I have found a way to reach out to my deceased mother. It’s amazing. I feel like I’m actually with her. Sometimes I think I can even smell my mom’s Jean Patuou Joy perfume. No, I’m not spending time with a psychic, a Ouija board or any other kind of cosmic intervention. My journey to the great beyond is courtesy of the Hallmark Movie and Mysteries channel.
Don’t scoff, don’t shake your head in disbelief and don’t discount the power of “Murder She Wrote” and “Columbo” marathons to make me feel like I’m back home in Texas (circa late ’70s early ’80s) with the hum of the cranked AC almost as loud as the TV and my mom and I sipping ice tea with mint from the garden as we try to outwit TV’s master detectives.
My mother loved a good “who done it.” She devoured mystery novels like I eat a chocolate fudge Bundt cake – in one sitting. My first chapter books were the Encyclopedia Brown – Boy Detective series. I still remember how proud she was of me when I solved The Case of the Missing Civil War Sword. After Encyclopedia Brown I graduated to Agatha Christie and my life was forever changed.
I was a teen with the hots for Hercule Poirot — Christie’s master detective. Poirot wasn’t exactly the stuff of a girl’s dreams. The character was a middle-aged, mustached, “egg shaped detective” from Belgium. Yet, I was smitten.
I’m not exaggerating: While other girls my age were obsessed with the Partridge Family’s David Cassidy, I was quoting Poirot.
“It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within — not without.”
Is it any wonder my brother came close to being forced to be my prom date? I think not.
I still have every Agatha Christie book I ever read, but for some reason re-reading them doesn’t bring my mom back to me like settling into the Hallmark Movie and Mystery channel. I think it’s because watching those shows was a shared experience and my mother always, like within the first 10 minutes, had figured who had done it and how they did it. It was impressive and my day, no my month, was made if I happened to blurt out before she did who the killer was.
Her detective chops also made her a mom who was hard to get anything over on. My brother called her a “human polygraph” You didn’t attempt to fib, white lie, hard-core fabricate or spin a yarn of falsehoods. She knew in a nanosecond if you were “spouting untruths.” It was a 100 percent wasted effort to do anything but be straight up with her.
One day she shared her secret to divining dishonesty. I was on the edge of our living room Scalamandre upholstered love seat all ears and ready for the truth bomb of my lifetime. Her reveal was, well, rather disappointing in its simplicity. My mother said, “To find the truth you have to learn to be quiet and listen.”
I gave her a look that said, “Ugh, that’s all you got.” She took one look at my disappointed face and gave me a “tsk, tsk.”
I never would have imagined those words of maternal wisdom would have remained on an audio loop in my brain for the past 30 plus years and that they would have served me so well.
That’s the enduring power of motherhood. Your mom never really leaves you. I still feel like my mother is with me. Still gently prodding me to be better and even to this day I hear her telling me to sit up straight or in her words, “Hand to God child, you’re one slump away from getting a dowager’s hump.”
And on those days when I really, really miss her I turn on “Columbo,” and suddenly all is right with the world.
Reach Sherry Kuehl at snarkyinthesuburbs@ gmail.com, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and snarkyinthesuburbs.com.