February 2, 2010

Maybe It's Me: Beads, "bow chicka bow wow," and hedgehogs

My mom is the smartest lady I know. And I’m not just saying that because I feel obligated to, or because I’m brown-nosing, or because I’m slightly afraid of her “mother bear” rage, I’m saying that because I whole-heartedly believe it’s true.

Among the many things she taught my sister and I, one was that there is an important balance between education in the classroom and lessons taught only from life and the active participation in it. As a result, she raised us to be very intelligent creatures that were well-read, well-travelled, and thoroughly well-rounded in both book and street smarts.

My mother, in her infinite wisdom, has however had three great follies of which I like to (not-so-gently) remind her of from time to time which contradicted her practice of a finely balanced educational system. Things that I thought were common knowledge for the masses that somehow eluded the recesses of mother’s sponge-like MENSA brain.

They are as followed:
1. How the Ladies get Their Mardi Gras beads.
2. “Bow Chicka Bow Wow.”
3. Hedgehog Day

1. How the Ladies get Their Mardi Gras beads.
I had Mardi Gras beads around my neck when I was in my mid-teens. I had probably been at a restaurant where they were giving them out. But I knew how girls really got their beads at Mardi Gras; they lifted their shirts to flash people for them. I don’t know how I knew this – it’s not like it’s something taught in school or something I researched, I just knew this.

My mom apparently didn’t.

How she didn’t, I’m not sure. She knew everything about everything.

When I got home, my mom greeted me at the door completely excited and bursting at the seams to tell me something. “DO YOU KNOW HOW GIRLS GET BEADS!?” She exploded. I looked at her confused. “THE BEADS! THE MARDI GRAS BEADS! DO YOU KNOW HOW GIRLS GET THEM?!”

I shrugged, “Yeah, they flash people for them.”

My mother deflated. “Oh,” she pouted.

“Did you not know that?” I asked, hiding a smirk behind my hand.

She squinted her eyes and sneered at me. “No. I didn’t. I just found out.” Spotting the beads around my neck in mock spite spat the word, “hooch,” to me before leaving me wordless at the door.

Every Mardi Gras it’s fun to ask my mom, real off-handed, “Hey, Mom, do you know how the ladies get their Mardi Gras beads?”

2. “Bow Chicka Bow Wow.”
About the time that I was a senior in high school the phrase “bow chicka bow wow” started to become a popular colloquialism. It stemmed from seventies pornography were the cheesy music was inherently bad (even by seventies standards). The music all seemed to have the same rhythem, something that sounded similar to “bow chicka bow wow.” The phrase became popular as a response to sexual references, whether explicist or implied.

This was before “that’s what she said” became popular and overused.

My sister and I would use “bow chicka bow wow” and giggled profusely. It was fun for those of us in the know until it became more wide-spread. Assuming everyone knew it, she and I quickly found it less entertaining.

When my mother met my now step-father they were rehearsing for a play they were in. My sister and I were helping them run their lines and something like “it’s not hard enough” or “it needs to be more wet” – something that could be misconstrued when taken out of context – was said and my step-father said, “bow chicka bow wow.” And my sister and I burst into a fit of laughter that our soon-to-be step-father would know to say that.

My mother – my very smart mother – looked at each of us with a blank stare. “I don’t get it. What just happened?”

“Bow chicka bow wow! BOW CHICKA BOW WOW, MOM!” My mom shook her head and shrugged, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s ‘bow chick a bow bow’?”

This, of course, only sent us further into hysterics.

My step-father explained it to my mother who looked sternly between my sister and I, her eyes wide with innocence, “You little perverts,” she pursed her lips in mock prudishness and tsk’ed at us.

Some years later a joke would circulate about “what one gets when they cross a brown chicken and a brown cow.” The answer being “brown chicken brown cow.”

A term my mom uses frequently.

And giggles.

3. Hedgehog Day
My lovely mother likes to give cards. She used to leave for us in our lunchbox for all sorts of reasons – first day of school, days she particularly missed us, or just to leave a word of encouragement. She gave them to us for every holiday, too – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day . . . even Groundhog Day (this is something she still does, and it delights my soul to open my mailbox and find a letter from her in there).

For many, many moons we would get our Groundhog Day cards, and it usually just had a picture of a furry woodland creature with no verbiage on the inside. She would write something lovely then wish us a happy Hedgehog Day.

For years our cards said “Happy Hedgehog Day.”

At some point when my sister and I were older, before high school for me, we asked her why she always called Groundhog Day “Hedgehog Day.” My mom had done plenty of strange things, but after a spell she grew tired of them and moved on to something funnier or crazier. This one thing in particular though seemed to have gone on long past her point of interest.

But she didn’t answer us. She simple looked from my sister to me, from me to my sister, and shrugged.

“You did know it was Groundhog Day and not Hedgehog Day . . . right?” We asked her.

In a mock know-it-all voice, that didn’t convince us at all, she said real nonchalantly, “Yeah, yeah! Of course I knew that.”

My sister and I are positive that she actually didn’t. Or maybe she did at one point, but over the course of time, really did somehow psyche herself into believing that it was Hedgehog Day and not Groundhog Day. After all, if you tell yourself something often enough, you begin to believe it. My mother swears she always knew it was Groundhog Day and that she was just messing with us.

I lived at home when I was in college. And on Groundhog Day one year, I opened my bedroom door and there sat a stuffed Groundhog with a top hat and a note that simply said, “Not a word.”

I have that Hedgehog placed on my desk year round.


For me February the 2nd is always a good reminder of the wonderful and brilliant woman who learned from her daughters how girls got Mardi Gras beads and the meaning behind “bow chicka bow wow,” but who taught her daughters that if you believe it than anything – yes, anything – can come true.