Column Classic: Mrs. Elvis

by Lisa Scottoline

I was just asked out on a date. 

By Elvis. 

For real, kind of. Or, rather, by an Elvis impersonator. 

He may have left the building, but he still has a laptop. 

He had evidently read somewhere that I’m a huge Elvis fan, which is true, and as he is in the Elvis business, he figured I’d be attracted, so he emailed me and asked me out. 

Uh, no. 

But thank you. Thank you very much. 

Not that I wasn’t tempted, but he didn’t give me all the facts, and I wasn’t about to ask. Though he did supply a head shot and he looked so handsome – dark hair, long muttonchops, shiny sunglasses – well, you know what he looks like. 

I never dated anybody on a stamp. 

But he didn’t specify which Elvis he was. If he was young Elvis The Pelvis, we could talk. I would make an exception from my no-younger-men rule and become a cougar. Though I’m guessing that this impersonator is pushing 60. 

It’s an interesting legal question, in a way. If the impersonator is 60, but the Elvis is 22, does that make me a cougar? 

Or just a kooky and fun kinda gal? 

If he was black-leather Comeback Elvis, I’m still listening. Elvis in black leather on his comeback is my idea of a harmonic convergence. The only way to improve that combination is if he was carrying a big piece of chocolate layer cake. 

Don’t be cruel. 

But if it was Karate-Chop Elvis, I’m less sure. Though come to think of it, maybe I could be talked into it. Elvis is Elvis, even chubby. And I like peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Maybe I shouldn’t have said no so quickly. 

I’m all shook up. 

Still, the very notion of the email opened up new vistas for me, love-wise. By which I mean, if I could start dating impersonators, which one would I date? All of a sudden, I wasn’t limited to romance with live men, or even real men. 

Wow! It boggles the mind. My odds of finding new love just skyrocketed. 

Maybe I was being too picky before, limiting my dating pool to the living. True, the dead can be a little dull, but God knows I’ve been there before. 

The only problem is, if I try to remember long-dead pop stars, I can’t think of a single one who does it for me. 

I love to listen to Frank Sinatra, but I’m not sure he’s my type. Also, Mother Mary would never forgive me. She knows they belong together. She longs to be Mrs. Ol’ Blue Eyes. 

I can’t remember any other long-dead pop stars, and the only other singer who really does it for me is Bob Dylan, but he’s not dead yet. Though I bet there are tons of people already impersonating him. 


Gentlemen, send me an email. 

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right. 

Hell, come to think of it, I can do a decent Dylan impersonation, so maybe I should start dating myself. 

Except I already am. 

I wouldn’t mind dating an impersonator of historical figures, however. I always had the hots for George Washington. 

Chicks dig power. 

I could be First Lady, even though I’d be First Dead Lady. I could overlook his wooden teeth, and we could share a blow dryer. 

Plus, I had a thing for Robin Hood. I love all that derring-do, with the arrows shooting and the horseback riding, and the helping the poor. 

And the codpiece. 

What a guy! I would date Robin Hood in a second. I got so excited, I called Daughter Francesca to tell her all about the Elvis email and that her new stepfather would be wearing green tights. 

She laughed. “Mom, Robin Hood wasn’t real.” 

“Yes, he was. I saw the movie. In fact, two movies. One with Kevin Costner, and one with Errol Flynn.” 


“He was real.” 

“He wasn’t.” 

I considered this. It was possible she was right. She often is, and she sounded it. “But I bet people impersonate him.” 


“So, I could date the Robin Hood impersonator. What difference does it make if the person they impersonate is real?” 

“You mean like a fake of a fake?” 

“Exactly. I could do worse.” 

“It’s a point,” she said, hanging up. 

© Lisa Scottoline 

Column Classic: Recipe for Disaster

By Lisa Scottoline

Turns out you’re never too old to call your mother about a recipe. 

And regret it. 

We begin when I decide to cook a nice meal for Daughter Francesca, because we’re about to start book tour, where we’ll eat MacDonald’s French fries for dinner and pretend that it’s a hardship. 

