Are you one of those persons who realizes that a little humor in dark times can bring a smile to our faces and relieve a bit of the stress that comes with situations that are out of our control?
As we struggle with the coronavirus, some telecommunication employees who are in a creative writing class I’m teaching, at a distance of course, have delighted class participants with their creativity and skill in taking the mantras that bombard us about what we should and should not do in these “shelter in place” times and turning them into fiction that delights.
I have opted to provide readers this week with “The Purple Plastic Purse,” written by Lynette Piotrowski, a talented participant in the class I am currently teaching.
Any of you who believe, as do I, that extensive house cleaning is not a good use of our limited time, and who have relatives who disagree with us on this matter, will smile as you read this account of the conflict between mother and daughter in which the author delivers a brilliant conversation between the two. And guess who wins in this bit of verbal jousting?
“Mother. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
“Since when does family have to announce their arrival? Should a mother have to make an appointment? Wait for an engraved invitation? Are you saying I’m not welcome here, at my own daughter’s house?”
I fall into the trap, every time. Not just fall: I leap.
“No, Mother, you are always welcome.” I struggled for excuses, “It’s just that I might not be home, or I might have company.”
“You are always home, just like your father. You should try to get out more.” She looked around in disgust before adding, “I can see you haven’t had company for some time because you haven’t cleaned in months. If I had taught you well, you would not clean just when company is coming. If your grandmother could see this, she would spin in her grave.”
I used to play that game, but it’s never clean enough for Mother; not me, not my house. I watched as she reached behind the baby pink lace that enshrined her ample bosom to pull her hanky from between the wrinkled mounds. She used that hanky to whisk away the dust on my foyer table before setting down her overfilled, purple plastic purse.
“They say you should keep your house extra clean during the Covid scare. Or clean at all would help.”
“Oh, Mother, someone is always saying something. They say this. Then they say that. It just depends on what day you are listening or the channel you choose. But for me, I like the Pre-Covid dust. So long as it’s undisturbed, I know it hasn’t been touched and is safe for me. Please try not to disturb any more of it.”
“Pre-Covid dust? I never heard of such a thing. You’re just making it up.”
I looked at her purple plastic purse, and a small smile began to tug at my lips.
“Mother, have you been shopping?”
“Yes, I needed a few things. Why? Did you want to go?”
With two fingers, I picked up the purple plastic purse as one would a dead mouse. Holding it extended between us, I peered at Mother between the handles and asked, “Do you know how long Covid stays on plastic?”
“Who would know such a ridiculous thing?”
“Weeks and weeks. You are going to have to take this thing and go into quarantine for … probably months.” Putting my hand on the small of her back and pushing her out the door, I continued, “Be sure to let me know when the doctors say it’s all right for you to have visitors.”
My kingdom once again my own.
Readers, I hope you’re smiling and considering your own stories. Thanks, Lynette, for another piece of brilliant, snarky writing.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. Reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.