Last year, my family and I had just gotten back from one of our usual holiday excursions to HomeGrown Buffet, and my cousin Irina and I were sharing juicy gossip on the couch while Nagymama neurotically rearranged the items in our house.
“Oh, Cousin,” she cooed, using her usual Balki Bartokomous impersonation, “Once again, your mother has managed to mortify me.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Nagymama pacing all over the living room. I sighed and tried to ignore it. “So, what did Anyu do this time?”
“Well, Lisa from church just got married and asked me to watch her cat for a week. She just got back, and before I was even able to ask, ‘How was your trip?’ your mother butted in and said, ‘You know, Lisa, you are not qualified to be a cat owner. You just dumped your cat on Irina.’”
“Lisa looked so shocked and pissed that she didn’t even know what to say. So, of course, your mother just kept on talking, ‘I tink dah cat likes Irina more than it likes you. But Irina doesn’t even like cats, so don’t tink she’s gonna take it from you.’”
“I wonder whatever happened to the filter that was supposed to be installed between her brain and her mouth.”
“They ran out of them at the factory, so she’s just walking around all…dysfunctional!” Irina shook her head. “I had to apologize to Lisa later, and I told her not to worry about it. After all, your mother is always telling me that ‘I am not qualified to be married,’ so Lisa not being a ‘qualified cat owner’ is nothing in comparison.”
“You gotta love it, though. If ever you should need brutal, uncensored honestly, just ask my mom.”
“Ask?” Irina yelled, over the sound of Nagymama clanging pots and pans in the background. “You don’t need to ask! She just gives, and gives, and…”
We finally turned as the clanging sound got louder. Nagymama had squeezed behind the entertainment center to pile pot lids and cans of cat food against the windowsill. She frequently conducts this ritual to prevent burglars from breaking in…and stealing all of our cat food.
Nagymama had reached a little too far, lost her balance, and fell over. Irina and I both saw it coming in slow motion; I was still starting my sprint over to her when I watched the entertainment center fall backwards and television set tumble off onto her. It was one of the singular most terrifying experiences of my entire life.
I ran up to her, expecting to see a pile of Nagymama reminiscent of a flattened Wile E. Coyote. Instead, I found a very annoyed (and very lucky) Nagymama struggling to get up off the floor.
“Crazy crappy TV stand, made out of cheap sh*t vood, stupid thing would fall over if the wind blew,” she muttered in Hungarian.
Irina and I struggled to help her up, and in the meantime, my mother and aunt rushed in to assist. I realized that her head was bleeding, but my aunt came to the rescue with a wet washcloth. Of course, Nagymama, a.k.a., “The Woman of Steel”, swore that the gash was no big deal, and was simply annoyed by the disruption.
“Get off of me, you smelly swine, why are you wetting my head, are you trying to kill me by freezing me to death?!” she screamed in Hungarian, trying to push everyone away.
After a few hours and a few stitches, Nagymama was back on her feet and back to securing our little fortress.
In the end, my mother just threw her hands up in despair. “I keep trying to get her to stop this nonsense of putting cat food on the window, but I can’t control her. How am I gonna make her stop?!” my mother cried.
“Hey, I have an idea. Stop buying cat food…we don’t even OWN a cat!”