I flew on a plane this morning from Oregon to Los Angeles, in seat 17F, and the lady behind me chatted away. She chatted away enough to make me feel uncomfortable, in fact, because I worried for her seatmates whom she’d clearly just met, until I began to really listen and to realize she’s a treasure. And wise. And savvy. And insightful. And funny. And authentic. And beautifully kind. So I pulled out my laptop and I started typing furiously, transcribing what she had to say, word for word, because we can all learn from the Lady in 18F on what was one of the best flights of my life. I hope you enjoy her as much as I did. She’s truly a gift if we would but listen. I’m sure you’ll agree.
IMPORTANT THOUGHTS ON LIFE FROM THE LADY IN 18F
On Stepping in Shit
You know what they say in New York? They say, “You stepped in shit.” But they mean it as a good thing. A good thing! Can you imagine? “Stepped in shit. Stepped in shit!” they say. “AH! Stepped in shit today,” and they mean it as a good thing. It’s like saying, “You got lucky.” Isn’t that wild? It’s a New York thing. I mean, you have to step in shit from time to time so you might as well make it a good thing. It’s just like saying someone’s got a shit-eating grin. They mean it like it’s a good grin. No one eats shit. Eating shit. Can you imagine? But they say it like a good thing. Geez Louise! Where does this shit come from?
On Call of Duty
Our grandson plays Call of Duty and he lives in New York. You know what? All those kids in New York, they talk just like the adults. Just cussing like damn sailors. Our grandson plays Call of Duty and he lives in New York, and he says, “I just blew that guy to hell,” just like that. In front of his grandmother. And I said to him, I said, “You don’t have to talk like that you know,” so he says, “I blew him to shit, Grandma,” and damn it all if that didn’t make me laugh.
On St. Kabir and Saris
You know how many grandchildren I have? Three. Three grandchildren. Twelve, 18 and 20. I can’t keep up. And one more on the way. Our daughter married a guy from New Delhi, so it’s an Indian house, you know. I had to wear a sari for the wedding. The whole time I’m going, “Oh my God, oh my God, this thing is going to fall off!” It’s held together with a tiny little knot. But I made it. I made it.
The mother-in-law comes to visit and the cooking never stops. Never. It’s 4 o’clock, and it’s time to have tea and biscuits. It’s adorable. She just loves those kids. It’s adorable.
Our daughter, she wears that red dot that shows she married, and she’s 7 months pregnant with that baby. Is that a trip? That’s a trip. Now they’ve named that baby already after St. Kabir. You know St. Kabir? In India, they don’t name them ‘til they know them. The baby is born and they wait. My son-in-law, his nickname means joy and that’s still what they call him. He is a joy. He sure is. But they went American with this baby and named him before he’s born. Except it’s an Indian name, Kabir, so it’s a mix of both. The Indian name and the American way. You know St. Kabir?
St. Kabir was lovely. Just a lovely guy. Believed in love. The Muslims, they made him a saint. St. Kabir. And the Hindus took him, too. So they both claim him. Because he believed in love. Isn’t that great? I just love that story. The world could use more of that. St. Kabir. I tell you what.
They’re going to come. They’re going to come visit and bring the baby, and we’re dying. We’re dying to have that baby here. He’s got a big ol’ head of hair. Oh my God, he has the most unbelievable head of hair. My daughter has good hair, but it’s just European hair. He has this gorgeous, gorgeous full head of hair. Oh my God.
On What’s Good for Your Brain
You know what’s good for your brain? Learning something new. I mean, new new. Totally new. It’s how you fight dementia. When you’re old you have to overwrite your brain, you know. And the only way is to learn something new.
On Donald Trump
You know, everybody is taking Donald Trump so seriously, getting all worked up. You know who doesn’t care what he says? The New Yorkers. They’re used to people talking shit. He just doesn’t know how to say things. He is not a good communicator. He needs better people to help him out. He’s got some things to learn. Not ready to be president, though. No, he sure isn’t.