We eat French fries for dinner every book tour, and it’s worth writing an entire book for an excuse to eat French fries. 

But if I eat French fries without being on book tour, I start signing things. 

Occupational hazard. 

To stay on point, I decide to make eggplant parm, which I haven’t made in years. Mother Mary, as you can guess, is the Queen of Eggplant Parm, and she has the best recipe ever.  When was in my twenties, I used to call her about her recipes because I’d never made the dish.  But now, in my fifties, I have to call her because I can’t remember if I made the dish, or where my keys are, or what year it is. 

I actually forgot that, yesterday. 

At least I think it was yesterday. 

Back then, in my twenties, my big question was whether you had to preheat the oven. 

Mother Mary always said yes. 

So I did, but now I learned that the answer is no. 

Preheating the oven is as big a lie as the check is in the mail. 

Believe me.  Take risks.  Don’t preheat. 

Anyway, I couldn’t remember the order of business for breading the eggplant slices, whether it was egg, flour, and bread crumbs, or flour, egg, then bread crumbs.  I know it seems obvious, but when I breaded a slice in the logical order – egg, flour, bread crumbs – the eggplant’s surface cratered like bad skin. 

So I called Mother Mary for the recipe, but before I could ask her my question, she asked me hers:  “Did you preheat the oven?” 

I paused.  “No.” 

“You have to.” 

“I will,” I lie. 

“Don’t lie.  Do it now.” 

“Ma, I haven’t even made the eggplant yet.  If I preheat the oven from now, I’ll use up enough energy to bake Earth.  So tell me, what’s the order?” 

“Wait.  The oven has to be 350 degrees.  No more, no less.” 

“Got it.  Now, Ma−”

“Also you have to peel the skin off, did you do that?” 

“No.  I read that it has vitamins.”  Also I’m too lazy. 

“Wrong!  Peel it!” 

“Okay, I will,” I lie again.  “Now, Ma –”

“Did you leave the eggplant slices out overnight, to let the water leak out?” 

I fall silent, trying to decide whether to lie a third time. 

“You have to do it the night before.  You put salt on the slices, lay them flat between two plates, and put your iron on top of the plate, to weigh it down.” 

I’m still trying to decide how to respond.  I remember growing up, I used to wonder about the eggplant slices between two plates, sitting on the counter all night.  By the next morning, about half a teaspoon of eggplant water had dripped into the sink. 

Like it matters. 

So, of course I didn’t take anything out the night before.  I never make a recipe that requires taking anything out the night before.  I never think that far behind. 

Also, I don’t own an iron. 

Other than that, I followed her recipe exactly. 

Mother Mary asks, “Well, did you drain them last night?” 

“Yes,” I lie.  Third time’s a charm. 

“You didn’t, I can tell,” Mother Mary says firmly.  “Salt the slices, drain them, and make the parm tomorrow night.” 

“Ma, tomorrow night I’ll be at a book signing.”  By the way, I could remind her that the book in question, Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim, is almost entirely stories like this one, about her, but I’m sensing the irony might be lost. 

Mother Mary raises her voice, agitated.  “Then make the parm the next night.” 

“Ma, I have to make it tonight.  So what’s the order –”


So, you know where this is going.  Shouting and fighting, ending in false promises, heavy guilt, and mediocre eggplant parm. 

In other words, dinner, Scottoline-style!

© Lisa Scottoline 

Column Classic: Mother Mary Flunks Time Magazine

By Lisa Scottoline

You may have read the article in Time magazine, entitled “The Five Things Your Kids Will Remember About You.”  It was predictably sweetness and light, but none of it reminded me of Mother Mary, who was anything but sweetness and light. She’s been gone almost two years now, and she was more olive oil and vinegar.

In fact, I considered the five things that Time set forth and compared them to Mother Mary, to see how she measured up, magazine-wise.

You can play along, with your mother.

Or if you’ve read the previous books in this series, you could probably fill in the same blanks with Mother Mary stories.

