A while ago, I went to see the mummy exhibition at the Leonardo with the Family. I was excited to explore these phenomena from the ancient past, perhaps enlighten the grandkids and help them understand that mummies are not just zombies wrapped in linen strips who learned their walking technique by watching old Frankenstein movies.
So having re-read “The Mummy Congress” and armed to the dentures with a dazzling array of impressive and indisputable facts, we embarked on our adventure.
The first question posed, of course, was just how old these mummies are. With consummate erudition, I explained that some mummies are thousands of years old. We know that because elaborate scientific data-gathering capability allows us to estimate quite precisely how long ago these people lived.
I was on a roll, an historical savant smothered in facts and projectile hurling information in an eruption of information that shimmered with radiant splendor.
I moved like a mastodon of fleshy cognition turbocharged with the bulk of lofty expertise and heavily endowed scholarship.
I was borderline psychokinetic, ready to bend spoons with my bare mind.
Just as I was about to start packing for a lecture tour of gnostic proportion, our youngest grandson, Asher, asked a question with blunt force trauma that launched me into beast-mode.
He said, “Grandma, who’s older, you or the mummies?”
I winced with the enormity of the inquiry. Is he the product of too much intellectual in-breeding? I suddenly felt like one of those colossal wild women you see at the fair, with paving-stones hung in their hair. I was so deflated, I became sorely tempted to start dragging my knuckles on the ground…like I did when I was a kid and played with the other Cro-Magnan children!!!
I began softly muttering inaudibles in immense sepulchral silence.
Finally, I managed to stammer, “Ash, this is bad math.” And I hugged him very, very VERY tight around his dear little neck.
( I had a powerful urge to begin double-fisting my go-to antidepressant mood stabilizers – caffeine and chocolate.)
Now, in fairness to the child, Asher IS only five. I mean, he’s just a kid. But the question caused my eyes to leap from their sockets. Does my little tribe think of me as some sort of embalmed Ice Age All-Star that through sheer dumb luck managed to become an evolutionary survivor of Natural Selection, adapting to survive in order to commando crawl through the brambles of grandparenthood?
It’s true that I am a calendar nomad. I’ve seen some seasons. But not THAT many.
Nevertheless, I devised the following litmus test to help my progeny deduce whether or not Grandma is a mummy. (Holy Hawkeye! I either need a better moisturizer or a bigger jar of industrial strength mortician’s putty!)
Anyway, here goes:
1. Do we need to carbon-date her radioactive isotopes to determine how many millennia ago she was born? Or is there, perhaps, a document (aka birth certificate) that might have been discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls?
2. Has she been repeatedly embalmed, or is that leathery skin merely a natural consequence of evisceration and a dry climate?
3. Is that her skin or pre-historic bubble wrap?
4. Is Nosferatu a contemporary? Has Tutankamen been invited to her high school reunion?
5. In spite of millions of years of evolution, does she still share most of her DNA sequence with chimps?
7. Could the science of reverse engineering help her not to look so genetically challenged?
8. And finally, if I ask one more question about her age, will Grandma use the momentum from her upper body to rearrange my dental sequence, not to mention her will?
I suppose age is in the eye of the beholder – the younger they are, the older we seem. But that’s a scary thought. True, my excessive pasta-bloat causes these “Frankenthighs” to make me look like a refugee from some primeval beauty pageant. And other aberrations and anomalies of nature might cause serious distortion in the grandkids’ generational lenses. I get that. I remember when my Grandma was mid 50, she seemed really old. She was. But that was then. This is now. Sixty is the new forty, cellulite the new cleavage, and muffin tops the new love handles.
I guess no one can keep up with the living shadows of their former selves. I am trying to be one with my wrinkles.
I’ll rise from the ashes.
But a word to the wise: Some things can’t be un-said. And there is zero margin of error.
Never ask grandma if she is older than Mummies…or Moses…or dirt!!!
There are those who question, and those who inherit (Asher being the notable exception.)