My nephew Comus is a boy genius, but he got a smart mouth on him.
A few months ago, when we were all at Ms. Larda’s, she tells him to put down that phone and come eat.
He says “Okay, Boomer.”
Uh-oh. I brace myself. Ms. Larda don’t stand for no back talk, even from grandkids.
But she just smiles and says, “Whoever smelt it dealt it,” and hands him his plate of fried chicken.
So later on, I ask her, “What do you think ‘Boomer’ means?”
She gives me a look. “It means whoever cut one. As in passed gas,” she says.
“Noooo,” I say, “It means a person in the baby boom generation — the baby boom after World War II.”
“Believe it or not Modine, I know about that baby boom. When them boys got back from the war, they just kept booming away until somebody invented the Pill. The baby boom is how I got five little sisters.
“But I myself ain’t no baby boomer. I was the oldest. Mama said I was a furlough baby.”
I inform her, “The expression ‘Okay, Boomer’ happens to be a new way for kids to insult their elders.”
My daughter Gladiola made that mistake. Now she was claiming she was just joking and I am actually very youthful, but only because I confiscated her phone.
“All the different generations got names now. And they all complain about each other,” I say. “The boomers are always grumbling about the millennials.”
Ms. Larda says, “Melanials? Like a First Lady fan club? I guess she’s pretty; even though them boobs are fake. But I try to keep my mouth shut about politics.”
I give up. I tell her to get her hearing aids upgraded, but then the virus shuts everything down.
Fast forward to last month, when she signed up for an interactive art course on Zoom. She’s been to real art classes before, the kind where you sip wine and everybody paints the same picture.
This is different. After 20 minutes, while everybody tells each other to unmute their mic and switch their video camera on, finally Jacques, the instructor, talks a little about expressing oneself through brush strokes, and then he tells them to practice drawing o’s for the next lesson. “Fill a sheet with magnificent o’s!” he says. Ms. Larda, sitting there half-asleep with her wine and her bad hearing aids, don’t hear o’s. She hears “toes.”
She digs up an old canvas from one of her drink ‘n paint classes, with a picture she doesn’t much like, covers it in green paint, and looks down at her toes, crooked and mashed on top of each other from all those years they were squished into high heels.
She needs some better-looking toes.
So she texts our entire family and asks for pictures of our toes. We are so used to doing whatever she says, everybody just slips off their shoes and aims their phones down at their feet and texts her a picture.
She copies them in sets of ten; long toes, baby toes, manicured toes, stubbed toes… up down and sideways, using up the leftovers in every tube of paint she has.
At the next class, after everybody unmutes their mic again and turns on their video camera, Jacques asks everybody to hold up their o’s. Ms. Larda holds up her multi-colored toes and hears him gasp.
She slowly lowers her canvas and realizes. O’s, not toes. She immediately reaches to press “leave group,” but Jacques says, “Mrs. Larda?” She stops with her finger hovering. “You’ve made a magnificent statement!” he says. “What’s the title?”
She’s made a lot of things, but she never made a magnificent statement before. She decides to title it “Grounded.” She posts it onFacebook and Instagram (them being the other things she learned during the virus), and would you believe, a whole lot of people re-post it. The Gunch toes go viral.
She even took down her velvet Elvis picture from over her bed and hung up “Grounded” instead.
I tell her I can’t believe she replaced Elvis.
“Times are changing, Boomer,” she says.
Ain’t that the truth. •