But no spoilers.

So don’t tell anyone about the time Mother Mary refused to use the discount Batman bedsheets because she didn’t want a life-size Batman laying on top of her.

Or the time she took to wearing a lab coat because it gave her an air of authority, plus pockets for her cell phone and back scratcher.

Or the time she grabbed her doctor’s butt to prove that she was ready for cardiac rehab.

Nobody would believe those stories, anyway.

So, to stay on point about the Time magazine article, the first thing that your children are alleged to remember about you is “the times you made them feel safe.”


How sweet.

Except that with Mother Mary, what I remember are the times she made me feel unsafe.

Because those were truly memorable.

And my general safety was a given, if less dramatic.

For example, when Brother Frank and I were little, we used to fight, which drove my mother crazy. I remember, one day, she yelled at us to stop fighting and we ignored her, so that she took off her shoe and threw it at us.

She missed, but that didn’t stop her.

Because she had another foot with another shoe.

So she took that shoe off and threw it at us, but she missed with that one, too.

We stopped fighting.

You’re probably thinking that she missed us intentionally, and I’ll let you think that, but you didn’t know Mother Mary.  She loved us in a fiercely Italian-American sort of way, which meant that motherhood and minor personal injury weren’t mutually exclusive.

So lighten up, Time.

The second thing in the article was that your children will supposedly remember “the times you gave them your undivided attention,” and the magazine advised parents to “stop what you’re doing to have a tea party” with your kids.

Again, growing up, I had no doubt that I had my mother’s attention, but it was never undivided and she wasn’t into tea parties.

But she chain-smoked.

Does that count?

Mother Mary was a real mom, busy doing laundry, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house, and though she was always available, she wasn’t staring deeply into our blue eyes.  But every night, the Flying Scottolines would sit on the couch and watch TV, giving it our undivided attention.

We all loved TV, so by the property of association, we all loved each other.

Good enough for me.

The third thing was, your kids will remember “the way you interacted with your children’s spouse.”

This doesn’t apply to The Flying Scottolines, since the statement assumes that the parents interacted.

You can’t win them all.

My parents barely talked to each other, but at least they never fought and nobody was surprised when they divorced. But happily, they both loved us to the marrow, and my brother and I knew that.

What I learned from growing up in a house with an unhappy marriage is that divorce is better.

And so I’m divorced twice.

Which I think is the good news, considering the alternative.

If I can’t have a happy marriage, I’ll have a happy house.

The fourth factor was, you kids will remember “your words of affirmation and your words of criticism.”

I don’t know if Italian-American families have things that can be characterized as words of affirmation, except “I love you.”

And as a child, I heard that at least ten times a day.

But I also heard, “Don’t be so fresh.”

So I grew up thinking that I was lovable and fresh, which might be true.

The last thing in the article was that children would remember “family traditions,” like vacation spots and/or game nights.

The Scottolines weren’t the kind to have “game nights,” but every summer, we did go on vacation to the same brick rowhouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All day long, we played on the beach while my parents smoked, and at night we sat on the front porch while assorted relatives dropped by and the adults talked, drank beer, and smoked into the night. When the mosquitoes got too bad, we all trundled inside the house, where the adults played pinochle until my brother and I fell asleep on the couch, to the sound of their gossiping and laughter, breathing in the smoke from their Pall Malls and unfiltered Camels.

We had no oxygen, but a lot of love.

And it wasn’t Norman Rockwell.

But it was perfect.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a moment.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

I love you.

And I’m still fresh.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Mother Mary Gets An Idea

By Lisa Scottoline

Certain smells bring back memories of Mother Mary.

Among these are Estée Lauder Youth Dew perfume, More 100’s cigarette smoke – and mozzarella.

Not exactly sentimental, but there you have it.

You can trust that all the memories of The Flying Scottolines will be relate to carbohydrates.

Let me explain.

The other day, I was walking through the food court in the mall and I caught a width of a distinctive aroma.

