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  • “Mother? Are you listening to a word I’ve said?”

    I smiled, a bit grimly but it was definitely a smile none the less. Our children, sometimes I wonder why we even bother teaching them to talk. All those words just come back to haunt us. There she was arms crossed pacing the room. I thought of all those switcheroo movies where mothers and daughter trade places. Nothing special about that, happens all the time. I laughed this time.

    “Oh, honestly, Mother sometimes I wonder.”

    “Your friend, Jill, arriving, flight 322, just after 12, the car. I was listening.”

    “Well you could at least nod, anything to let me know your still with us. Really, you’ve miles away all day.’

    “Not as far as that, surely.’

    No, just as far as the end of the path above the beach. I came back to that moment again and again until I knew it as well as my bare feet knew the worn path through the twisted spruce, along the ledges, across the worn boardwalk out to the road above the beach.

    “Look! There you go again. Mother, I worry about you.”

    “Oh Jess, must you really make a major drama of every little thing. And when did I become Mother in all caps? Go on. Take the car keys and be off why don’t you, just so you stop and pick up something for supper so I don’t have to rush out later.”

    “I know, I know. And you’ll have changed into something a little less castaway chic. Mother?”

    She rushed out and clattered down the steps calling out to know if anyone needed anything at the store and off with the door banging behind her before she ever got an answer. The house suddenly quiet without her bright and busy presence. And I was the one living in my on world.
    I walked out onto the narrow balcony and leaned against the rail.

    Now, the beach was filling.

    Cars lined the narrow gravel road. Beach umbrellas like psychedelic mushrooms announced one last fun in the sun family outing. Runners and walkers stepped out determined to put some distance on the clock and get somewhere even if it only meant turning round and getting back at the end.

    But that morning, there in the mist, the world seemed so small and so, so alive with potential, as if anything might and could happen, all I had to do was direct my thought and it would be. And then he was there so confident and intent, so sure about his next step. What called him to stop just then, what caught his eye to hold him from his destination. I wanted him to keep moving. It was my morning, my stretch of beach, I needed the clean emptiness, I needed the freedom to let go. Spill all the thoughts and memories out so the wind and sea could wash them away, take them and leave me in peace even if it was only for a moment, even if we knew, knew too well, they wouldn’t leave, couldn’t leave, these memories.

    The last thing I wanted was the agony of exchanging empty pleasantries and vague and vapid conventions that pass for communication. I wanted this morning to be as it was before he’d walked out onto my stage and claimed it by his presence for himself. But it was hard not to smile, he looked so suddenly vulnerable and uncertain. All that bold self-confidence actually as fragile and fleeting as the mist around us. There in the soft sunlight just burning through the mist, he’d stopped. And then he turned almost as though I’d called out to him.

    Our eyes met and I felt a physical shock of recognition, not that I knew him or remembered his face or his name, not recognition but something much deeper than memory. Any other time caught like this isolated and exposed, I would have gathered my towel around me, lifted a book to hide behind, But today, in the early morning without book or hat or sunglasses , nothing to duck behind. No cover. Today, I looked back, and the sounds of wave and sand and the long mutter and chatter of stone on stone on stone all down the long curve of the cove which a moment before had been so powerful and present receded and hushed. I felt I had come onstage and hadn’t the faintest idea what the script called for or my cue or what lines had been written for me.

    “Mother.”

    I smiled remembering her running down the narrow path from the house for all the world like the little wild girl she’d been not so long ago, for all the world like the long limbed wild girl I’d been, but that was ages and life times ago. And just like that the moment had gone as suddenly and completely as a bubble or a life.

    The waves rushed up to the shore.

    The gulls swooped and called.

    He walked down the beach, arms swinging, and the wind carried a scrap of some old song whistled.

    “You left without even a coffee, aren’t you freezing out here? Honestly.”

    “And whose the mother hen now?”

    We’d walked together up to the house and coffee, and her bright chatter of plans and lists and dates all firm and real and tangible filled the air and banished the dreams of mist and memory.

    Head up, shoulders back, I reminded myself and left the balcony, walked back into the bedroom pulled the sheets straight, ran a hand over the already plumped and perfectly squared pillows.

    And what’s wrong with where I am? I asked the woman in the mirror. But even as I said it I saw myself as he must have. Worn flannel shirt over an equally worn t-shirt, cut off jean shorts as soft and as comfortable as silk, yes but dressed for a moment to and for myself. Dressed as though I could go back. I tugged them off now and folded them to go back onto the bottom drawer. What had I been thinking. I sighed and dressed for the day, for company.

    “Really,” I told the woman in the mirror as I slipped a loose linen shirt, an almost emerald shimmer, all the catalogues had pushed pastels for the season, I’d resisted the sherbet oranges and yellows, what were they thinking, over the bright sundress.

    “What’s wrong with where I am?” I asked again, turning now so the sun caught the red lights in my hair, turning so my skirt flared over my thighs.
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