Sunday, February 12, 2017

is this the real life, is this just fantasy

My mom was a character.

She had a wicked — somewhat twisted — sense of humor. She loved a good, dirty joke. Actually, some of the best dirty jokes I know were told to me by my mom. She taught me curses in Yiddish. She listened to rock and roll, once beating me to Peaches Records to purchase a copy of Queen's 1978 album Jazz when it was released at midnight.

Growing up, my friends loved her. Not many of my friends knew my dad, but everyone knew my mom. She was the "cool" mom before there even was such a thing. When I attended elementary school, she made a few extra dollars driving kids to kindergarten, so she was always around and visible. At the end of the school year, she ran the face-painting booth at the school fair, plying her artistic abilities to the faces of many of my classmates. In later years, she regularly volunteered to drive my friends and me around to the movies, and eventually, concerts.

My mom didn't take too much too seriously. So, when she expressed an interest in the supernatural, everyone was a bit leery. She started hanging out with a group of ladies to discuss reincarnation and past lives. My father wanted no parts of this, so she would often go to these little, informal gatherings alone. Once in a while, though, I would accompany her. Seated around someone's living room, these women would pour themselves a glass of wine (except for my mom, who did not drink) and earnestly discuss the afterlife. One member of the group, an older lady who resembled actress Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, but not as attractive, told about a form of hypnosis called "regression." My mom leaned in closer as the woman elaborated on the process of inducing a subject into a deep, hypnotic sleep and jogging their subconscious memory with a series of suggestive inquiries to ultimately have them reveal and describe the details of a past life. My mom was a skeptic from waaaay back, which is why her interest in any of this was puzzling. But, my mom was pretty mischievous, so who knows what she had up her sleeve.

She ended up taking a course in hypnosis and had a framed certificate hanging on the wall in our den to prove it (as if that proved anything). Soon, she was hypnotizing willing friends and family members with the mumbo-jumbo words and incantations that she learned. At first, she read the steps and recitations straight from a paperback "textbook" she balanced on her knee. She strained to read the words, as the room was dimly-lit for purely atmospheric purposes. Maybe my mom's soothing voice offered relaxation to those needed relaxing and maybe relaxing led to a dreamlike state, but — dammit! — if she didn't get some pretty entertaining results from her little parlor trick. Several of my friends happily volunteered to be "regressed." At various times, one of my friends would stretch out on the sofa in our living room. My mom would pull up a chair next to the prone victim subject and recite her little spell. Much to the surprise and delight of the onlookers, my mom's suggestive hoodoo seemed to have worked. With some gentle coaxing from my mom, my friend would begin to spin some incredible tales of ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and even 17th century, witchcraft-threatened Salem, Massachusetts. Word of my performing mom spread throughout my high school. Soon, my mom had a regular gig with kids clamoring to find out who they were hundreds (or even thousands of years) ago.

Actually, it's Scrabble®
My mom was having a blast and she was ingratiating her standing as the "cool" mom. How ever she was able to get a bunch of teenagers to dream up whatever scenarios popped into their subconscious mind was a testament to her ability and the power of her suggestion. Did she really believe she was evoking actual "first hand" accounts of past lives? I doubt it. Was she getting a kick out of the whole thing? You bet! She even began supplementing her little dog-and-pony show with a foray into OUIJA® boards, creating a homemade version with letters from a Scrabble® set and an inverted wine glass. I'm pretty sure that was bullshit, too.

After a while, the novelty of regressions wore off and my mom went back to playing mah jongg. At least with that, she could hustle a few bucks from some old ladies.

Anything to keep it interesting. That was my mom.

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