Today would have been my mother’s seventy-eight birthday. I made cupcakes in her honor, and later I plan to eat two or three or four. I basically plan to eat cupcakes until my stomach hurts worse than my heart.
To pay tribute to my mom, I am going to share a funny family story. If you knew my mom, think about her today and laugh a little.
The Ceiling Incident:
I never liked the attic. It was filled with fluffy black insulation, like cotton candy from a horror film, and it smelled like dust and ghost breath. Rough sheets of plywood had been nailed to the support beams thus creating a narrow walkway that lead back to a larger area where my mom stored boxes of Halloween costumes, old photos, and the giant hunks of wood that were used in the dining room at Thanksgiving to make the table longer. My brother liked playing up there; the mad scientist lab or bank robber hideout. But I was uninterested and rarely ventured up, so when my mother instructed me to go get the Christmas tree lights, I was relieved when my dad answered, “I’ll get ‘em.” But moments later, we heard a loud tearing noise followed by a bellow and several curses. My dad had slipped from the attic path and his entire left leg was dangling through the ceiling in the center of the dining room.
“Ed,” my mother yelled. “Are you OK?”
“Fine,” he barked. “I’m stuck.” His foot wiggled as he tried to gain leverage. Not-so-muffled curses followed.
My mom giggled, muted at first, then louder. Turning to me she said, “Maybe we should leave him there. We could hang a picture frame around his leg and call it modern art.” She snorted, unable to stop her laughter until a trickle of blood made its way down my father’s leg. “Ed,” she ordered. “If you bleed on my new carpet, so help me. . .”
As my mother snapped useless advice, my father continued to struggle, pumping his leg up and down trying to jerk it free. Eventually, the drywall opened up, he popped his leg through, and made his way downstairs only slightly injured.
For the next decade, the hole in the dining room ceiling remained patched with silver duct tape. In my early twenties, while sitting for Easter dinner, I finally asked, “Dad, when are you going to get the hole in the ceiling fixed?”
“It’s healing,” he said.
I was raised Catholic, and for the next few years I jokingly said holiday prayers for the ceiling to heal. At some point in the early nineties, my mother hired a carpenter. “He was like Jesus,” she smiled. “He was a carpenter, and he answered our prayers.”