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  • Dixie Frantz

The time I was on Mimi's "List"


For almost 25 years, I wrote a humor column for several local community newspapers. It was about a slice of life in the suburbs of Houston. I loved writing it and stopped after my husband passed away in 2020.


My upcoming book "A Joyful Embrace: A Memoir" also contains a sprinkling of my columns about Mimi. Below is one column that did not make it in the book. It was published the end of March, 1999, before cell phones and technology that clued drivers into traffic issues. Disclaimer--this post is longer than my usual blog post.


You had better watch out if you're on her list


Before timeouts were invented, my mother used to toss out subtle hints that one, or several of her five offspring, was about to cross over that invisible line drawn in the tacky green shag carpeting. I guess every mom has her favorite “one-liner” warning. In a matter of microseconds, a kid could be squished flat like a handful of soft Play Dough with the utterance of a carefully crafted sentence. My mother’s all-time first choice was, “You are on my list.” If a bouncy right index finger and squinty eyes accompanied the phrase, we knew she meant serious business. It almost always speeded up the chore doing, halted the sibling fighting, or hastened the deposit of our behinds in bed on a school night.


I never liked being on anyone’s “list.” I’ll admit that I’m one of those “people pleasers” who relate best in a world where everyone is happy. It’s a large part of my nature, and why I’m in such trouble at this very moment. You see, I’m currently on Mimi’s “list.” For those who haven’t met Mimi, she’s our handicapped daughter who has the sunniest of dispositions. Over spring break, I promised to take Mimi, and her little brother, to the Houston Zoo. It was to be even more special because their grandma (my mom) was also coming along. As Mimi has a limited vocabulary, she uses sign language when she “talks” about a few zoo animals.


Let me demonstrate a couple of zoo animal signs if I may, and you can play along. Take your two arms and hold them out in front kinda straight and clasp your hands together real tight. Now wave your arms around a little and make a noise like Disney’s Dumbo and you’ve got it! It sorta reminds one of an elephant’s trunk, doesn’t it? Now let me illustrate Mimi’s most favorite animal. Take those same two arms and place them down at your sides and shake them out. Are you relaxed? Get ready because this one is a little more complicated. Slowly lift each hand toward your waist area, bending elbows and wrists, and then gingerly tickle yourself. You have just successfully completed the sign for “monkey.” Accompanied with a Cheetah howl makes for a most expressive primate. Mimi has her own rendition for signing “monkey.” She tickles her shoulders instead of her sides. I think it’s because her wheelchair armrests get in the way of properly executing the rib tickler part. Anyway, you get the gist.


Getting back to our zoo adventure, we actually made the forty-five-minute trek unscathed. In the backseat of the family truckster, Mimi was howling like a chimpanzee in anticipation of all the fun. Much to our surprise, traffic suddenly backed up as we navigated the freeway exit. To shorten a long “we’re very hot under the collar” story, it wasn’t the road construction around that side of the zoo that caused the tie-up. Nope! It wasn’t even the kind men-in-blue waving everyone past the road to the zoo entrance, detouring everyone way around the medical center. And it wasn’t even the men-in-blue on Fannin in front of the Natural Science Museum that wouldn’t let us turn right to make our way to the zoo parking lot that caused the tie-up, at least not technically. Of course, it naturally was the thousands of people already in the zoo that had my same great idea. The parking lot had probably been full for hours before we even got there. Of course, it would have helped if someone communicated to us motor-bound tourists that the zoo was completely full. A simple sign would have been nice! Geez, what a disaster! We settled for the Health Museum. But learning about the human body wasn’t remotely what Mimi had in mind.


It’s now been three weeks since the zoo debacle and every day Mimi lets me know I’m still on her “list.” She signs “monkey” and "elephant" from her bed in the morning, as she exits the school bus in the afternoon, and before each meal at the table. And if that wasn't bad enough, she’s so darn nice about it. There are no wagging fingers and no squinty eyes. But then, Mimi knows she’s got someone to back her up. You see, I’m also on my mother’s list. She is wagging and squinting on Mimi’s behalf.

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