“Absolutely no drama this weekend, agreed?”

Pre-littles, I worked in Los Angeles a lot. I wasn’t hiking Griffith Park or strolling Malibu’s beaches. No, most days I was stuck in a conference room staring out a window at the ever-clogged L.A. freeways.

My only solace was that my friend Fancy worked for a studio there so at least I got to hang with her on the weekends.

“Yes,” Fancy promised, “completely drama-free.”

My eyes remained doubtful. The notion of a drama-free weekend with Fancy was radical, even heretical.

“Remember, my mom’s a preacher’s wife and a school teacher. The type that wears sweater sets and good loafers.”

“Your mom’s so Charlotte,” Fancy said.

“So who?”

“From Sex and the City!” Fance sighed in clear exasperation. “But if I looked like your mom, I’d be on Desperate Housewives.”

“My mom is definitely not Desperate Housewives material.”

“Girl, you never know.”

“No,” I said, confidently. “I know. The only time I’ve ever heard her curse was when my brother spilled a crock pot of beanie weenies in our van’s shag carpeting.”

“Damn,” Fance said in amazement.

“That was it! That was the word!”

“And once,” I continued, “she went to the police department with one of my hot roller clips, worried that it was some kind of drug paraphernalia. Shall I go on?”

“Famous, I get it,” Fancy professed.  “No sweat.”

“Thank you,” I said flatly. “I’ll pick her up at the airport and meet you back here around eight o’clock. What are you thinking for dinner?”

“Maybe someplace in West Hollywood?”

When we arrived at the restaurant, my mom’s eyes were like saucers, dazzled by her new surroundings. The restaurant was sleek, sophisticated, and packed with a trendy crowd. In a surprising twist, Mom wore a little black dress channeling Audrey Hepburn.  The whole room took notice.

The maitre d’ greeted us with a warm welcome and ushered us to three seats at the bar while we waited for our table.

“How was your flight, Honey?” Fancy asked.

“It was good!” my mother chirped. “I sat next to a very nice man from Switzerland and got to watch my favorite sitcom on the plane.”

The bartender placed a glass of champagne in front of each of us, “compliments of the house.”

Oh no.

When Mom sipped cautiously without protest, I downed half of mine. The tightness in my chest began to disappear. For the next twenty minutes, the high ceiling of the restaurant amplified our conversations until it overflowed the room, absorbing us into the crowd.

Mom’s eyes brightened.

“Oh my,” she said. “I can’t believe it. It’s the guy from ‘Yes, Dear’.”

“Who?” I looked towards the door, where my mother stared.

“From my favorite show!” Mom continued. She raised her eyebrows. “He’s looking at us.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Fancy shift uncomfortably. A forbidding sensation tingled down my spine.

“Hey Famous,” Fance said, tipping her glass towards the actor.  “You know that ‘No Drama’ thing? I don’t think that’s going to be possible tonight.”

“W-h-y?” I asked, dragging “why” into a three-syllable word.

“Because the biggest Drama Queen I know is headed our way.”

Great.

I braced myself as my mom’s favorite sitcom star approached, nearly knocking over a chair during his descent.

“What are you doing here?” he asked Fancy, stomping his foot and gesticulating with exasperation.

“Anthony, go home and sleep it off, okay?” said Fancy.

He turned to the crowd that had stopped their normal dinnertime tête-à-tête to watch the scene unfurl.  “[Insert dirty language, something about his middle finger, and a lot of southern clucking.]”

Fancy lashed back. “Get off your stupid pills.”

“Get off your stupid pills,” he repeated like a grade-schooler.

Trying to make the peace, I interjected and gestured towards my mother. “You have a big fan here,” I said. “Maybe we can all back off a little?”

He stopped and waved at my mother and me mockingly. A huge sarcastic grin came over his face.

“Aren’t we in luck,” he yelled to the restaurant. “These high-priced hookers like my work.”

Mom’s lips parted and her eyes grew wide, as if she couldn’t believe what he’d just said.

At least he labeled us “high-priced.”

As the maitre d’ tried to calm him down, we quickly made our exit — before things could get worse.

None of us spoke as we drove down Hollywood Boulevard. We just listened to the city. To the bus rumbling by us. To the horn honking in another lane. To the insistent car alarm outside a movie theater. To the clank of Fancy’s car passing over a manhole cover.

Ready to face the music, I turned to my mother in the back seat.

“You okay, Mom?”

She sat transfixed, staring at the passing lights. Finally, she turned to me and started to giggle.

Fancy and I looked at each other with concern. She’s lost it. Gone completely nutters.

Mom continued to laugh and laugh — until she caught her breath and yelled:

“THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN!”

That night, as I shut off the hotel light, delayed gratitude washed over me. I realized that my mother had been so busy listening and caring for me for so long, that I’d overlooked the true her. Yes, she’s a traditionalist. Yes, she’s light and charming. Yes, she’s resolutely sensible. But there’s more to my mom than sweater sets and good loafers. She’s the direct opposite of guileless simplicity. She is warm, selfless, beautiful, and:

SO MUCH FUN!

Happy birthday, Honey! We love you more than all the stars in Hollywood — and the sky above!

Hollywood Honey