As teenagers we live in a different world from our mothers,a world where mothers hang out on the peripheries.Of course,almost everyone has one;they are unavoidable annoyances.
Today,as I approach that edge,as I am the one with the teenage daughter,I look at my mother through different eyes.And I sometimes wish I could halt the years and stop her from growing older,stop her from repeating herself.
We sit at my kitchen table as the sun designs a mosaic of light on the tile floor.My daughter,Anna,sits next to my mother.
“When is Rick going to be here?” my mother asks,referring to my husband.
“I don't know,Mom，”I answer patiently.“He'll be here for dinner.”
I sigh and get up from the table.This is at least the tenth time she has asked that question in as many minutes.
While my mother and daughter play Monopoly,I busy myself making a salad.
“Don't put in any onions,”Mom says.“You know how Daddy hates onions.”
“Yes,Mom,”I answer,shoving the scallions back into the fridge.
I scrub off a carrot and chop it into bite-size pieces.I thrust the knife into the carrot with more force than is necessary.A slice falls onto the floor.
“Don't put any onions in the salad,”she reminds me.“You know how Daddy hates onions.”
This time I can't answer.
I just keep cutting.Chopping.Tearing.If only I could chop away the years.Shred the age from my mother's face and hands.
My mother had been beautiful.She still is.In fact,my mother is still everything she has been,just a bit forgetful.I try to convince myself that's all that it is,and if she really concentrated,she would not repeat herself so much.There isn't anything wrong with her.
I cut off the end of the cucumber and rub it against the stalk to take away the bitterness.The white juice oozes out the sides.Wouldn't it be nice if all unpleasant situations could be so easily remedied?Cut and rub.This is a trick I have learned from my mother,along with a trillion other things:cooking,sewing,dating,laughing,thinking.I learned how to grow up.I learned the art of sorting through emotions.
And I learned that when my mother was around,I never had to be afraid.
So why am I afraid now?
I study my mother's hands.Her nails are no longer a bright red,but painted a light pink,almost no color at all.And as I stare at them,I realize I am no longer looking at those hands but feeling them as they shaped my youth.Hands that packed a thousand lunches and wiped a million tears off my cheeks.Hands that tucked confidence into each day of my life.
I turn away and throw the cucumber into the bowl.And then it hits me.My hands have grown into those of my mother's.
Hands that have cooked uneaten meals,held my own daughter's frightened fingers on the first day of school and dried tears off her face.
I grow lighthearted.I can feel my mother kiss me goodnight,check to see if the window is locked,then blow another kiss from the doorway.Then I am my mother,blowing that same kiss to Anna off that same palm.
Outside everything is still.Shadows fall among the trees,shaped like pieces of a puzzle.
Someday my daughter will be standing in my place,and I will rest where my mother now sits.
Will I remember then how it felt to be both mother and daughter?Will I ask the same question one too many times?
I walk over and sit down between my mother and her granddaughter.
“Where is Rick?”my mother asks,resting her hand on the table next to mine.The space between us is smaller than when I was a teenager,barely visible at all.
And in that instant I know she remembers.She may repeat herself a little too much.But she remembers.
“He'll be here,”I answer with a smile.
My mother smiles back,one of those grins where the dimple takes over the shape of her face,resembling my daughter.
Then she lets her shoulders relax,picks up the dice.