Quixotic Matters

Yup. This is mine now.

Whenever I visit my Mom, two things happen.

  1. She sends me home with food.
  2. She sends me home with Something Else.

I don’t mind the food. I never mind the food. And Mom certainly doesn’t mind handing it over without provocation. She’ll wrap up a pumpkin pie in an acre’s worth of tinfoil. She’ll hand over garbage can-sized tin of butter cookies. She’ll insist on me taking an entire sack of red potatoes. Or she’ll load up her 1970s-era Tupperware with leftover steaks. This is just the way she operates. I think Mom buys stuff just so she can tell me to “Just take it.”

And when I finally say, “Thanks, Mom, but no more. Please!” she’ll redirect her sales pitch to my son, Alex, opening negotiations with “You like Tootsie Pops?”

And milliseconds later, Alex is merrily struggling under the weight of enough pops to satisfy every sweet-tooth in, say, Cleveland. 

I tease, but I do appreciate Mom’s boundless generosity. How couldn’t I?

But then there are The Something Elses. These gifts are less welcome and require a harder sell, but Mom is always ready and prepared to break down my defenses.  She knows like no one else how tap into the atrophied part of my brain that says things like, “Gee, I really do need that!” or “That should be in my house right now!”

And so it was a few weeks ago when I lugged the latest Something Else into my home. Moments later, my loving wife, Ellen, scrunched her eyebrows together and began to speak in one-word sentences.

“What. Is. That?”

“It’s a statue of Don Quixote,” I said.

“And why do you have a statue of Don Quixote?” she asked.

At that moment I looked at my treasured acquisition through a fresh pair of eyes.

Huh, I thought. Why do I have a statue of Don Quixote?

I began to parrot the pro-statue arguments Mom had used on me. I explained how I used to play with the statue when I was a child (The spear is removable, you see). I explained how Don Quixote is an important character in literature and that I, being a Working Writer, am clearly the worthiest recipient. I explained that the statue was originally a gift to my father and I don’t really have any Dad things in the house, and isn’t that a shame?

But as I prattled on and on, citing one talking point after another, I came to the realization that there was only one reason why I dragged this statue of Don Quixote into my home: A crafty old lady had decided to downsize.

There may have been mischief in Mom’s actions, but there was certainly no malice. She just wanted to get rid of stuff without having to endure the unpleasant task of throwing vaguely sentimental things away.

I concluded my speech to Ellen with, “I made a mistake.”

“You sure did,” Ellen replied.

But Alex, as always the optimist, offered me a shot at redemption. “But it’s old, right?” he asked. “Maybe it’s worth something?”

My wounded pride began the healing process. (The promise of a big payday can do that.)

“Yeah!” I exclaimed. “Maybe it’s worth a pile of money!” My imagination went wild. Perhaps the resale value of good ol’ Don will keep me from feeling like a schmuck. Maybe this ugly thing was worth thousands of dollars. I watch Antiques Roadshow all the time and, by golly, old, ugly crap is often priceless!

“Nope,” Alex said. (While I was fantasizing, he was doing research on his phone.) “It’s worth 60 bucks.”

My chin fell to my chest. “I’ll keep it in my office,” I told Ellen.

“Keep it away from the door,” she advised. “I don’t wanna see it when I walk down the hall.”

So good ol’ Don is in my office (and nowhere near my office door). I keep him within my line of sight as I work. His presence keeps me humble. He also serves as reminder to refuse any and all future Something Elses from Mom.

Except for the beer steins. I’m sure they’re worth something.   

I am such an idiot.

36 Replies to “Quixotic Matters”

      1. St. Francis de Sales
        St. Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of Writers and Journalists. He lived from 1567-1622 in France. He became a priest at the age of 26 and began writing leaflets (which he copied by hand) on the teachings of the church. He wrote numerous books, including Introduction to the Devout Life (1608). His feast day is January 24.

  1. Your story reminded me that my Dad had some unique horse items on his book shelves in the 70s- a set of two knights mounted on horses with removable swords. They were heavy metal book ends. As children we did not dare to touch his books or his knights.

    1. My parents never really banned me from handling stuff around the house–at least not in any way that I can remember. But I was a careful kid; I didn’t break things.

      As for me, I’ve always let my son handle my books–even when he was little. I encouraged it with a “If you read it and you like it, you can have it,” philosophy. Though Alex has claimed quite a few of my books over the years, I still never have enough shelf space…

  2. Yup, my own mom downsizes. I detest it. Then found myself doing to my own kids. Gifting with guilt. “I can’t just throw it away, so you have it.” Watch it, Mike—it shall happen to you and your progeny.

      1. I’ve thinking of setting up an incentive table at the next yard sale: “with every $10 purchase pick a treasure.” Just don’t tell my mom it’s her treasures.

  3. Actually, there’s no better gift than a Don Quixote for a writer, because we continue to tilt at that windmill of perfection and always end up getting slayed. But we come back from the dead, repair our armor, get back on the horse and try again.

  4. I read/heard about taking your unwanted items and leaving them at friend’s houses, but you kind of have to hide them so they won’t find them for awhile.
    You know, just in case you have to get rid of something.

  5. OMG! I’m your mom! Not really “your” mom but I am that woman. When we moved to my current location I realized I hadn’t downsized enough the last couple of times we moved. I just crammed it all in. Since deciding a couple of months ago it was time to move again I have not let anyone get away without taking something to “remember me by”. Every chance I get something leaves my home with someone else.

  6. One of THE best ballets I have ever been to was Don Quixote. It was splendid and so much fun to see.
    You know you have to keep the statue now because your mom gave it to you and if you get rid of it, you will really feel like a schmuck (although your mom was being sneaky) 😂 Parents have a way of instilling guilt even if it wasn’t their original intention. But if it happens, its just a perk! LOL!
    Enjoy your statue. A day may come when you look at it and think “Gosh, I’m glad mom gave me a ‘something else’ just when I needed it” 😉

  7. I have one of those mums too. She even has the beer steiners- scary! She feeds us when we go round as if we never eat. We say no but it’s not the answer she wants to hear. “Go on, go on, go on…” she pursues like Mrs Doyle off Father Ted, until we give in saying ” if it will make you happy”. Then she goes off with a content smile to be the mother that makes life worthwhile.

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