Bad pizza.

Specifically, frozen pizza.

By way of background, my mother was a terrific cook, especially of Italian food. She made us homemade spaghetti, ravioli, and gnocchi from scratch. As a child, I spent hours watching her.

And it took hours.

If you’ve ever watched anybody make homemade spaghetti, it’s a domestic miracle. A loaf of dough that somehow ends up being rolled out and then fed into a spaghetti maker, coming out like flour-y tinsel.

Same with ravioli, because she mixed the ricotta cheese and seasonings according to her own secret recipe that had a tangy cheesy salty taste I could never duplicate and wouldn’t even try.

And when she made gnocchi’s, she started with the dough, but rolled it out into long skinny tubes, cut it into little chunks, and then floured her fingers and pinched each chunk, making the special dimpling that marks the best gnocchis – made by hand, dimpled by fingertips.

The problem was pizza.

When we were growing up, I wanted to be like the other kids, who got pizza delivered or had somebody go pick up pizza and brought it home. We never did that, because Mother Mary felt that since it was Italian food, it would be heresy to buy it at a restaurant. But she had no interest in making homemade pizza, and who could blame her, so she would buy it frozen at the Acme.

Or as we say in South Philly, the Ac-a-me.

She bought a no-name brand in a plastic bag, with ten small pizzas stacked on each other, as appetizing as hockey pucks.

She cooked it at home.

For three hours.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but she overcooked the pizza every time, refusing to follow the directions. She wouldn’t even let me follow the directions. It was her kitchen, so she did the cooking, which meant that our pizza always sucked.

And let’s be real, back then, it was the dark ages of frozen pizza.

In fairness to Mother Mary, overcooking was the only chance that frozen pizza had of drying out, otherwise the crust stayed soggy and the tomato sauce distilled to hot ketchup.

So as I entered high school, I ended up at a friend’s house and they ordered pizza from a great neighborhood pizza place, Marrone’s.

I was hooked.

So one night, when Mother Mary wanted to make frozen pizza, I told her about the magic of store-bought pizza at Marrone’s, but she wasn’t having any. We fussed about it, but amazingly I persuaded her to give it a try.

Mother Mary was delightfully stubborn. You could move the Mummers up Broad Street easier.

So I went to Marrone’s, bought an actual take-out pizza, and brought it home.

Mother Mary opened the box, and we all waited in suspense while she slid out the first piece and cut the mozzarella strings with the gravity of a surgeon servering an umbilical cord. She took a bite, chewed, swallowed, and then said with a wink:

“I knew it would be better than frozen.”

From that day forward, we ordered from Marrone’s.

And I forgot all about that story until I walked through the mall the other day, and smelled the mozzarella.

I knew that somewhere, Mother Mary was winking.

Grief is funny that way, bringing back the good and the bad, the funny foods and the dumb fights.

And most of all, the love.

That never goes away.

And the best of it is homemade.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Banana Fanna Fo

by Lisa Scottoline

I just found out that Mother Mary has been living under an alias. 

You would think that I’d know my mother’s real name. After all, she’s 86, I’m 55, and it’s the kind of thing that’s generally well-established by now. But Mother Mary is full of mysteries.

Let me explain.

You may recall that I took her back to the airport after her last visit, and she almost wasn’t allowed to board the plane to Miami, because her ID card had expired. The airline let her fly only because she was carrying her social security card. Of course, you could have guessed that Mother Mary carries her social security card. She also carries her voter registration card and a photo of Tom Selleck that she claims came with her wallet, but I don’t believe her.

I suspect she just likes Tom Selleck.

Wallets haven’t come with photos since the days of Troy Donohue. Photos don’t even come with photos anymore. All the photos are in the cell phones, guaranteeing that the moments of our lives will last as long as a SIM card.

