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  • I had a long talk with my mother today. We often have long talks. Hanging on the phone, making up stuff to say long after the reason for our conversation has ended. I am keenly aware of the passage of time in our relationship. Of how soon it will be when I won’t have her to talk to and how soon after my children won’t have me to talk to.

    She and I are only 18 years apart. I have friends her age and have had boyfriends older than she.

    I can’t say I was an easy girl to raise. I wouldn’t want the job she had. I was sassy in the extreme, for sure knew everything by the time I was seven and it didn’t get much better for many years. My father called me the little commentator. Yep. I had a comment on everything for everyone. No need to ask me, I’d just come out with it. Thank you very much.

    With three younger brothers, there wasn’t much opportunity to be lady like and in any case, I wasn’t much interested. She would fix my hair in lovely braids and bows, tie a ribbon sash around my waist, sew pretty girlish dresses for me and off to church we’d go. Where upon I’d sit in the very front row – the rest of the congregation would sit four to six rows back and Mom with three rambunctious boys – one still a baby – would sit further back still.

    There, at the very front of the church, rapturously listening to the preacher, inspiring him even, I would slowly and deliberately undo the bows in my hair, unbraid the braids, untie the ribbon sash and (probably) kick off my patent leather shoes. Knowing full well that she could see me and could do absolutely nothing about it. The pastor loved me.

    OH! I was a darling child. So smart. So like an adult. So... darling. Frankly, I’m surprised they let me live.

    There was a day when as a teenager I was so angry with her, so filled with rage at some restriction she placed on my behavior or movement or freedom that I went into my closet, clamped my hands over my mouth to stifle the roars and spun in circles of rage. Just trying to wear it off, trying to get rid of an anger so violent it scared me. For a brief moment, in the vaguest way I understood how violent things can happen in a family – quickly, senselessly and without a plan. They can just happen.

    When I first lived on my own, we weren’t close. She was convinced that I was going to hell because I moved in with my boyfriend and if that wasn’t a big enough sin, my second boyfriend was black. Double dipping in the sin department there by gumby. She sent me letters, damning letters. I suppose a case could be made that she had the purist and best motives – she wanted to save my soul.

    Over years – through my eventual divorce and her several – we developed an understanding. We didn’t talk about religion or politics. Both deeply difficult subjects. We talked cooking, men – men and more men – relationships, work, family some, and eventually our inner lives. We talked writing a little but that too turned into a very difficult subject, so we stopped for several years.

    We’ve had our sharp moments. And occasional brief breaks in communication.

    These days, we love and appreciate each other. I find her fascinating and beautiful and wise in many ways. She’s funny, entertaining, silly, insightful and a good cook. I’m encouraged that I may develop some of her finer points as I age. I cherish her life and what she’s gone through... that she’s still standing is in and of itself an accomplishment.

    We still can’t (much) talk religion or politics and when on the rare occasion we stumble onto that turf and find ourselves with sabers drawn, one or the other of us, or both of us, breaks it up with a joke or a... OK, time to back off the subject. And we move on to something else.

    The great thing is that now, these little stumbles are just that and not what they might have been long ago: a reason to stop talking for weeks or months or longer. We know where the other stands. It’s OK. Neither one of us is going to change our basic view of the world. Which doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t continue to know and love each other.

    She’s really something. Every day, she’s something. We go through stages where we talk every day or even several times a day and then... it may be a week or so before we speak. It doesn’t matter.

    Somehow, some way, our love transcends our differences. Learning how to respect and cherish each other now is a pretty great place to be.

    The best? She’s still here, still standing, still just a phone call away and always bright and beautiful.
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