My mother arrives at NATO headquarters three hours early and texts me, asking me to locate parking for her via “the app.” I’m asleep and miss her text. She tries again, then calls. I groggily advise her that, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—perhaps history’s most powerful military alliance—she likely is entitled to at least one spot on the curb.
She remains skeptical, so I tell her to ask someone on the ground for help. She agrees, hangs up, and calls my sister in Nashville.
My sister texts me six minutes later: “Hey mom joined NATO and she’s looking for parking. Are you on my Netflix?”
I ignore the Netflix question and reply with a crying emoji. I tell her to please explain to Mom that she needs to ask someone at NATO where she should park.
I receive no word from either of them for approximately four days.
That weekend, watching the news (my Netflix has been deactivated), I see my mother shaking hands with diplomats at a conference in Madrid. She is wearing the hat I made for her, which features a picture of me wearing the same hat. She is happy, and I notice that she seems to be insisting that the British defense minister look at pictures of my nephew on her phone. I turn off the television. Good for her.
A month goes by. The world remains intact. No nuclear weapons have been unleashed, though Russia, China, and my father are doing their fair share of sabre-rattling. My mother, resplendent in bold pants suits no doubt selected with the assistance of one of her many friends named Susan, is unfazed. She has a staff member now, one who every so often faxes me photographs of people I went to high school with, onto which my mom has drawn a big question mark. I text in response, “I don’t know we haven’t spoken since 2008.” My mother e-mails me questions about my upcoming wedding. She also wants to know what I think about Erdoğan, whom she inexplicably (and quite negatively) compares to Diana Ross. I say that he is bad and that Ross is perfection and isn’t Motown the best music, anyway?
My mother discovers that, as a member of NATO, she has Article 5 protection. An attack on her is an attack on every member of the alliance, and so forth. Soon we are discussing everything and nothing, but mostly my nephew. She wants me to consider joining NATO. I demur, as I’m sticking to the writing thing, and does she remember how she cried when I didn’t want to audition for the middle-school musical? My therapist and I have talked about that. My mom doesn’t remember, but she remembers that I was “excellent” in said musical. I wasn’t. I played the town idiot who lived in a barrel, and I couldn’t even get out of the barrel on cue.
My phone rings that evening as I sit down to eat with my fiancé. I answer. It’s a butt dial, but I can hear faint rumblings of diplomatic maneuvering, war and peace, and a mother recommending her son’s “Twitters.” ♦
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