Those who know me, but not my mom, in real life probably have a very skewed picture on what it means to be Petra's Mother. They've probably heard detailed stories about her sex life like "how she celebrated graduation from BYU 1," "why Mormon men get addicted to pornography 2," and "my grandmother's sex advice3." If they've heard other stories, they probably have formed a mental image of my mother as a sex-crazed, Valium-abusing, ditzy redhead oozing excess maternal energy towards not only her small, white, yappy, fluffy dog but also towards all the stray animals in Delhi, from dogs to donkeys.
They'd be wrong in this vision, of course. Her appearances in my personal narrative repetoire aside, my mother is actually brilliant and capable--enough, in fact, to earn one BA, one MA, and one Ph.D. and then, on top of all that, to face returning to school at 40 to earn yet another BA.
That's not funny, though, so I hide the stories about, you know, the time she earned a Ph.D. despite having two kids and tell the stories about, say, the time she multiplied 5 by 6 and got 80.
In any case, the border between these two sides of her character seems to grow thinner and thinner as I age, and this thin line of transition constantly startles me. Once, in a high school seminary class, we watched a video about evil, or sin, or pride, or extra piercings, or, I don't know, one of those other things we should avoid. The video featured a man lecturing sternly about how rock music is of the devil--specifically, he claimed that Mick Jagger was the devil incarnate. He had all sorts of evidence: he hired Hell's Angels (coincidence? I think not!), claimed the devil inspired their music (it's true!) and even openly sympathized with the devil (you can look it up!).
This might have affected teenagers in 1968, but for a much more jaded 2001 crowd, it was laughable. I regaled all my non-Mormon friends at school that day with that paticular piece of seminary craziness, and when I got home I was eager to share the laughs with my mom. I told her all about the video, playing up this man's complete craziness--honestly, where do people get such strange ideas?
"That is silly," she said, chuckling. "Mick Jagger as the devil? I've never heard anything so ridiculous in my whole life." She stopped laughing suddenly and looked directly at me. "Clearly, it's Keith Richards."
Here's to my mom, a character I don't even have to exaggerate.
1Sex in the SWKT bathroom.
2Their wives aren't adventurous enough in bed. "Dress up! Take pictures!"
3Practice the butterfly stroke.