Mom cuts through crises with glib economy

Published 8:30 am Friday, May 7, 2010

I know a woman who thinks I’m a coffee pot. When I complain about problems large or small, she chirps “Perk up!” with sunny “I made it through The Depression. You’ve got nothing to complain about,” pragmatism. When I ask for allegiance after a tiff with my husband, I hear, “Why are you being a drip?” code for, “Did you go through a war with no nylons or candy bars?” That shuts me down, and it makes me wonder what metaphors she’d use if she were a tea drinker.

This woman is my mother, Carol Kloster, and if you are approaching the conclusion that she slices through her children’s crises with glib economy worthy of making Hemingway jealous, let me help you get there: She does. These dismissals aren’t hurtful, because her delivery is hilarious. You could set a clock by my mother’s comic timing, yet she is completely unaware of her gift.

I, on the other hand, first became aware of her gift crossing the mighty Mackinac Bridge. As soon as we hit the bridge, and Mom noticed brown turning to blue below us, she flipped down the visor mirror and applied the orange lipstick she’d worn since 1945.

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“Mom, why do you put on lipstick every time we cross the bridge?” I asked.

“You never know.”

“Never know what?”

“What might happen.”

“Well, what might happen?”

“You never can tell.”

“Tell what?”

“You never know.”

On it would go until the waves were behind us. If Abbott and Costello hadn’t gotten there first, my mom and I could have taken this bit on the road and over many a bridge to success.

Some families cherish heirloom quilts and yellowed letters from relatives long passed. In our family, we treasure our mother’s non sequiturs. We pick up her throw away lines and hold them as keepsakes of this woman blessed with a talent to turn the mundane into memories like these.

In the church parking lot, someone steals my mother’s spot. “You dirty …” She starts (my sister Susie and I simultaneously yell, “Mom! Church!”) “You dirty deal,” she finishes retaining her holiness by a hair. Thirty years later, anyone who causes one of our family to suffer an indignity is, you guessed it, “a dirty, dirty deal.”

My sister, with her new puppy on her lap, asks for the 15 time, “Don’t you think he’s cute mom? Don’t you? Don’t you, mom?”


My sister’s lower lip trembles and my mother adds, “Ask a stupid question, get a stupid lie.” Now, anyone who clamors for the obvious gets the same dry fortune cookie logic.

We sit, Mom and I, in the hospital during my father’s heart surgery. My voice catches as I ask, “Do you think it’s a sin to wish, every day, that we could go back and live in our past?”

“It’s not a sin, but I wouldn’t count on it happening for you.” Mom pats my hand, “You’re no scientist.” Mother, one day Hallmark and American Greetings are going to have quite the bidding war over you.

Opening a Mother’s Day present from Susie, Mom pulls out a stained glass trivet. My dad asks if she knows what a trivet is for, and my sister Barb and I sitting at the kitchen table promptly crawl under it. “You don’t think I know what a trivet is? What do you think I am, 50?”

Barb, in her early 50s, whispers, “If over 50 is the new smart, then I’m a genius and you’re dumb.”

Clearly perturbed Mom adds, “I didn’t just fall from the turnip tree you know.”

I peek through the tablecloth and prove Barb’s point, “You know Mom, turnips grow in the …”

“Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.” Back under the table for me. I’m not going to argue with that.

We laugh at Mom’s humor all the time, but we marvel at her heart. She has sat through the night rubbing a migraine from my brow with an arthritic hand. She gave birth to me at 42 just when she thought she’d have time for herself, but she never made me feel resented. When I have thrown sharp words at her she’s smoothed them with unconditional love. If I didn’t have Carol Kloster for a mother, I’d spend my life wishing I did.

To all the mothers who make the tears of laughter flow and wipe the sad ones away, happy Mother’s Day, not just today, but every day because you’re somebody’s mom and that’s a big deal.

St. Paul resident Alexandra Kloster appears every other Friday. She may be reached at and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at