On God, beer bellies and bald heads

by mymothersbrain

During church today, two things became apparent about my mother. One is that the sapping of my strength seems to be inversely proportional to her energy. That is, the more depleted I am, the more energy she has. And the more energy she has, the more she seems to focus it on things I simply don’t understand. Second, although she looks forward to church on Sundays, she’s losing her grasp on the meaning behind her lifelong tradition. Either that, or she no longer has the words to explain it, because when I asked her today why we go to church, she said simply, “We always go to church on Sundays.” “But why?” I asked, and she explained that when she’s at home, she always goes to church on Sundays. When I pushed a bit, asking if church has something to do with God, she fairly rolled her eyes, and said, “Of course!”

Yet, every time she goes to mass, she is able to focus on the service less and less. Today she was alternately telling me how pretty I am and reaching up to kiss me, and surveying the people in the pews around us for children, and bald, portly men. The love of children is understandable; she has always loved kids and laments that she has no grandchildren. The hairless heads, well, my brother-in-law shaves his head, and this fascinates her. She invented for him a set of lyrics that she sings to the tune of an old Mexican song, “Peloncito, aha, aha, peloncito, aha, aha!” Roughly translated, peloncito means little bald man, or man with a little bald head.

So, as the priest celebrated mass, my mom perused male heads. Every time she spotted one she’d say triumphantly, “Vi un peloncito.” (I saw a bald man.) If she wasn’t looking for thinning hair, she was fixating on beer bellies; I confess, this obsession is completely inexplicable, and at times, truly embarrassing. The man directly behind us, she informed me, had a beer belly. And so did the deacon, and she insisted I look at him, that I see his belly. And because she’s hard of hearing, my mom talks loud! Anyone within a 25-yard radius who understood Spanish probably thought she was saying the deacon could stand to lose a few pounds.

Another thing became clear to me today; if a kid is acting up in a public place, but he isn’t disturbing or hurting those around him, no wonder a mother sometimes just lets him be. At one point, I let go of my need to have my mom behave. Simply let it go. And everything was fine. Mostly, anyway. I sort of came to as she reached for the boy in front of us, patted his cheeks and told him how beautiful he is. He just nodded as if the praise were his due and my mom sat back in her seat.

But heaven help me if I lose my hair or grow a beer belly. My mom will never let me forget it!