To continue the story, Brother Frank took her to the DMV for a new ID card, but they wouldn’t renew her card because her last name, which is Scottoline, was different than the one on her birth certificate, which is Lopo. She had to go home and obtain her marriage and divorce certificates from when she married and divorced my father, and she also had to get the marriage and divorce certificates of the guy she married and divorced before my father, since she’s divorced twice, in the manner of all Scottoline women, who need a couple of tries to get something right and often never do.

So she obtained the necessary documents and they went back to the DMV, where they waited in line for three hours, during which Brother Frank tells me that Mother Mary morphed into Line Police. He didn’t need to elaborate; I’ve waited in plenty of lines with Mother Mary, and I know the drill. She watches everything and everybody in the line. 

She makes the average hawk look asleep at the switch.

Mother Mary makes sure that nobody is butting in, holding a place for someone else, or taking too long at the counter. All such infractions are met with eye-rolling, theatrical sighing, or a well-timed, “oh, come on!” And if the line shifts forward but the person in front of her doesn’t move instantly, she’ll lean over, wave him ahead, and say, “Go.”

Her finest moment arises when she spots the person who Just Has A Question.

You’ve seen this person.

They act agitated when they bypass the line and go straight to the counter, as if their question roiled their very soul. Most people ignore the person who Just Has A Question. Not Mother Mary. I’ve seen her stop the person who Just Has A Question and tell him he can take his question to the back of the line where it belongs.

And once, she said to him, “I just have a question, too. Why are you butting in line?”

But to stay on point, she finally gets to the DMV counter, and the clerk is about to issue her a new ID card when he notices something. Mother Mary’s birth certificate doesn’t read Mary Lopo, but Maria Lopo.

“So what?” Mother Mary asked him, and me, later, when she tells me the story.

“Your name isn’t Mary?” I’m dumbfounded. “All my life, you told me your name was Mary.”

“It is. Maria is Mary in Italian.”

“But this isn’t Italy, Mom. Mary and Maria are two different names. I thought your name was Mary, but it’s Maria. How did I not know this?”

“They’re not different names.”

“Yes, they are. That’s why the man couldn’t give you an ID card that says Mary.”

“So now I got an ID card that says Maria Scottoline, but it doesn’t match my bills, my credit cards, my social security card, or my deed.”

“Your name really isn’t Mary?” I ask, still flabbergasted. Twenty years ago, I named my first fictional character, Mary DiNunzio, after her. And for years, I’ve been calling her Mother Mary. But she isn’t Mother Mary. She’s Mother Maria.

She keeps talking away.

But I don’t listen. I don’t understand at all.

I’m the person who Just Has A Question.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Breezy

By Lisa Scottoline

The great thing about summer is that we all take the time to slow down, which is especially necessary in a world buzzing with laptops and phones. Today I am marveling at the most perfect low-tech invention of all time:

The fan.

How great is a fan? No bells, whistles, or BTUs. It’s plastic, and it cost only fifteen dollars. You can’t even buy gum for fifteen dollars. I am in love with my fan, even though I have bad childhood memories of same.

Let me back up.

Growing up, we had no air conditioning, and I remember going to my friends’ houses, where they did. My best friend Rachel had something mysterious and great called Central Air, and we loved it so much that we would leave her house only for the movies, where they had air-conditioning and a blue banner that advertised as much, in letters so cold that they formed icicles.

Don’t pretend you don’t remember that sign, because you do.

Anyway at home, we had window fans, which were the source of much discord. The big debate was whether to turn them out or in. To me, even at age twelve, this was a no-brainer. One side blows air at you, and one side doesn’t. So which side should face you, as you sweat your butt off?

Of course.

Stick the fan in the window, so that it blows air on you. My father, brother, and I were aligned on this opinion, but we did not prevail, as we lived with a meteorologist.

Mother Mary.

You may not have known she was a meteorologist, but she was, when it came to interior weather. By the way, she was also a doctor, when it came to swimming after eating. And an electrician, when it came to toasters near water. Mothers are women of invisible degrees, and she was no exception.

