New sink brings fear of retribution

My mother had a habit of waiting till 11 PM to call me so she could get the night rate. She continued this habit for most of the thirty years I was in Barrow and she was in Atlantic City.

So, unless it was me calling her, our calls took place while she was falling asleep in her chair in front of the TV. In fact, as she aged, the main topic of these particular phone conversations would be how sleepy she was and how hard it had been to wait up till 11 PM to call me.  She would complain that she was too tired to be coherent and just wanted to call to say that everything was ok.  Then she’d hang up.

No matter how many times I would suggest that the information she passed along in these midnight madness phone calls was not worth even the reduced price she was paying, the calls continued. Even after she got a one rate plan, they continued in one form or another because she simply didn’t trust the phone company.

The calls eventually shifted to early Sunday mornings, making them darn near in the middle of an Alaskan night.  I think she thought that she could somehow fool the telephone company by calling at that hour in case they didn’t really mean what they said about one rate all the time.

This frugal gene has created some interesting situations in my family.  I don’t think in my entire childhood I ever ate an unblemished fruit. My father had us convinced that fruit with brown spots was the best cause they were the sweetest. The truth was that we ate the fruit the customers didn’t buy.

I can recall watching my father take an almost completely brown peach and patiently cut away all the brown spots till he had maybe one bite of ripe peach left. He would pass that down the table to us like it was spun gold.

So the wonder is how my sister and I managed to miss that gene so completely. Maybe it just skips generations. My niece seems to have inherited it quite fully.  She would have made my nonna proud. And nonna was infamous in the family for being able to make a penny scream so loudly for mercy that politicians were making amnesty appeals to the UN for it.

For many years prior to my mother’s death, the subject of money was a contentious one as it so often can be in families. Having scraped hard all her life to put something aside for her old age, mom was very leery about spending it on frivolities. Frivolities encompassed all manner of purchases that weren’t absolutely needed and/or bought in discount stores.

My sister and I would tell her to spend it before she died because if she didn’t, we surely would. She would say that she didn’t care what we did with it after she died because she would be in heaven with other things on her mind.

I am now in the process of renovating my kitchen and bathroom with some of the money she left me. Since I really do believe she has the power to reach from the beyond to whack me upside my head if I do anything too outrageous, I find myself making purchases for the new bathroom and kitchen and then flinching as my credit card is run through the machine.

You see, I fell in love with a pedestal sink. Not just any pedestal sink, but one that looks like it was lifted directly out of a glamorous 30’s musical. It makes me feel as though Ginger and Fred have taken over my body and I’m floating over a ball room floor in a shimmering gold gown with this white pedestal sink for my dancing partner.

It also cost more than she ever spent on her entire bathroom in all 55 years that she lived in that apartment.

On some very deep level I know mom wouldn’t come back from heaven just because of a sink.  On some other level, I am scared to death every time I see a light in the sky or hear a door bang.

Whoever would have thought that at this late stage in my life, the clandestine affair I am trying to keep from my mother would involve a porcelain sink and me?