Mothers as ghost busters

Mother Day Sign

Last year’s Mother Day sign at ye olde Church Sweet Home.

It’s Mother’s Day. Despite how weird it will be in the middle of a pandemic, whether you’re with or away from your children, I’m wishing you as much happiness as you can squeeze out of this lemonade situation.

As I casted about for a good topic for a holiday like today, I thought, of course, about writing about my mother, whom I won’t get to celebrate with but cherish especially now after a little health scare earlier this year and now a novel coronavirus that is especially harsh on people of my mother’s generation. But I’ve written about her many times, including this post on another Mother’s Day.

As I pondered alternative subject matter, I thought of a This American Life episode I listened to a couple of weeks ago. In the “Call Me Maybe” segment of Episode 697: “Alone Together,” contributor Sean Cole talks about the relationship he’s refined, mostly through weekly phone calls, with his stepfather Ed after his mother died.

“I call Ed. We talk,” Cole says. “For this specific need I have [a ritual to remember Mom], it turns out he’s the perfect person to call. Maybe you’ve got somebody like that. A personal ghost buster when there’s something strange in the neighborhood, when things are looking their worst. That person who will know what you’re talking about even if they can’t understand what you’re saying. And all you’ve got to do is call.”

I admire that “personal ghost buster” line because:

  • a) it’s a great veiled reference to Ray Parker Jr.’s lyrics for the movie that only kids of the ’80s would get,
  • b) it’s a good description of everything a good mom should be,
  • c) that’s what my own mother is, especially in these ghostly times,
  • d) and yet Cole is describing his stepfather. As a stepparent myself, I aspire to such lofty heights.

I hope I am someone to call now who will know what you’re talking about even if I can’t understand what you’re saying (though I know very well my talkative and charismatic husband spends the lion’s share of phone time with my stepchildren, and I can hardly get a word in edgewise). And naturally, I wonder what role I’ll play in the future in my stepchildren’s lives if I should outlive their father. Sean Cole’s story of Ed gives me hope that I might be remembered and called on Mother’s Day and other days.

“If you’re seeing things running through your head,
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

~ Ray Parker Jr., the songwriter (and philosopher)


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