Underline, Underline! It’s a Bad Sign

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By Cate Drew
My mother is a wonderful person, but she has a signage habit. Give her a Sharpie, an index card, and a message and she’s got her fix. She labels everything and always underlines it not once, but twice. Always. Brownies, for instance. She’ll call and say she’s made brownies, and why don’t I come by and get some? I arrive to find a pile of brownies on the counter, wrapped in six layers of Saran Wrap (nuclear plant safety technicians have nothing on my mother when it comes to insuring impermeability) and on top of the pile, affixed with masking tape (another Ma favorite) is an index card. It says:

Brownies for Cate

The words are underlined twice. Always are.

Is she expecting other people to pick up brownies? Nope. Just me.

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My husband once leaned back while sitting on one of her dining room chairs, the set being a wedding gift and so old the wood had fossilized. So, no wonder, we heard a crack when he leaned back.

“Oh my,” said my mother, her one and only expletive, and she took the chair, placed it against the wall, and out came the index card, the Sharpie and the masking tape.

This chair is broken.

Underline, underline.

That chair and that sign stayed there for two years, until my husband was so tired of being silently rebuked every time he visited, he kidnapped the chair, took it to his garage workshop, fixed it, and returned it to my mom’s.

The index card is still hanging in his workshop. “This chair is broken” – underline, underline.

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The signage isn’t restricted to index cards. She once carved numbers on the crust of three of her meat pies, so I could “track” the pies as I warmed them in the oven. She was there in my kitchen when I unwrapped the first one. Of course it took me a while, given all that Saran Wrap, and there on the crust I saw this:


What the hell is that? “Ma, what’s this?”

“That’s the number 4.”

“It doesn’t look like a 4.”

“Well, I have to use roman numerals. They’re easier to carve into the crust.”

“So, Ma, . . .You numbered the pies so I wouldn’t be confused when I rotated them in the oven, right?”


“And this is the number four?”


“…And I have three pies?”

“Oh my. Well, I must have given one of them to someone else.”

“So I could have IV, II and I? Or IV, III and I? Or other endless combos?”

“Oh my.”

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Our recent “Great Sleeping Bra Debate” also involved signage: three bras on her dining room table, with index card (“Bras for Cate” – underline, underline).

She explained she had bought the wrong size and did I want these three sleeping bras? Sounded good, but I had to ask – what’s a sleeping bra?
She explained it’s a bra you wear when you sleep, “to keep you in place, so you won’t sag.”

Since I rarely run in place when I sleep, I didn’t think full-figure support was all that crucial, and frankly, when it came to sagging, the ship had sailed, or the boobs had dropped or whatever. And to get even more graphic, after nursing two kids, I pretty much was at the stage when I could use one of my breasts as a pillow, so why would I want a sleeping bra?

Oh my.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.