Monday, May 22, 2023

Love is Luck

"Love is luck."

These are Zinnias from my mother's garden.  I dug the soil, cleared the brush and weeds, and scattered seeds she had taken from old flowers over the ground.  Then I threw cypress mulch on top.  I had little faith, however, that they would grow.  She now has the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood.  It is a shame that nobody sees it.  It is in her backyard.  

My mother calls them Xenias, and so have I.  Xenia was the largest town in the area where she was born and grew up, an unincorporated township thirteen miles to the northeastt.  Xenia, you may know, is famous for tornadoes.  One of the deadliest tornadoes ever hit the town in 1974.  If you have ever seen the film "Gummo," you know about it.  

My mother's "language" has been a source of first agony and then hilarity for me.  It's not her, but the whole hillbilly crew from that region.  It is as if they have invented another language.  I grew up with a lot of what would be called "dialect interference."  I grew up thinking that trees were "chrees," and that there were "chimleys" on the roof and that one "worshed" both body and laundry and that you got "valentimes" on "Valentimes Day."  Etc.  There is a long list of such things.  Now, though, to hear the relatives talk gives me a thrill.  It is like going to a good movie.  Unfamiliar words and sounds are brought 'round to familiar things.  None of them had ever heard the name Obama, for instance, and so for the longest time he was referred to as Bahama.  If it weren't for Fox News, I don't think they would ever have gotten it right.  

So Zinnias (zi-nee-uhs) is Xenias (zeen-yas).  And it is Zeenya rather than Zeeneeuh.  Just for the record.  

I, in all my hillbilly glory, have pronounced them as my mother has.  When I actually saw the spelling of the flower, though, I had that "oh!" moment.  

"Mom, I think they might be pronounced. . . ."

"Probably that's why nobody knows what they are when I tell them," she said with a laugh.  

Mom brought the cut flowers over last night when she came to dinner.  I had made a big InstaPot of small red beans, pork, and brown jasmine rice.  She loves this meal.  I think that it is because I cook them in mostly wine with just a little water in the pot.  It gives a sweetness that counters the burn of the red pepper I use abundantly.  

Before and after eating, we sit with drinks and chat.  It is odd, you know, because I see her every day and that is what we do.  But somehow sitting with wine in the living room seems different.  Last night my mother was looking at the books in a bookcase with glass doors on it.  On the floor in front of it are a couple of stacks of photo books.  

"Do you ever open the doors and get one of those books out," she asked.  I laughed.  

"I did the other day.  I had to move all those books on the floor to get in.  But I have read all of those books, so I do not go in there much."

She shook her head.  My house is full of books, books on shelves in every room.  She can't believe I've read them all, but that is all I did for years.  I had no t.v., no phone.  I was pretty much a loner.  Authors were my companions.  

"You have a good memory," my mother said.  "You remember all of that."

"Ha.  No I don't.  I forget almost all of it.  But all the reading has given me ideas, and I don't forget those.  Oh. . . I'm just full of ideas."

That makes me chuckle, of course.  

"But I'm smart, I'm nice, and I'm a good cook.  I have a cute house and the music is beautiful.  How'd I end up without a girl?"  This is a true quandary for me and not just an academic question.  

"Because you won't let any of the women who like you come over," she says.  And it is true.  "You're too picky."  

Mom thinks I should be practical.  She is practical.  She has had to be.  Me?  I have ideas.  I have a big imagination and an even bigger romantic heart.  But as Woody Allen and so many people before him have proclaimed, love is luck.  And so I say to my mother.  

"Love is all luck.  I've been lucky, then the luck runs out, I guess.  But everything is luck, isn't it?  I mean, you work to put yourself in luck's way if it comes so you can grab the chance, but you never know.  You go to school so that if a good job that requires a degree comes close, you might be able to get it.  But going to school doesn't guarantee anything.  And some people who are nitwits get rich.  I don't know.  I've been lucky.  I didn't plan anything.  I've been lucky in both directions, good and bad.  But it now seems to me that everything is luck.  Right place, right time, right conditions."

That is what I think now, at least.  It is one of my "ideas."  I'm full of 'em.  

When the Zinnias my mother brought over dry up, I will take the seeds and plant them.  This is new to me, and I don't know if I need to let them sit and dry before I do.  I will use The Google.  They are annuals, though, and will die off in the winter.  I will save some seeds, I guess, for next spring.  

This is something I learned from my mother.  

And so, meal finished, drinks drunk, I made a big container of red beans and pork and rice for my mother to take and walked her to her car and told her I loved her.  I feel badly that she will go home and be alone.  I try to palliate her loneliness, but there are too many hours in the day.  Love is luck, but so is everything else.  

I am a good son.  I am better than most, I think.  Some kids hold grudges against their parents.  I have as many if not more reasons for a grudge, I promise.  But I don't hold on to negative things.  I let them go.  They are no good for me and will bring me no luck.  That is another of my "ideas."  By and large, though, I think, my mother is lucky to have me. 

Right?  I mean, luck does run in two directions.  

Oh. . . here is what last night's conversation sounded like.  I mean, it was the low, sweet background to the food and the drinks and the conversation.  It is lovely luck, my sentimental mood. . . my sweet indigo.  

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