Mother Mary held that the fan should be in the window turned out, so that it did not blow on you. Her theory was that if it was turned out, it would suck all the hot air from the room and blow it outside, thus cooling the room. Sadly, the fan came with no instructions to settle the argument, and in the end, you know who prevailed, so we turned our window fans out and sweated in our living room.

Yes, it sucked.

Mother Mary also believed in cross-ventilation. In fact, if you ever meet her, don’t get her started on cross-ventilation. She can talk about cross-ventilation like some people talk about politics. According to her, you should throw open two windows opposite from each other, and the air from one window will be sucked in, whoosh magically across the room, and blow out the other window, thus cooling all the Scottolines sweating inside.

This sucked, too.

We waited and waited for a breeze to cross-ventilate us, yet it never happened. So we whined and whined for an conditioner, and one day, they relented, albeit with a compromise. We would use fans and cross-ventilation in the living room, and in the dining room, we installed a window air-conditioner, which supposedly had enough BTUs to cool the entire first floor.

It didn’t.

It cooled the dining room, but we never used the dining room except for Christmas, Easter, or another day when something really good happened to Jesus Christ.

And the TV was in the living room, so we were always in the living room, sweating amid the inside-out fans and nonexistent cross-ventilation, while the dining room remained frosty, if empty.

When I grew up, I got to be the mother, so my house has central air, window air conditioners, and fans.

Overcompensate, much?

But this summer has been so cool that I’m using only the fan. It sits in the window next to my bed and whirrs pleasantly all night, cooling dogs, cats, and one middle-aged woman.

And it blows inside, the way God and General Electric intended.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Bizarro Birthdays

By Lisa Scottoline

I just got off the phone with Mother Mary, who’s lost her mind. Or maybe it’s Scottoline birthday madness.

Let me explain.

She told me a story that happened to her that day, when she was going outside to do the laundry.

Yes, you read that right.

She lives in Miami with brother Frank and she goes outside to do the laundry because they keep their washer and dryer in the backyard.

This makes no sense to me, but she swears that it’s common in Florida to keep major appliances in the backyard, like shrubs with twenty-year warranties.

Still, it’s hard for me to believe. I suspect that my mother and brother are redneck Italians.

But never mind, that’s not the point of the story.

So Mother Mary is going outside to put in a load of laundry and she sees one of her neighbors, a nice young woman, walking her two-year-old son by the hand. My mother stops to say hello, and the little boy looks up at her with big blue eyes and says:

“I love you, Mary.”

So of course my mother melts, because she loves kids, and she even gets choked up telling me on the phone. The whole story is sounding really sweet until she gets to the next part, which is when she asks the mother of the toddler when is his birthday, and the woman answers:

November 23.

Okay, means nothing to you, but that’s brother Frank’s birthday.

And on the phone, my mother tells me: “I looked at that little boy, and I thought he was like Frank. Like he has your brother’s soul.”

I thought I heard her wrong. “Pardon?”

“When he said he loved me, I looked into his eyes and I could see his soul, and it was Frank’s soul.”

“You mean they’re alike?”

“No, I mean they’re the same.”

I tried to deal. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No. I’m telling you, he has the same exact blue eyes as Frank and he was born on the same day. He has Frank’s soul.”

“Ma, Frank still has his soul. He’s not dead yet.”

“I know that,” she said, irritably. “They share the same soul.”

“Ma, that’s crazy.”

“Sorry, but I know, I can tell. Remember the earthquake?”

This shuts me up, temporarily. It’s matter of public record that Mother Mary was the only person in Miami to feel an earthquake that took place in Tampa, and the South Florida newspapers even dubbed her Earthquake Mary. Ever since then, she thinks she’s Al Roker, but supernatural.

She said, “It’s the same soul. Absolutely.”

“Ma, just because they have the same birthday doesn’t mean they have the same soul.”

“Hmph. What do you know, about birthdays?”

She was referring to something I’ll never live down, which happened to me over twenty years ago, when daughter Francesca was three years old. I had taken her in a stroller into an optician’s shop in town, and a man walked through the door, pointed directly at Francesca, and said: “Her birthday is February 6.”

