The picture on my FaceBook page (posted on the Wall as well as on a Discussions tab) is a bullseye. It's a shot straight through the center ring of a target, what is sometimes referred to as the ten spot, or 10-X. Or, in our family, business as usual. The weapon used was a Smith & Wesson .22 target semi-auto. The distance was 25 yards. The shooter was my 64 year-old mom.
This is nothing new in our family. At all. And you'll notice my mom didn't dick around with a headshot, or a 5-spot. Nope. Straight between the eyes. I found this awesome. But it's okay if you find it terrifying. Sometimes they're the same!
I've told many fans that the characters from my parallel-universe Alaska series (The Royal Treatment, The Royal Pain, The Royal Mess) that the main characters from the House of Baranov aren't "based on" family members. They ARE my family members. Queen Daria died before the events of the first book (and no, I don't harbor a secret desire for my mom to succumb to a fiery, controversial death) but her presence is felt throughout the trilogy.
So is the patriarch's, King Alexander Baranov II, who rules the princes and princesses with an iron fist. Okay, a paper maiche fist. He's kind of a softy. But a fun character, and easy (bordering on effortless) to write about.
I can still remember watching my dad floss his teeth (we were in a museum or a library or a funeral or some weirdly inappropriate place), then groan as he carefully put the (used) floss in his shirt pocket.
"Jeez, Dad!" (It's amazing how many of my sentences start like that.) "Will you please throw that thing away?"
"Hell, no," he protested. "It's still good. And now it's right here in my pocket for when I need it."
"I'll buy you a new one," I begged. "I will buy you a carton of dental floss. I will buy stock in your name in Glide or Oral-B! Lots of stock! Lots of cartons! But please throw that away!"
"Your problem is, you think everybody's made of money."
"I DO NOT THINK EVERYONE'S MADE OF MONEY! I think everyone is entitled to a fresh, clean length of dental floss. That's what I think." Etc., etc. Although it was a short time in real life, in my head it lasted about three days. Actually, in my head, it's still going on.
So I had a new tic for King Al, and promptly put it in the book. What I wasn't prepared for was the fan mail: "Hey, that's a good idea! Dental floss always within arm's reach! Thanks, MJ."
Which brings me to my Mother's Day theme, in which I've included my dad so as not to have to do this again in June. My parents are bad at lots of things. To wit:
1) Throwing away used dental floss.
2) Missing targets while wielding a .22 pistol.
5) Being bad at fishing.
6) Being bad at hunting.
7) Not breaking world records for sharp-shoot.
8) Not being super, strutting proud of my mom for same.
I'll cover the rest of the list some other time, but for this blog I'm only touching on a couple of them. You'll just have to wait to find out why my parents suck at retirement. And believe me, they do suck at it. Who retires and moves down south and then gets their EMT certification and go on ambulance runs at all hours of the day or night when they aren't running training sessions for the local fire department? THIS IS NOT RETIREMENT. I'm pretty sure it's the polar opposite. Ah, and here I said I wasn't going to go into it, yet I did. I'm such a liar...even to myself!
Flashback to when I was six. It was the weekend, so naturally we were at a silhouette tournament. Silhouettes are big heavy targets shaped like animals and made of iron, or something else that's super heavy (I forget, and I'm too lazy to look it up). People sign up for these tournaments from all over the state (and, when we'd go to Canadian tourneys, all over the country) and then plink away at the silhouettes until everybody decides they've sprayed enough ammo and hangs it up for the day. The person who knocks over the most silhouettes wins.
My parents were/are excellent shots and fishermen/women. They loved being outside shooting at heavy metal things or hooking trout for dinner or hollering "Git the little red son of a bitch!" while riding to the hounds. Okay, I made up that last one. Anyway, because we didn't have much money for baby-sitters (to this day I can count on two hands how often we had a sitter), my folks always brought my sister and I along to the local watering hole or up a tree stand or to tournaments. I can also count on two hands (okay, one hand) how often my folks left one of these tournaments empty-handed.
Which brings me to angry men and the world record for silhouette shooting. And my mom, of course. At one point in the tourney, one of the officials told my folks that my mother was only so many points away from breaking the world record. Sure, way to alleviate the pressure and help my mom to keep cool under relentless, soul-shriveling pressure. Thanks tons, Un-named Official.
So my mom bangs away (I can't tell you how much it disturbs me to have "mom" and "bangs" in the same sentence) and lo and behold, good-bye old world record, here's your hat and what's your hurry? Also: suck it, old record!
My second favorite part of the story is how my dad was easily ten times more excited than my mom was. For months: "Hey, Jim, how's your wife? Never mind, I only brought up yours to talk about mine. She broke a world record! Hey, June, glad I caught you before you went on medical leave: my wife broke a world record! I see you sneaking out, Dave. You're not going anywhere until I tell you about my wife, I don't care how close you are to insulin shock." He was thrilled. He told everybody. EVERYBODY. ("I know I was speeding, Officer, but did you know my wife broke a world record?") I literally believe he wouldn't have been any happier if he'd nailed the record himself. In fact, I'm sure of it. It's not nearly as fun, or socially acceptable, to brag about yourself as it is to brag about someone you love.
My favorite part of the story is this: two Grumpy Old Men (though since I was six, they could have been in their mid-twenties) stomped past my mom and grumbled, "Goddamned women should stay home where they belong."
Oh, blow me, Grumpy Old Men. Also: sticks and stones may break my bones but my mom TOTALLY KICKED YOUR ASS TODAY. (Technically, the world's ass.)
Which brings me to another parallel between the Baranovs and the real deal: as far as my sister and I were concerned, it was just another trophy. It went up on the wall with their zillions of other trophies. It was something else to be dusted. We were way more interested in the garter snake that chased us into the river (I can still see the hate in its tiny beady black eyes). Certainly mom's coup was nothing to dwell on, because there was always something new to tackle. Next weekend: fishing opener! Never mind world records; we've got to re-rig all these fishing poles! Yippee!
So when I saw the bullseye on my mom's FB page, I couldn't help think that the more things change, the more they kick ass. And I seem to be accidentally raising my kids to think the same way I do, because when I called their attention to the 10-X, they were puzzled, especially my son: "But, Mom, it's Grandma. What did you think would happen?"
All right, fine, but at least pretend to be awed and amazed, you little jerk. This is my dreadful legacy: kids who assume if their grandmother didn't nail the X, she was probably having a stroke at the time.
Hmm. On second thought, that's kind of cool. There are worse things than having children who assume a person can reach world record excellence if they just got down to it.
So, in summation: my mom shoots better than yourrrrr mom, nyah-nyah-nyah!
On the off chance one or both of those two Grumpy Old Men from way back are reading this blog and recognize themselves...I never forgot about you. But I bet you forgot about me. And that's okay. Because we all know who YOU'LL never forget if you live to be a thousand.