I saw my mother in the microwave yesterday. Not like in the microwave – this isn’t the beginning of a “CSI” episode. I mean, I caught my reflection in the microwave’s glass, and wouldn’t you know it, Rose was looking back.
The woman gave me quite a few defining physical characteristics, most notably my big cheeks. (The ones on my face, you pervert.) These are cheeks that have gotten pinched and tweaked my whole life because apparently no one can resist pinching a big cheek. (Again, on my face, you creep.) These are cheeks that cause squirrels to glare enviously as they store acorns for winter. “I could feed squirrel village if I had cheeks like that,” I hear them lament, as I jog by.
Between seeing my mother in the microwave and being in the middle of the summer parental-holiday sandwich (Mother’s Day in May, Father’s Day in June), I’ve been thinking about my parents a lot and what they’ve given me. (I’m talking beyond my college education and collection of “Golden Girls” DVDs.)
The genetic features are obvious, big cheeks and shapely feet from my mother, dark hair and gangliness from my father. But I’ve inherited more than just chromosomal features; I have fallen heir to their quirky habits and it’s only getting worse with age.
Take underwear for example. For some reason underwear was a fairly large theme during my childhood. Wearing and stocking clean underwear was of the highest importance. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. Godliness is next to clean underwear.
My mother’s signature advice was to always put on a clean pair in case I was ever in a car accident. Car accidents are terrifying enough for a child to think about let alone how underwear figured into the equation. When I was 10, we were rear-ended (totaling our mastodon-sized ‘87 Oldsmobile) and an ambulance was called. My first thought was whether or not I was wearing the requisite washed skivvies. (I was.) What was the next step? Was someone going to check? Would I have to proclaim it in order to get a ride to the hospital? I was more traumatized by the underwear portion of that afternoon than the accident itself.
But my underwear issues didn’t stop there. When it came to traveling, there was always anxiety around how much to bring. The general rule of thumb was to bring two pairs for each day of travel. You know, just in case. (Again. Just in case what? In case I get pushed into a pool? In case I poop myself? In case a herd of JC Penney lingerie models lose all of theirs in a freak wardrobe trailer fire?)
But the underwear x (2 x days)=panty peace of mind equation wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule. There were so many other variables to consider. What if your checked bag was lost? Well, then include a few pairs in your carry-on bag. What if there are more activities throughout the day? Toss in a few extra. What if you’re packing clothing that requires specific kinds of underwear (white pants, tight skirt, etc.)? Make sure to throw in the specialty items.
As I’ve gotten older, the underwear algorithm has further morphed. I create scenarios in my head for which I need contingency underwear. I worry (irrationally) that the bus will break down and I’ll need to walk. Or there’ll be a spontaneous decision to road trip across country. Or maybe someone will simply just steal my bag. (Joke’s on you pal. You get a bite guard, clinical-strength deodorant, and 15 pairs of underwear.) Now I find myself packing at least 3 times as much underwear as I actually need. So for a 3-day trip to visit my boyfriend I usually take about 10-14 pairs of underwear. And I find this totally necessary.
While my father didn’t give me any genetic traits that sent squirrels into a fit of rage, he did pass on another set of bizarre math skills. He taught me a little thing I like to call “air-gebra.”
Just as you can’t predict how many activities/car accidents/pooping mishaps you might have while on vacation, you also will not be able to predict the traffic jams/acts of God/geriatric pedestrians you might encounter on your way to the airport for said vacation.
The closest airport to our house was an hour and a half away. Let’s say your domestic flight takes off at 4 pm. Just in case there’s any traffic let’s double the amount of time it would take a normal person to get to the airport. (Leave at 1 pm) We’ll need to reserve at least 2 hours for checking in and security. (Leave at 11 am) Let’s add another hour for buffer. (Leave at 10 am) We should probably add time for meals. (Leave at 8 am) Don’t forget about parking! Let’s add an extra hour for that just to be safe. (Leave at 7 am)
Before I know it, I’m leaving 3 days before my flight actually takes off. (Don’t even get me started on international flights.) Flying is not a relaxing, convenient option for my family. It’s about as long and arduous as the Oregon Trail with one family member inevitably gets DEFCON 1 diarrhea, insisting that they’re dead weight, and begging for us to continue on without them.
How did this happen? Of all the habits and quirks I could’ve picked up from my parents, I chose poorly. Not to belittle the benefits of supplemental undies and responsible airport travel, but if you look at it in a Darwinian, zombie-apocalypse, your-skill-set-directly-determines-your-ability-to-survive sense, I picked the end of the stick with you know what on it (hope you brought an extra pair of underwear for that).
My mother can answer any medical question I throw at her and my father can reverse engineer an electrical breaker. And yet somehow I only picked up compulsive underwear packing and paranoid vacation prep.
I suppose that’s still something to be thankful for. I mean, where would I be without those skills? Sitting in an airport, pissed that I missed my flight with a normal amount of underwear in my suitcase. That’s where.
But it still makes me wonder what my kids will pick up. At this rate, it’s safe to assume it won’t be my understanding of the English language or my cooking skills. Probably more like a healthy knowledge of Bea Arthur trivia and an irrational dislike of the word, “moist.”