One Hot Momma

By Jody Keisner

I shouldn’t be surprised when, during a visit home, I find a hulking new motorcycle in the garage with a wine-red paint job and a massive windshield. I’m all grown up, in my thirties, and my mother and father can do whatever they want. I shouldn’t be surprised.

But I am. The bike is so enormous that I can’t ignore it, like I would do if I had accidentally stumbled upon a dirty magazine in their bathroom. My parents’ new toy has saddlebags and a tour pack for long-distance riding. The red machine looks ready to shove me out of the way and drive itself. Live to ride, ride to live is stenciled on the side in black and gold lettering.

This is so not my mother.

“Well, what do you think?” my mother asks.

I study her suspiciously. She wears her white orthopedic tennis shoes, a blue t-shirt decorated with yellow flowers and elastic-waist jeans. She still looks like my mother.

“She’s an ultra-classic tour bike. A Cadillac of Harley’s,” my father says, bending down in front of the bike to polish the chrome trim. My father, a soon-to-be-retired railroad electrician who puts on his grease-stained Wranglers and steel-toed boots every morning, fits the Harley-Davidson image right down to his scraggly ZZ Top beard. But my mother?

“I’m not sure,” I say. I follow my mother into the kitchen, her tennis shoes squeaking on the freshly mopped tile floor.

A picture of a group of bikers is held to the fridge by a magnet that reads: Electricians Turn You On. Thirty men wearing jeans and black t-shirts smile at me, some of them wearing black bandanas with red and yellow flames, others with their long hair tied back in ponytails.

“Where was this picture taken?” I ask. I open the fridge and look around for a snack, grab a handful of chocolate chips and another handful of raisins, and then close it.

“Freedom Rock in Adair, Iowa,” my mother says.

“Why didn’t you go along?” I turn towards her.

“I’m in the picture.”

“Where?” I stare at the picture again. I see several men and one white-haired woman with sun-activated tinted glasses wearing a –

“Is that you wearing the skull cap?” I can’t help myself. I bend at the waist, laughing.

“What’s so funny about that? Before you kids, I was one hot momma.” She tilts her head and looks at me through the tiny third window of her trifocals.

Truthfully, I never think of who she was before she became my mother: daughter, friend, woman, lover and wife. I’m looking intently at the picture of my mother in the skull cap when I realize that I still view her as someone whose every move is motivated by her concern for me, her child.

“And it’s a do-rag, not a skull cap,” my mother says. “I want my own.”

“Your own bike?” I’m incredulous. I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle before, but I clasped my fingers at the driver’s waist even though the bike had a “sissy-bar;” a passenger backrest that prevented me from tumbling backwards onto the concrete. I tried not to look at the cars veering near us or watch the foot-high medians, which seemed dangerously close to my knee. I thanked God for my life once we’d arrived at our destination. “Really?”

“Yes.” She sounds disgusted with me. “I had my own bike, you know, a little Honda 125.”

No, I didn’t know. I listen gape-mouthed as my mother recalls how she once popped a wheelie over a fallen tree limb, lost control of her bike and wiped out in a patch of poison ivy.

“Then you kids came along.” My mother shrugs. “Things change.”

Boy, do they ever. I’d heard the stories of the spontaneous camping trips, the silly drunken nights with friends, the adventures on my father’s motorcycle. He sold the motorcycle when I was a baby, but he kept his job after my sister and I were born. My mother didn’t. She set aside her career in finance to parent us full-time and opened a home daycare. I’d only ever known her to have an occasional glass of wine. I’d never imagined her as a road warrior. I just assumed that part of her life, her life before children, was over. I know how ridiculous this sounds, especially since my mother later returned to her career, and especially since my sister and I are each starting our own families. I don’t need someone to pack my lunches and kiss my boo-boos anymore, but I still like it.

I sit at the kitchen table and stuff my raisin and chocolate combination in my mouth. My mother disappears down the hallway and into her bedroom.

She emerges a few minutes later.

“Oh my!” I yelp.

My mother does a little twirl. She wears a black hat with small links of chain encircling the bill, a black leather coat, a black t-shirt and clunky black boots. She was a tri-focaled female version of Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

“You have to wear leather to protect your skin,” she says snootily. “You wouldn’t want to be in short sleeves if you crash.”

“That’s a pretty racy outfit, Mom.”

“Your father bought me the hat. Wait until I get my leather tank top.” She giggles.

“With tassels!” My father walks through the back door and into the kitchen. “Can you see your mother with tassels?” He whistles.

“I hope to never see that,” I say.

“Your mother’s a hot biker babe, isn’t she?” My father puts his arms around my mother and smooches her cheek. They both laugh. “What do you think?”

“I’m in shock.”

“I had a life before you kids, you know.” My mother says. “Now it’s my time.”

I nod in agreement. She deserves to return to that wilder, carefree part of herself that took a backseat to child-rearing. She’s my mother, but she’s also one hot momma on a motorcycle.

Image photographed by VW Photography

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16 Responses to “One Hot Momma”

  1. Betty Jo says:

    Reading this made me laugh~~remembering the look on your face when you realized I’m so much more then just your mom! Health issues have made us abandon the Harley for a 39′ 5th wheel. We will still have adventures, just not wearing leathers riding on our Harley with the wind blowing in our faces! Sweet memories….

  2. Angie says:

    I love this Jody! Your mom has always been adorable and spunky. Dripping in leather or sporting her orthopedic tennis shoes, “One Hot Mama” describes her to a tee:)

  3. Jane says:

    Love it, Jody!

    I could sooo “picture” this playing out while I was reading. Your mother is a super-great lady whether she’s wearing her “mom” clothes or her “mamma” clothes!

  4. Rose Ann says:

    . . . and I thought I was the only one whose parents went over to the “wild” side. Their Harley was two tones of beige–your parents win for best color. They also had a side car which after one trip was relegated to luggage carrier. Aren’t we lucky to have such interesting parents. Hope our kids can say the same thing. Loved your story!

  5. Gracie says:

    Wonderfully written Jody!

    In reading this, I thought I should be surprised by it – but I wasn’t.
    Aunt Betty has always had that strong quality of spunk and vivacity, with a carefree humor and this, while a before unseen side of her personality, just fits.

    I love the picture; Uncle Jimmy is ROCKING that ZZ Top beard!

  6. Hal & Mary Ann says:

    We “loved” it – a great story of remembering “the bike phase” – wait until we tell you the part about them being Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus on their “Red Harley” – we paid for that one for a LONG time – to funny – we LOVE their spirit cuz we are older then them & feel “young” too. The old saying – you are “only” as old as you act!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Loved this piece. Isn’t it funny how difficult it is to view our mothers in any role other than ‘mother’? When I see my 87-year-old mother smooching her boyfriend, I always do a double-take.

  8. Amanda says:

    My Mom sent me the link and I had a great chuckle! What a wonderful piece and a perfect example of living life to the fullest.

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