This week my mama got a little sneaky. My birthday was Friday, and since she lives some 250 miles away, she called my partner Ryan to task him with a family tradition.
Growing up, my nose was coated in butter within an hour of waking up on October 26. Mama got me while I was still groggy and stumbling around our apartment with sleep in my eyes. She'd sneak up behind me with a generous dab of butter--usually Kroger's Cost Cutter brand. It would be balanced on her index finger, threatening to slide off and drop to the floor. She'd hug me from behind, and while she had me in her grip, she'd reach for my nose and smear me good.
As a kid, I thought it was funny. As a teen, I worried that the grease would cause a break out. These days, I'd pay good money to have Mama here, spreading a dollop of butter across my face. It was a sweet custom, but with family living far off, it's one that I never expect to be upheld.
Now, Ryan was great on my birthday. He bought me a vanilla/vanilla cake, which is a favorite; he gave me a card addressed from him and our dog; and he told me that we could go wherever I wanted for dinner. I opted for chinese delivery so I could eat in my PJs with my pup at my feet. The day came and went without a molecule of butter touching my nose, but I didn't know the difference.
I went to bed thinking that my birthday was a hit, and got up Saturday to run errands. That's when mama called. I was biking around town, and pulled over. I'd barely said hello before she asked, "Now, did Ryan give you something special?"
I told her about the dinner and described the front of the card--a pug wearing a birthday hat. She mmm-hmmed and awwwwed and waited, clearly expecting more. Since there was nothing left to tell, I started to change the subject, to ask about her cats, but she stopped me cold.
"Woah. Now wait. Is that all?"
Thinking she was about to come down on my partner's gift giving skills, I went on the defense. "That was plenty, Mama," I said, "The cake was really good and..."
"Well, that little turd!"
She interrupted me, and that's all it took. Maybe it was her tone, but I knew, right then, that this wasn't about what Ryan gave me. It was about something he forgot to give me.
I hustled home, biked like the wind to get to him first. I found Ryan petting the dog, oblivious to the storm that was brewing a state away. I touched his shoulder and, in all seriousness, advised him to change his telephone number.
"That woman's ready to skin you over the cellular lines," I told him, adding, "And I know her. She'll find a way to do it."
Poor thing. He didn't know whether to pee or go blind. He's from Illinois. He had no way of knowing that he'd interfered with a tradition that extends back to my childhood and God knows how much further. If miscellaneous websites are to be believed, birthday nose buttering originated in Scotland. The grease made unlucky forces slide right past, insuring a good year. Today, it's popular in a number of places settled by that nation's fiery people, including the Appalachians, Newfoundland, and other parts of the eastern Canada.
So Ryan stepped in it good. Mama's on the war path, and now we're searching for a safe house where he can hide. If you've got one, please let me know. Also, if you come from a family of nose butterers, by all means, keep that tradition alive.