Happy Beltane, Marjorettes! To honor the special day, here’s one more story about my mom.
I have never been, nor will I ever be, a morning person. I don’t pop out of bed, ready to greet the Sun with kind words and gumption; instead, when my alarm goes off, I curse like a sailor, hit the snooze button and pull the covers over my head, only begrudgingly crawling out of my bedroom when my options for getting to work on time have dwindled to not shaving or teleportation.
Not being particularly clear of mind come daybreak, and not having a very well-lit apartment, I tend to… well, see things as I’m trying to wake up. I don’t mean clairvoyance or precognition or anything useful: I mean my eyes are all blurry and my brain’s not quite ready to process optical information, so mornings often involve amusing traumas like “AAAAUGH giant cockroach… no, no wait, that’s a sock.” So when I saw a mushroom growing out of my living room carpet, my first thought was not, “Why the hell is a mushroom growing out of my carpet?” but, “Huh. Whatever that thing that’s not a mushroom is sure does look like a mushroom. I need caffeine.”
I got some caffeine. I looked again. There was. in fact, a bulbous, three-inch-tall mushroom blossoming from a disconcertingly sooty splotch in the corner of my living room.
This could… not be good. But I had to get to the office. As such, I decided the best course of action was to slip into a blissful, trancelike state of denial and flee.
By the end of my workday, my logical, conscious self had almost convinced me that I hadn’t actually seen what I thought I’d seen. Sure, there must be something not quite kosher over in that corner, but a mushroom? Pish tosh. Mushrooms don’t grow in apartments, silly demiguy. Now who wants cake? I know I do. [Ed. note: My logical, conscious self likes cake.] I got back home in a chipper mood, ready to tidy up whatever insignificant, innocuous grime some visitor or other had tracked in, bounded confidently into my living room, and HOLY WALBURGA AND THE GRAIN MIRACLE SAINTS THERE REALLY IS A MUSHROOM GROWING OUT OF MY CARPET.
I lunged for my phone and called the management office. The conversation went something like this:
Them – “Thank you for calling [name of apartment complex]! How can I help you?”
Me – “Hi, this is [Thumper]…”
Them – “Hello!”
Me – “… and I’ve got a mushroom growing in my living room.”
Them – “Okay, well why don’t we just… wait, I’m sorry, did you say a mushroom?”
Me – “Yeah.”
Them – “And it’s growing in your living room?”
Me – “Affirmative.”
Them – “That ain’t right.”
Me – “One hopes not.”
Management assured me that they’d take care of it first thing in the morning, so I did my best not to think about it and eventually went to bed. And, true to their word, when I came home from work that afternoon, my carpets had been thoroughly cleaned, and there was nary a mushroom to be seen.
“Whew,” I thought, admiring the rows of fresh vacuum cleaner tracks. “Glad that’s over with.”
The next day, the mushroom was back, its mottled cap flared triumphantly.
“Fine,” I said. “This is your house now.” And I ran away.
Another discussion with management got the situation, as they put it, escalated, so I got to spend the next eight hours picturing walls full of black mold and scary men in hazmat suits and spending the rest of my life confined to an iron lung until I couldn’t take it anymore and called my mother.
“Oh, honey,” she said comfortingly, after I’d filled her in on the details. “Do you happen to know where that carpet was made?”
I admitted that no, I did not.
“It’s just that some carpets are made, you know, overseas,” she said, her voice dropping to the tone she used when discussing minorities or democrats. “And sometimes, those carpets come over here with… spores in them.”
I should mention that my mother was a conspiracy theorist par excellence and never met an urban legend she couldn’t spread like oleo. In this case, I think she may have gotten “carpets” mixed up with “crates of vegetables” and “spores” confused with “disputatious arachnids from the Amazon,” but regardless, she freaked me out enough to where I called management back and very politely begged them not to let me die.
“Dishwasher,” they said.
“Um, what?” I asked, wiping my eyes.
“Your dishwasher has a bad leak, which caused some water to pool up under the carpet pad on the other side of your kitchen wall. We’re installing a new one tomorrow.”
And so they did. And the mushroom never came back. And my flatware has sparkled ever since. And I put the whole incident out of my head.
And then my birthday happened.
My mother was an amazing artist, while at the same time being blessed with, shall we say, a differently-abled sense of humor. When I dropped by my parents’ house that weekend for a cheerful birthday lunch, she handed me a wide, slim package and announced, “I painted it just for you!”
Flattered and unsuspecting, I pulled back the wrapping paper and…
Taking my sudden gasp as a sign of confusion, she decided to clarify. “It’s to hang it in your living room. You know, to commemorate the event.”
The scary part is, it totally went with everything else hanging in my living room, and the only available wall space was right over the spot where the mushroom first sprouted.
Sometimes I wonder which one of us was more of a witch.