My mom had always been a very happy person. Anxious, but happy. After she lost her sight she became much more anxious and much less happy.
One of her few pleasures was tormenting me over the TV schedule. Like I was personally responsible for each network’s lineup. Though I knew the programs she liked and the programs she disliked, she would ask me to read her the entire network schedule from The New York Times.
Had to be The Times because my mother ranked reading tabloids equal to reading The National Enquirer or The Weekly World News that wonderful precursor to The Onion. People just don’t seem to get that The Weekly Word News was a total joke and it drives me crazy.
Many things drive me crazy. When I have this site redesigned I’m going to have a list so that people can see my quirks at a glance and run quickly if she desires.
Like all good mothers, mine knew exactly what buttons to push to make me even crazier than normal. I’ve been told by too many people that there’s nothing funnier than witnessing one of my anxiety attacks unlike one of my PMS attacks which could occur at any time of the month.
My PMS attacks are never funny. Years before the color codes for possible terrorist attacks my friends color coded my PMS stages:
Blood Orange/Red: Don’t even attempt to call her for a week
Red: Think about contacting her in a few days
Fuchsia: Contact her tomorrow
Dark pink: Contact her at your own risk
Pink: Take your chances
Salmon: All clear; she’s probably good for a few days.
I think my mom had something to developing this code as she was my mom and had to speak to me five times a day. (It’s in the Jewish or Italian mom handbook–look it up.)
At six PM no matter where I was or what I was doing I would have to stop whatever I was doing and call with Times in hand. Say I tried reading a description from David E. Kelley’s Picket Fences. I wouldn’t get past the title when she would go
“yick, ugh, how can you read this to me?”
“Because you’d love it, let me read it to you.”
“No, it sounds horrible.”
One night she watched Picket Fences on her own.
“How could you not tell me about this program. It’s great; incredible.”
“I tried. You’d never let me get past the title.”
“I thought it was a show about a small town that had houses with picket fences. “
“Yeah, ma, it is, but behind those picket fences…..”
“Don’t call me ma.”
I only called her that when she was being ma’ish. Plus Rhoda Morgenstern called Nancy Walker “ma,” and I loved that. Anyway, after we got through the pregame show we would have a great talk about Picket Fences, and how I learned more about social issues from it than I did from my top ranked grad school of Social Work. (Happened to be attending it then; watched much TV.)
She found Everybody Loves Raymond on her own, and that’s all I heard about for a long time.
“Why aren’t you watching it? It’s the greatest show on TV.”
“Not home on Monday nights.”
“Why don’t you tape it on that machine?”
Because that machine would only tape shows from one station and I had a jones for General Hospital. Couldn’t really stand it and would fast forward through it, but I was totally obsessed with it. But I really couldn’t admit this to a woman who had never watched a soap in her life, and she knew that I watched HBO on Sundays like every normal person. During the week I could only watch ABC shows and the pickings were pretty limited.
Then 9/11 happened and I lost all network TV shows. Then my mom suddenly died, and all I wanted out of life was to watch Everybody Loves Raymond.
For many months I only had cable TV stations and sporadic Internet and e-mail service as my cable company modem was out more than it was on. I had to pick my fights with the cable company and chose to solve my modem problems as I really needed e-mail to send the articles that didn’t support me in style to my editor.
I finally got network TV. (The cable modem problem was to become the war with the cable company.) I watched Everybody Loves Raymond and immediately understood why my mom had been so insistent. Ray Romano was exactly like every man we had ever known. He was my dad, my bro-in-law, my former significant others (except for one.) He was so sick, so sarcastic, so funny and cute.
My mom didn’t relate to Marie, Ray’s mother. She could manipulate a thousand times more subtly, she could get anybody to do anything. And she was funny like Debra. The early Raymond’s relied heavily on physical comedy. I spent a year, no really two and a half, feeling guilty that I hadn’t taped Raymond so that i could explain all the silent scenes to her.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. But I never miss an episode.