This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club: in which we were supposed to write about happy endings.
My mother was in constant motion. In the evenings, she would make our clothes at the dining room table, the sewing machine whirring until late into the night. The following morning, all evidence of my mother’s nighttime sewing would have disappeared except for the new pair of pajamas waiting on the table. Every day, Mom would do laundry; wash dishes; wipe countertops; vacuum. At least once a month, she would run a cloth doused in Liquid Gold over the faux wood of the kitchen cabinets—brown with a decorative inset of black where food would invariably get stuck. She would go grocery shopping. Take us to doctors' appointments. Make us lunch. And then, in the afternoons, before she made dinner, she’d get her book. My sisters and I would sit on the couch. Mom would lie down, stretching her legs across our laps, and the contest would be on: The three of us would begin rubbing my mother’s leg, each trying to win the coveted best leg-rubber award. Mom would read a few pages before her book fell against her chest.
“Who’s best, Mommy?”
“Too early to tell,” she would murmur. “Keep going.”
Or we would draw invisible pictures on Mom’s leg. “What’s this, Mommy?”
“A smiley face!” And we’d wipe the slate of her leg clean and begin our masterpieces again.
Eventually, Mom’s leg would become heavy. The backs of our legs would begin sweating. We would start to squirm. And then Mom would wake and start dinner and put on a pot of coffee and head into the shade of the front porch with her girls behind her. Mrs. P. would walk over, coffee mug in hand, her daughter skipping happily ahead to join us in the lawn.
Mom and Mrs. P. would sit in folding lawn chairs and drink their coffee and talk while the kids put on a gymnastics show. “Look at me, Mommy!” One of us would turn a summersault, like that was the best thing in the world.
“Wow,” Mom would say, turning back again to the neighbor.
“Hey, watch this.” Mom and Mrs. P. would look again.
“Look at me, now.”
“Mommy, I’m thirsty.”
“Mommy, I’m hot.”
“Mommy, I’m hungry.”
We’d run into the house. We’d run out of the house. We would slam doors and leave doors open and let entire swarms of flies into the house. With dusty, bare feet, we would track grass and mud onto the clean kitchen tile. We’d make huge pitchers of Welch’s Grape Drink and dirty three glasses each and I’m fairly certain that on those afternoons on the front porch, Mom and Mrs. P. would exchange no more than three words at a time.
* * *
“Mommy, I’m bored,” someone said one day, once our popsicles had melted and stained our new shirts a rainbow of colors.
“OK,” Mom said. “I know what you can do.”
“What? What?” We jumped to attention.
“What’s yoga? What do we do? How does that work?”
“Sit down on the lawn.”
"Now cross your legs."
We crossed our legs. “What now, Mommy?”
"Now, bring your left leg up behind your neck."
This took some doing. There were grunts and groans as we struggled to follow the instructions. But finally, all four of us had done it.
Mom looked at Mrs. P.
Mrs. P. looked at Mom.
“Now stay that way.”
And Mom and Mrs. P. doubled over themselves in laughter, holding their sides, tears streaming from their eyes, hooting at something that would take us years to understand.
Labels: Community, Daughters, Girls, Growing up, Ohio, Raising Children, the red dress club: