Monkey Business

A lesser work from my Copying Pictures from National Geographic Period.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Mom’s Lawful Neutral habit of pawning her stuff off on me. This is why I own a Ugly Don Quixote Statue (On sale now! Make me an offer!). It is also why I have a pair of Not-Ugly-Yet Equally-Worthless German Beer Steins.

I kinda like the beer steins.

Mom always knows the precise moment to start her sales pitch. She waits until I’m placid, unsuspecting, and sated after a big meal. I’ll be sitting there drinking her coffee, nibbling her cookies, and perusing her huge stacks of mail-order catalogs, chatting with her about this and that, when she says, “Oh. That reminds me of something. Let me show you something. I think you might want it.”

Before I can fully brace myself for what’s about to happen next, she hands me Something Awful.

Whatever the Something Awful is, I don’t want it. Because of course I don’t. It’s awful.

But Mom is undeterred.

She explains that my opinions about this Something Awful aren’t wrong exactly, just a bit too narrowminded. I’m failing to see The Big Picture. Actually, I do want this Something Awful, she says. In fact. I don’t just want it, I probably really want it. Then she gives me her reasons. There are many reasons. If Mom was more technically savvy, this would be the moment she’d break out the PowerPoint.

Long story short, I’m driving home with the Something Awful belted into the backseat to make sure it doesn’t get jostled.

Since my Don Quixote post, I have hardened my resolve against such gaslighting. Mom’s most recent “Take My Crap” overtures were met with a polite yet firm “No.”

But Mom is Mom. She is persistent and German. She does not drift gently into the night.

The other week Mom had to run an errand near where I lived. She told me about it, and I, being the wonderful son that I am, offered to take her out to lunch afterwards. She happily agreed.

At precisely the scheduled time (remember, German), I heard her car pull up. I peeked out the front window and there she was, trundling up my driveway weighed down with some framed artwork.

This was an egregious escalation in the “Take My Crap” battle of wills. In the past Mom would only push stuff off on me while I was visiting her. Now she was bringing stuff to me? This kinda felt like a violation of the Geneva Convention. How can I be expected to defend myself against this? Am I supposed to tell Mom to take the stuff back? Should I make her lug all that crap back to her own house? But what about her bad hip?

And even if I did tell her to take the crap back, she wouldn’t. She’d leave it with me and say, “Look, if you don’t want it, throw it away,” knowing very well that I never would.

So I was blindsided. Miffed. And a little impressed, actually.

“Is grandma here?” Alex called from his room.

“She sure is,” I replied.

I couldn’t see the artwork she was carrying to my front door, but I recognized the frames. This was my art. Mom wasn’t just bringing me crap, she was bringing me crap that only existed because of me.

Clever girl.

“Let me show you something,” Mom said as she breezed into my foyer with a spring in her step far more suited to someone without an artificial hip. “I think you might want it.”

Mom smiled as I accepted the art without argument. She handed me two pieces; a watercolor of a bicycle and a charcoal drawing of a pensive chimp.

Here’s the bike. It is perhaps the most ’80s painting ever.

“Ooh. When did you do the monkey?” Alex asked.

“Fifth grade. It was one of the first things I did when I started taking lessons.”

“Wow. It’s good.” he said. “I like it!”   

“Want to hang it in your room?” I asked.


And so more unwanted crap from my past joins the pile of unwanted crap I’ve been unwittingly collecting. My attic is getting very full.   

Mom and I went out to lunch as planned. We had a lovely time. We enjoy each other’s company. She’s fun to talk to. She really is a good person, mostly.

She even picked up the check; Mom is nothing if not generous in victory.  

62 Replies to “Monkey Business”

  1. I so relate to the “Do you want this syndrome.” My 95 year old German mother is still trying to give me stuff, even though her life is down to basics now that she is in assisted living. I must admit the giveaway gene lies dormant until you have adult children. You too will feel compelled to thrust your son’s artwork at him when he least suspects it once he moves into his own abode. Just a heads up.

      1. Well, if he leaves for college at eighteen, will you be contributing to the delinquency of minor or does New Jersey have a lower drinking age than 21?

  2. I so get this. My mom (when she was alive) used to give me crap all the time. And it would drive me nuts. Since she didn’t want to throw the stuff out, I became her trash bin. Sigh. p.s. My sister was much more receptive to the crap.

    1. Does your sister live in a big house with empty rooms? Is she sentimental? Both?

      Personally I wouldn’t mind Mom’s shenanigans if I had a good place to put the stuff. But I don’t. Actually I’m trying to get rid of the stuff I already have, so every new item added to the pile drives me a little nuts.

    1. Yard sale or garage sale are pretty much the terms used ’round these parts.

      But, hey, who says to need to wait for such a sale? Tell me what you’re in the market for and I’ll send it to ya post haste!

  3. I used to have a motto that went something like, “never underestimate the power of a German woman who’s made up her mind.” No one’s ever doubted its truth.
    – Luna Phoxx (aka Lauren Steinheimer, aka Kraut AF)

    I really like the bicycle painting! I’d hang that on my wall 🖼

    1. Oh, lordy, your motto needs to be embroidered on a pillow.

      Ah, a fellow German! I knew we had a bond. An, hey, we Krauts have to stick together to commiserate about our very opinionated mothers.

      And, hmm…you like the painting, eh? And you’d actually hang it up? Food for thought…

      1. Welp. This German woman doesn’t overpromise without overdelivering. Guess I’m going to spend the winter sitting by the fire and learning to embroider. Is that even a verb?

        Anyway, it sounds kind of nice. Maybe I’ll get a rocking chair, too!

  4. So funny! These conversations are so familiar from my own German mother, especially “Oh. That reminds me of something. Let me show you something. I think you might want it.” I hate to say I may even have expressed these same words to my own kids from time to time. Still, your artwork is really good!

      1. Where’s the fun in that?
        If we have to go through this with our parents, why should they be spared?
        I think they all need a good dose of our parents.

  5. Oh, my, this made me snort. Several times. Many times. Constantly. Your mother, and you, are in fine form here. And I love Alex’s cameo, where he leaves you holding the monkey. Seriously, I went through this with my mom (also German, but Irish in mixed in) who ended up writing names on little sticky dots and then placing the dots on every object in the house. We couldn’t escape the sticky dots even after she was gone. Smart woman. Maybe I should write a note to your mother and suggest sticky dots?

    1. My Mom is also Irish, but she is more German. More significantly, she *behaves* more German.

      It’s funny you mention stickers. That is exactly the way both my maternal grandmother and my maternal great-grandmother (Germans both) distributed their stuff after death. It was like a weird game show.

  6. Geez, I have a mother who’s German and maybe Scottish or Scots however you are supposed to say it. We thought we were Irish, but the name starts with a Mc/Mac.
    What is with these moms?
    My parents decided to move to AZ when they were older and had an auction to get rid of a lot of their belongings. Their adult children had to buy whatever they wanted on the auction. Yes, that cut down on the junk. However, we were a young family with 2 little ones and not a lot of extra money. So, I didn’t get much. With our possessions that were there after we moved out, we had a deadline to come get it or it was going in the garbage.
    I’m struggling over this with my adult sons. One doesn’t have a place other than a small apartment, so we’re left storing it for him. The youngest has a wife, like you need, that says absolutely not when he wants to take anything home, and none of them will take their Christmas stockings that I so lovingly made. Or baby blankets. How dare they? LOL
    I am not like my mother in that I have a hard time throwing away sentimental junk. She didn’t.
    You just need to get tougher, Mike. This is a game for her. ha ha ha

    I, myself, am learning to be less sentimental and toss or donate stuff. Except for…

    1. It is an interesting challenge in deciding what should go and what should stay, JAS, that’s for sure. I’m not a sentimentalist by nature, I don’t really have too much difficulty getting rid of stuff, I just haven’t quite wrapped my brain around the right way to do it. Among my own possessions, I have what I suspect are a number of collectables, so I am hesitant to toss it or donate it until I know what it’s worth. And once I know what it’s worth, what’s the best way to sell it? And, hey, that Don Quixote statue must be worth something to someone, right? …Right?

      Sometimes it’s just easier to shove it in the attic and forget about it.

      1. Yes, I’m quite good at shoving and forgetting. And then my husband decides we need to clean the basement. I almost think I get better at tossing, the more I do. Kind of like a snowball down a hill.

  7. I think this is a mother thing, Mike. My mom unloads her crap on me and I unload it on my daughter who has no trouble throwing it out. 🙂 And you’re a wonderful artist. I can’t believe you drew that when you were ten!

  8. I think your mom and I might be related. (I’m part German, on my father’s side, so … could be!) Happily, I have two grown kids with kids of their own, so lots of chances to palm off stuff on all of them. And having been a collector all my life (Wizard of Oz memorabilia, anything with cats or dachshunds on it, and books beyond counting), I have SOOOO much to choose from. And that doesn’t even count my own art, when I was giving painting lessons far and wide.

    Little do they know what’s coming up soon. Hint: I’m planning “extras” to go with Christmas gifts this year. Muah-hahahahahaha.

  9. Has Alex yet figured out that one day this crap will be his? Have you yet figured out that one day you will turn into your mother and these innocent-seeming posts are just your way of recording notes on how best to get rid of crap?

  10. I have SO MUCH unwanted crap in my house and I feel a great need to purge! But having the one daughter, she wants me to ask her first before I get rid of anything…. uhm NO! It’s my stuff and I will do as I please. But if there is something she gave me or might have sentimental value, then I do ask, most of the time. I have a trunk full of stuff right now ready to head to the thrift store. When we lost our dad in May, he left us an gigantic mess of “Stuff” and it was difficult to sort through and figure out what to keep, what had value and what would sell in the estate auction. I vowed not to do that to my family.
    Your mom sounds like a gem! It might be harder to get rid of her stuff than you think. Just remember to only keep it if it brings you joy.. otherwise, empty the attic I say!! 🙂

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