It's Mother's Day, and this is a column about mothers. I am a mother, I have a mother, and I love mothers. I think mothers are a natural force, and maybe an alternative source of fuel.
Let me tell you a story about my mother, who lives with my brother in Miami's South Beach. Last year, she awoke one morning with a start, convinced that her bed had moved, as if there had been an earthquake. But nothing was out of place in her bedroom, and it was a cloudless Miami Sunday, still as a postcard. Nevertheless, she was sure there had been an earthquake.
She went and woke up my brother, who told her to go back to sleep. She didn't. She scurried across the street to warn their neighbor, like an octogenarian Chicken Little. He told her to go back to sleep, too.
Instead, she went home and called the Miami Herald.
She told the reporter about the earthquake, and he told her that the sky wasn't falling and told her, more politely, to go back to sleep. He also took her name and telephone number, which turned out to be a good thing, because he had to call her back, later that day.
She had been absolutely right. There had been an earthquake, at the exact time she had felt it.
The clincher? The earthquake occurred 397 miles from Miami, in Tampa. And the only person who felt it in Miami was my mother, Mary Scottoline.
I'm not kidding.
Soon, TV news vans began arriving at my mother's house. My brother, who you may remember is gay, told me he put on his "best tank top."
The Scottolines have style.
The reporters interviewed my mother, and under her picture on the TV, the banner read EARTHQUAKE MARY. They asked her how she felt an earthquake that took place so far away. She answered that she "knows about these things."
The Miami Herald published the story, as reported by Martin Merzer and Aldo Nahed. My favorite part reads: "It was a pretty nice weekend in Florida. Except, you know, for the 6.0 magnitude earthquake. . . . In South Florida, the event passed virtually unnoticed, though Mary Scottoline, 82. . . . "
If you don't believe me, go and find the story online. Google "Mary Scottoline." Or "I-Told-You-I'm-Not-Crazy Scottoline," "Nobody-Ever-Listens-to-Me Scottoline," or "You-and-Your Brother-Think-You-Know-Everything-With-That-Cockamamie-Computer Scottoline."
And that wasn't the first time my mother had something in common with a natural disaster. Once I made her fly north to Philly to avoid a hurricane, and she wasn't happy about it. When she got off the plane, a TV reporter stuck a microphone in her face and asked if she was afraid of the hurricane. She answered:
"I'm not afraid of a hurricane. I am a hurricane."
So you see what we're dealing with. A force of nature. A 4-foot-11 bundle of heart, bile and moxie.
I've known for a long time that my mother has superpowers. She used to cast off the evil eye when somebody gave me a "whammy" by chanting a secret spell over a bowl of water and olive oil. She dipped her fingers in the water, made the sign of the cross on my forehead, and whispered mysterious words that sounded like osso bucco. This spell was handed down to her by another Italian Mother/Witch on Christmas Eve, which is the only time it can be told. My mother won't tell me the spell because I'm a lawyer.
But I digress.
Your mother may not smear olive oil on your face, but she has superpowers, too. Spider-Man has nothing on mothers.
We don't think of mothers as having superpowers, but they do. Mothers can tell what we're doing when their backs are turned to us. They can tell that we have a fever without a thermometer. They can tell we're lying, even over the phone. They can tell we're sad by the way we say, "I'm fine." They can be at three places at once, a soccer game, a violin lesson, and the high school play, even if it's Annie.
And, magically, they can change us into them, without us even knowing how or when. My mother used to make me call her when I got home and let the phone ring three times, as a signal. (This in a time when long-distance calls cost money.) I thought it was silly, but she said, "When you're a mother, you'll understand."
And finally, I do.
Happy Mother's Day.