Disclaimer: this post has been pre-approved by Cork Head herself.
There comes a point in every child’s life when they realize their parents are nuts. Not just normal “oh that’s your mom, of course you’re embarrassed” nuts, but full-on are-they-even-human? nuts. I say every child because I assume everyone has felt this way about his or her parents. Despite having grown up in the same house with them for years, something clicks and you become fearful for your life. Or in my case, you laugh until tears are streaming down your face, and then the tears become real because laughing that hard is quite painful.
This event happened to me the first time I watched my mother do her “cork head” impression. Voices, faces, even original songs weren’t out of her normal range.* But there was something about Cork Head that took the literal cake; if there’d been a cakewalk, contestants would have viewed the event, and then forfeited themselves from the game, knowing Cork Head was the rightful owners of their confections. It was that ridiculous.
An important fact to know about my mother is that she has fairly large hair. Thick and tall, she avoids splashes of all sizes – from cannon balls to kitchen sinks – as a general rule. Flattening her hair is a punishable offense, however, I don’t know by what. None of us kids were ever brave enough to try it.
After arriving at said pool and lathering our pasty skin with record-breaking SPF, we hit the water. And when I say “hit” it’s to be taken in varying degrees. I jumped in, along with my siblings and 20-odd cousins. Some adults avoided the area altogether, and my mother sat at the pool’s edge, allowing her feet to dangle in the frigid water. She was careful to sit far from the splashing children, lest her hairdo be ruined by a rogue wave.
Despite her leisurely perch, my mother’s siblings began harassing her, daring her to cork-head into the pool. Upon hearing the phrase for the first time, I was pretty sure it was an insult. “You can’t freestyle? What a cork head!” or “Obviously you can’t dive in the 4-foot, you cork head.” But the context of their supposed insults proved otherwise. After multiple minutes of nagging (myself included; I was desperate to learn what the term meant), my mother gave in. She was going to demonstrate the cork head.
She stood, walked to a deeper section of the pool, and then leapt from the pool’s edge. During this freeze frame moment, I was in pure shock that my mother was willing to sacrifice her hair, even if it meant silencing the crowd. What happened next proved me right. Her head (and hair by proxy) didn’t touch the water. Despite jumping into a good 9’ depth of H20, her head was almost completely dry. Only a few unfortunately drops of water had risen above the neckline. Cork heading meant an almost a literal cork dome; it had the ability to float.
“Cork Head lives!” she hollered while swimming back toward her crowd, an event that sealed itself as her most embarrassing act to date. Her siblings cheered and I stood in awe, simultaneously wondering how she’d done it and wanting to erase the event from my memory.
In years since, I have attempted to master the cork head, but there’s always a back wave that covers my head, rendering the attempt useless and unsatisfactory. Does my mother have some type of anti-gravity head? Does her DNA allow her to jump separately – neck down and neck up – while appearing still attached?
Like any good magician, she has yet to reveal her secret, she just repeats the trick for sport, always yelling her catchphrased “Cord Head lives!” when the act is completed.
To date, I find the event funny and a trademark of my mother’s unique self. Whose mother wouldn’t call themselves Cork Head? I often think, generally during summer months. What lady cannot perform semi-superhuman abilities? Regular-headed moms are a real cliché, boring and regular. I am lucky enough to have one of the weird ones.
*Remind me to tell you about “little mouth” and “downnose”