On Oregon and Washington and How to Take a Driver’s Test
Oregon’s beautiful. Washington’s not bad, though. Washington isn’t bad. We have this totally liberal state. It’s nuts. Nuts. The whole legislature; it’s all democrats. When someone gets out of prison, they get all their rights back. They can vote and work and everything. It’s the most progressive state in the United States. Everybody talks about Colorado but we legalized marijuana the same time they did. I’m going to miss being in Oregon and Washington. Now I’m not anything. I’m not even registered to vote because I need ID and have to take that stupid driving test. I failed that test the first time I took it 35 years ago. You know what you need to do? Take the video they offer. They offer you this video and you should take it. It gives you all the answers. All of them.
On Arches National Park
Have you been to Arches National Park? Oh my God. It’s like heaven. Desert heaven.
On Getting Old
Damn it; I just dropped my iPad. It’s just, I’ll tell you what. You get old and you start to lose the feeling in your hands and you start dropping things. It sucks. It really sucks. We’re about to fly over Mt. Shasta, though. That’s beautiful. A huge, gorgeous mountain. That makes up for everything.
I love to visit my mom. She’s in Santa Monica. My mom’s a pistol. A real hot ticket. She was always go, go, go, but she’s slowed down a little lately. She’s old, but she’s trying to stay alive because we tell her, “Goddamn it, Mom. Don’t die. We love you.” Her 7 year old grandson wants to take her for a drive someday up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and there’s nine more years ‘til he gets his license, so she’s gotta stay alive, right? She’s gotta stay alive.
My mom was an orphan. Had no idea how to be a mom, so she was our friend. She read to us. Poetry. Longfellow and stuff. I bought copies for my brothers and sisters. There were five of us. She’d read the one about the unnamed soldier. She made us learn to read before we ever went to school. She was a great mom. Bionic.
She’d make us work so hard. She was tough. My mom’s a fighter. I had polio when I was a kid. They told her I’d never walk again. She said, “Oh yeah?” They told her all this shit. I call her now, still, to thank her that I can walk. I came out on crutches, but I learned to run on those things because my mother made me learn. My dad said, “Is she allowed to do that?” And my mom said, “She’s doing it.” It was a Catholic hospital, so they said it was a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle. It was my mother’s love. My little orphan mommy. She’s a fighter.
On How to Parent
I told my Uber driver this one time – he’s got a kid, and I told him – you do anything for that kid. You do anything. You go in debt for that kid. We did. You give a shit. You give a shit all the way. You never give up.
Here’s what you do – you go to all the parents and you exchange numbers and you raise kids together.
Your kids tell you they hate you. You love them anyway. Mad is not discipline, so you don’t think getting mad is parenting. Nope. You have boundaries and love. That’s it. Boundaries and love. You tell them how it is. You tell them you love them. You want to rip their faces off – just take that skin right off – but you just walk away and love them. They test boundaries. They’re supposed to. Their job is to test them. Your job is to set them. They drive you crazy. You love them anyway, even though it’s hard.
We survived adolescence. What do you know? One day you wake up and realize you did it.
On Being the Grandmother
You know what I like? I like being the grandmother. That’s what I like. My grandson is a teenager. He’s smart. He plays soccer. He’s going to college. My daughter calls me up and she says, “This kid is making me crazy. Why does he do this shit?” I like being the grandmother.
On the Music Scene
I hated disco. Let me tell you what. I hated disco with those big platform shoes and all about the beat but not about the music. Then came rap and I stopped listening. I didn’t listen to music for 20 years. But rap got better so I’m listening again. It’s interesting now. Not so nasty. Better lyrics. Smart.
We did it! I knew it! This was a good plane. Solid. Solid.
And so, madam, are you. Solid and chatty and wise. And I’m so very glad I sat near you on the plane.
With joy and gratitude,