You didn’t take my mother to a casino unless you had money. A lot of money. Alot of money that you might not want to see again. In Alberta, there seemed to be a Casino tucked away in just about any corner. Some of them were discreet, windowless buildings with parking lots that went on forever. Others were bright-lights, Las Vegas style squat monsters of flashing colors and bright signs. Couldn’t miss them unless you were blind really. My mother could had a list of favorite ones that she “had good feelings,” about. She often liked to roam around them and I suspected that my mother was a bit like me. She loved the bright lights, the flickering colors, the loud noises and the low murmur of voices. Slot machines that plinked and bonked and spun bright digital fruits and cards could mesmerize anyone.
I don’t know where this came from. I do know that as soon as my mother could teach herself enough to get onto a computer there were fruit slot machines and random blackjack games and that if she had loose change in her pocket burning a hole my father would say every once in a while she’d get a hankering and pester him to take her along while he went to play poker.
The thing is, my mother was really good at following her instincts when it came to people. When it came to the casino, there were times when my mothers instincts were–ah–less that very good.
When I went up to visit a handful of years ago, before she got really sick, she got to feeling restless and bored one night. She wanted to hit one of the Casinos.
“I’ve got a good feeling,” she said to me. “When was the last time you’d been to one?”
I thought about it with my eyes rolled up to the ceiling. “Uh, when was the last time you took me to one?”
Mom smiled as she started doing her make up.”I don’t remember.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Think it was when I won $200 bucks and that was my first time.”
She nodded and repeated that she had a really good feeling then. So we girls got ourselves dolled up and we got into the car. We hit the Tim Hortons on the way up, of course, because it wasn’t a night out without a cup of it. We listening to the radio blaring and them made out way through the night. Eventually we pulled up to a parking lot jammed full of cars. Junker cars, sleek, sexy purring cars that cost more than a house–men and women loitering outside to smoke (as laws passed in Canada made it illegal to smoke inside in most places), some of them wore cowboy hats and boots (which never ceased to amuse me because usually the ones in the entire get up, jeans, chaps, spurrs, snakeskin, ten gallon, had never seen a horse in their life let alone ridden one.) There were flashing lights and hand painted murals on the walls, painted to look like some desert with cacti.
We meandered in and were blinded by the multitude of lights. LEDS and little bulbs along side of machines galore. There was this HUGE MONSTEROUS spinning wheel thing that raised, lowered and wobbled with digital interactions and touch screen monitors at the center of the room with a few people around it. They had the crap tables and black jack too, littered with differing faces that showed boredom, typical poker-faces or frustration and happiness. My mother went straight to the slot quarter slot machines. They were always her favorite and I am not sure why–she felt they were luckier than anything else. She drug me along as we passed by computerized monitors that spun like the old fashioned ones: cherries and diamonds, hearts and bells. She took the choosing of a machine seriously, we meandered back and forth through several rooms as she squinted at each one. Eventually I wondered if we were ever going to pick one.
“Those two–” she pointed out. So off I went to sit on the leather bound stool beside her as she handed me a $20 bill. “I’ve got a good feeling about tonight, “she repeated.
There’s really not much to slot machines. You feed it money and if you are lucky, you win it back. If you aren’t–you don’t. My mother was wrong about this night however. The time passed and we talked about everything: marriage, kids, life, health, we laughed about the little things and bitched about the things we couldn’t control. We weren’t very successful and my mother insisted we try another machine. The night was wearing on and the place was clearing out.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stop?” I asked, warily trying to think how much we’d already spent as she tugged me along to one of the many convenient ATM machines scattered about the entire place.
“Just one more!” She said, and started giggling (I swear it) like a school girl.
“Mom I don’t think–”
“Just one more!” She insisted. She’s my mother you see. You don’t argue with mothers. Not too often when you get older, at any rate. So she slid a card and punched her PIN and more money that I’ve seen in cash in a long while was spit eagerly out into her waiting hands.
Off we went again to prowl around the machines to find ‘the perfect’ one. Mom found a machine she thought she liked, and tried to hand me some more money. At this point I shook my head.
“No, I don’t think I should help,” I grinned. She smirked and fed the machine.
We were horribly, horrifically, amazingly bad that night. I didn’t really keep track of the money my mother kept putting in the machine but it was so bad that at the end of the night we were both cackling like hyenas anyway at how horrible it was.
“Just one more–” She’d say.
“Mom, I think we should go, I don’t know how much money we’ve blown but I think we should stop before it’s too late.”
Still cackling like a bunch of hyenas however, we agreed. Some of the bouncers gave us quizzicle looks as we passed. They have people that make the quiet rounds along tables and machines even though there are cameras everywhere–no doubt to make sure things are on the up and up. I am pretty sure they were aware that these two ladies just lost a massive amount of money and had never seen anyone hooting and hollaring in laughter about it.
When we got to the car, I finally asked her, “So, how much did we blow?”
“Oooooooooh,” my mom said casually as she slid into the driver side. “Eight hundred dollars.” And then lost it laughing.
“OH MY GOD MOM!” I bellowed. I got into the car quickly because I thought I was going to die. “OH MY GOD. SERIOUSLY?”
My mother was flopped helplessly across the steering wheel losing her shit giggling. She nodded.
“FUCK. DAD IS GOING TO KILL US.”
“I KN-KN-KN-OWWWWWWWWWWWWWW,” Mom howled, looking totally unconcerned at her death.
We drove home and the entire way we were chortling like madwomen. Mom and I were doing our best Pissed Off Dad impressions, which sent us convulsing further until by the time we pulled up in the drive way sometime in the early AM, we were barely able to see the road through the tears.
“Okay, okay–Okay–oh jesus–” Mom said, “We’ve gotta go in. If Frank’s awake let me handle it.”
“JEEEZUSS CEEEERISSST DARLENE,” I tried in my best Dad-impression, which sent us off again.
“NO! Seriously, okay–okay we can do this. Oh my god, why did you let me spend so much?” As she tried to roll out of the car.
“ME?!” I squeaked, having a hard time breathing. “OH NO, nuh-uh you aren’t blaming this on me, I tried to stop you! I tried to be the adult here!”
We made it from the drive way to the door step, spring not yet sprung in Alberta, our breathes were little puffs of clouds as we tittered like teenagers and mom fumbled with her purse to get her keys.
“Frank is going to kill me,” she muttered, and we spent a few more minutes laughing so far we wheezed and collapsed on each other that neither of us could unlock the door.
When we got it open, I marvelled at my mother’s poker face. When she sashayed through the door she knew she was in for some serious shit–but breezed on in with a nonchalant look. I couldn’t follow her. I took my shoes off unsteadily and tried to go hide in the bathroom. I heard my mother say, “Going to bed, tired.” My father replied with–“How much did you spend at the casino?”
“Oh,” breezily. “Eight hundred dollars,” quickly as I watched her dart for the stairs and I heard my father begin cursing. I ducked into the bathroom like the brave daughter I am.
That was the last time I saw my mother laugh like that–laugh so hard that she cried, laughed until she couldn’t breath. It was the most expensive laugh I have ever had with my mother, but I like to think now that it was worth every penny.[box type=”bio”] Melissa Pence is wife to the husband and wife team here behind 2 phatgeeks. On December 11th, 2011, Melissa lost her mother to a long, difficult battle to diabetes. In her memory, Melissa is blogging 24 hours in order to raise funds for her through the organization: Step Out: End to Walk Diabetes, and for the personal goal to finish a humming bird tattoo on her right arm in memory of her mother. [/box]