It turns out my mother was once young. I know, weren’t we all? Happens to the best of us. In those halcyon days of long hair, short skirts and, i don’t know, patchouli, my dad taught her how to skimboard. I’m picturing 1960’s flower children frolicking in the surf and listening to…wait, did they have portable music back then? Probably some guy with a guitar, then.
In my mom’s version of the story, she was a natural skimboarder. She could have gone pro but she wanted to maintain her amateur status so she could skimboard in the Olympics. Given her later acquired “expertise” at rollerblading, I have a feeling tales of her talent may have been somewhat exaggerated, especially after checking back issues of Skimboarding Quarterly.
Fast forward approximately twenty years. It’s the eighties. Mom’s foregone the ironed straight locks for a truly amazing permed mullet situation. She’s sporting some bright white linen harem pants and a silk, batik top – the picture of summer elegance. It’s been a long, hot day and our little family unit is off for a dusk stroll along the shore.
We come upon an abandoned skimboard, being carried in by the rising tide.
Whiskey’s eyes light up. “Cool!”
Mom’s eyes light up, too – a chance to show her pre-adolescent son just how cool she can be. “I’m great at this! It’s so easy – watch.”
She runs a few steps and hops onto the board, which promptly shoots out from under her like a greased thighmaster. In half a second, mom is on her ass in the Pacific Ocean. Not deep, just enough to soak her pants completely through. The sun is going down. The wind is picking up.
She stands, dripping, and looks down at herself. Did I mention that she was wearing white pants? It’s pretty tough to gather your dignity when you appear to be naked from the waste down.
“Fantastic. I’m gonna need you to stand in front and you in back of me until we get home. Then, we never speak of this again.”
So begins a long and uncomfortable (for mom, hilarious for us) walk back to our rented beach house, along the mostly quiet streets of residential Santa Cruz. Whiskey takes the lead, looking pointedly forward, just at that age when it’s tough to tell if this is the most hilarious or the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened in his entire life – ever. I pull up the rear, so to speak, diligently trying to walk close enough to cover mom’s ass without stepping on her heels. She’s looking pretty grim. And cold.
“Mom,” I say kindly, hoping to cheer her up. “It’s not so bad. You look like one of those pretty ladies who walk the streets at night and make men happy.”
Compliments fix everything.