I was astounded. “How do you know?”

“I just do.”

I went home that day and called my mother. “Ma, some guy just guessed that Francesca’s birthday is February 6! Isn’t that amazing?”


“Why not?”

“Because her birthday is February 7.”

I blinked. “It is?”

“Yes, dummy.”

Look, I have no idea how it happened, but for the first three years of Francesca’s life, I celebrated her birthday on the wrong day.

Sue me.

Maybe it’s because I was in labor for 349,484 hours, so the exact day she was born seemed like a technicality. And since then, it was just she and I celebrating a day earlier, with nobody around to know better.

So now I can never say anything about birthdays, ever.

But at least I know where everybody’s soul should be.

And their washer-dryers, too.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Love and Worry

By Lisa Scottoline

I have a scientific theory that the bonds that tie mothers and daughters are love and worry, like the two strands in the double helix of some very twisty DNA.

In other words, if I love you, I worry about you. And vice versa.

Let me explain.

The moment Daughter Francesca was born, I started to love and worry about her. And my worry, like my love, had no bounds. I worried if she was sleeping too much. I worried if she was sleeping too little. Same with crying, nursing, and pooping. If I was breathing, I was loving, and worrying. And my biggest worry, of course, was whether she was breathing. I’m not the only mother who has watched her baby sleeping to see if her chest goes up and down.

I still do that.

My theory also applies to grandmothers. Because they’re mothers, too. Just grander.

Mother Mary worried about Francesca, and all of our conversations back then were consumed with my worries and hers, and together we aimed our laser beams of worry on this hapless infant, which is undoubtedly why she turned out so great.

Or guilty.

But that’s not the point, herein.

The point is that Francesca knows we worried about her. Uh, I mean, we loved her.

Likewise, I know, in turn, that Mother Mary worries about me. She worries that I work too hard. She worries when I fly. She worries when I drive. She worries when I’m not at home, and even more when I am at home. For example, she worries that I could put too much food on my fork and choke.

Let me suggest that this last worry isn’t so dumb. You’ve never seen me eat.

I used to feel guilty that she worried about me, but now I don’t.

She should worry about me, constantly.

It proves she loves me.

I realized this when I understood how much I still worried about Francesca, even though she’s living in New York, on her own. I don’t mean to make her feel guilty, and she shouldn’t. But I can’t help it.

Motherhood has no expiration date, right?

And what just happened is that the worry has boomeranged, so that I’m starting to worry about Mother Mary.

Well, not starting.

But recently my worry, and my love, has come to the fore, because of Mother Mary’s health. In particular, her nose.

It’s blue.

No joke. The last time she came to visit, the first thing that I noticed was that her nose had a distinctly bluish tinge. I told her so, in a nice way, and she told me to shut up.

But still, I worried, big-time. Her circulation has never been good, due to a lifetime of smoking, but she finally quit at age 82, when she got throat cancer.

Better late than never.

Anyway, she beat cancer, which is remarkable enough, but she’s supposed to use oxygen at night, according to her doctor. But she won’t do it. Our conversation today on the phone went like this:

“Ma, why won’t you use your oxygen?”

“I don’t like the tube. It smells like popcorn.”

“So what? Popcorn is good. Who doesn’t like popcorn?”

“I don’t, and that’s what it smells like, so forget it.”

“But it’s doctor’s orders, Ma.”

“The doctor? What does he know?”

I don’t know where to begin. “Everything?”

But Mother Mary wouldn’t listen, even though I eventually raised my voice, which is another thing that mothers/daughters do to prove our love.

If I’m yelling at you, you know I love you.

Because I want your chest to keep going up and down, whether you’re my daughter or my mother.

Or whether I’m your daughter or your mother.

It’s all the same emotion, which is worry.

Or love!

So the next time your mother is worried about you, don’t tell her to shut up.

And don’t feel guilty either.

Try and understand. She can’t help it. It’s in her DNA.

Chalk it up to mom genes.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline