My Mother Lode

A trib­ute to the five women who raised me. MARK PEYSER

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - BY MARK PEYSER IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY NISHANT CHOKSI

WHEN I TELL MY CHIL­DREN sto­ries about my mother, like how she used to share her cock­tails with our golden re­triever or when I woke up in the mid­dle of the night and caught her mak­ing a tooth fairy de­liv­ery in the nude, the kids al­ways ask the same thing: which mother are you talk­ing about, Pop?

It’s a fair ques­tion. Af­ter all, there are five.

Only one of them is my bi­o­log­i­cal mother, of course. (She was the act­ing tooth fairy, and just for the record, she says she wasn’t wear­ing any clothes be­cause she re­mem­bered her job only af­ter go­ing to bed, which she did naked.) I also have a moth­erin-law. And, thanks to my dad’s cando mat­ri­mo­nial motto—“If at first you don’t suc­ceed, tie, tie the knot again”—I’ve also been the re­cip­i­ent of three step­moth­ers. Some­how, when they leave my fa­ther, they stay at­tached to me.

I’m not com­plain­ing, mind you. With mul­ti­ple moms, you can ex­pect mul­ti­ple birth­day cards and hol­i­day presents, not to men­tion a deep bench of low-cost babysit­ters. On the other hand, you also get a host of opin­ions on how to raise your kids, what you should and shouldn’t eat, and where to spend your va­ca­tions. (The an­swer to the last one: at her house.)

HAV­ING MANY MOMS has made me some­thing of an ex­pert on the species, and I mean species in the hor­ti­cul­tural sense.

For in­stance, one of my moms is a to­tal gar­de­nia. She bright­ens any room and smells won­der­ful, but she also de­mands pre­cise care. She needs lots of son (me) and re­quires im­me­di­ate ad­just­ments if her en­vi­ron­ment turns hos­tile. This ex­plains her weekly SOS calls when she for­gets her Wi-Fi pass­word, as well as her im­pa­tience with other driv­ers and her ca­ble re­mote. I made the mis­take of teach­ing her how to Face­Time on her phone so I could lend a vir­tual hand when pos­si­ble. Bad idea. I am now the fre­quent vic­tim of the ac­ci­den­tal purse dial when she’s root­ing around for her wal­let, usu­ally when she’s driv­ing with her friends. It sounds like

this: “Snarfle rumble gr­br­rrr ter­ri­ble facelift? No won­der she rum­ple friz­zle clank su­gar daddy. Of course jin­gle jan­gle play mah-jong. Can you drive...”

With one very high-main­te­nance mom/house­plant, it’s a re­lief to have an­other who is a cac­tus. Sure, she pricks if I get too close—no gra­tu­itous hugs there—and she’s been known to for­get my birth­day. But on the plus side, this mom hardly ever re­quires a drink and can take any heat I throw at her. When my other moth­ers get on my nerves, it’s the stoic cac­tus I turn to.

Help­ful in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent way is my ma­ter­nal di­ef­fen­bachia; di­ef­fen­bachias lit­er­ally suck im­pu­ri­ties out of the air. True to form, this mom ti­dies my kitchen and does the laun­dry with­out be­ing asked. Like Mary Pop­pins, she’s prac­ti­cally per­fect in ev­ery way. In fact, she’s al­most too good. What’s the point of hav­ing a mother if you can’t carp about her a lit­tle?

With­out a doubt, my most en­ter­tain­ing mother is my Venus fly­trap. She’s an ex­otic show-off from her head to her toes. She used to go to a spe­cial pedi­curist who would paint car­toons on her big toe­nails—X-rated car­toons. She thought they were hi­lar­i­ous; my Grade 5 teacher thought oth­er­wise. My fly­trap mother is nat­u­rally a diehard car­ni­vore, and the more un­healthy the meat, the bet­ter. If the word “ni­trate” isn’t on the la­bel, she won’t look at it.

Lastly, there’s my aloe vera mother. She kisses boo-boos and makes them bet­ter, just like how aloe gel can soothe a mi­nor sun­burn. “Fussy” isn’t in her vo­cab­u­lary—she’s happy any­where, in­doors or out. She’s the per­fect mom to curl up with on the

My aloe vera mother makes a mean lasagna, but I never di­vulge one mom’s gifts to the oth­ers. (Oops.)

couch to watch an old movie, snug un­der the afghan she cro­cheted. She also makes a mean lasagna. Fly­trap mom would kill for the recipe, which is why I never di­vulge one mother’s culi­nary gifts to the oth­ers. (Oops.)

I’m tempted to note that one ana­gram of “aloe vera” is “love area,” but that wouldn’t be fair to my other moth­ers. They all cre­ate ma­ter­nal love ar­eas. Some may have un­usual pref­er­ences in food or nail decor, but they all love me de­spite my own pec­ca­dil­loes. So thanks, Dad. You may have du­bi­ous taste in wives, but when it comes to moms, you sure know how to pick ’em.

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