I do?
Meanwhile, I can revel in the Wanda-esque nature of this. I can't waste the publications any more than my mother could not read The Nation. There is no equivalent of an answering machine for the unanswered call at dinner. They arrive and I read.
Tags: massmarrier, Boston, New Mexico, neoconservatives, mother, Trojan horses