Temps Below Normal

The view from here, lounging on the cold white sand, right before losing the shoes.

Yesterday would have been my mother’s 66th birthday, and I decided to mark the occasion with a walk on the beach.  On the hour drive there, I listened to Diana Gabaldon’s DRAGONFLY IN AMBER — a romance about time travel — and watched the digital, outside-temp display on my dashboard drop and drop.  56 degrees.

July 11th, summer, and it was breezy enough for a sweater and a jacket.  Too cold to take off my shoes!  But then Lea wanted to run in and out of the surf and, like follow the leader, I became her follower.  I chased her in.  She chased me out.

No less than 20 people said hello, asked how old my “puppy” was, and urged their dogs to romp and play with mine.  So California, I thought.  My mother would have liked California.

For the drive back home, I called my mom’s favorite sister, Aunt Mary, put her on the speakerphone and listened.

–  Hold on a second, I’m taping a show on the Classics Channel.  Do you watch that?  Back when we were little, we watched all these old movies with your grandma.  Montgomery Clift and Bette Davis.  Elizabeth Taylor in “A Place in the Sun.”  Bette Davis, she was scary!

–  It’s hotter than hell here today.  105 they say.  You can’t get out.  You can’t breathe in this shit!

– I’ve been in this apartment too damn long.  I hate my neighbors.  I only go out my door to get the mail, I tell you.  (she laughs and laughs)  I’m turning into your grandmother.

–  You should see my new Elvis box.  I keep my key chain collection in there.  The last time you called — let’s see, it’s right here on my caller ID — was May 31st.  Is that right?  You were in London?!  I have a key chain from London.  Did you get it for me?

–  I want to be buried out at Cape County Park, where people can drive by and wave!, but it’s too expensive.  I think I can still get a plot over on Perry by Mom and Daddy for $300.  Do you know they bought those plots when we were in grade school?  For $50!

–  Do you remember Dano from “Hawaii 5.0”?  What’s his real name?  I used to remember shit like this.  He was the sidekick, the short one.

–  I’m 68 and I can hardly believe it.  Your mom would have been 66 today.  Shit, we’re old.  Pretty soon you kids will be the old ladies of the family.  You’re too young to be the old ladies!  That doesn’t make a lick o’ sense, does it?

Before I knew it my hour drive was over and I was turning into my driveway.  The sun had come out.  81 degrees by the dashboard light.  Aunt Mary said, Don’t be a stranger! and we hung up.

Like the audiobook on the drive to the beach, Aunt Mary voice — her storytelling — had been my time travel on my way back home.  Her tone, her laugh, her Damnits!  and Shits! and humor and subject-matter so much like her sister.  Her sister.  My mother.  Happy birthday, Mom.

11 thoughts on “Temps Below Normal

  1. Averil Dean

    Perfect. Your mom would have loved the way you remembered her. (As much as I love Aunt Mary’s key chain collection–in her new Elvis box. Adorable! No wonder she was your mom’s favorite sister.)


    (Is that OUR beach?)

      1. Averil Dean

        She sounds a lot like my grandmother. The most ladylike creature you could imagine, except that if she needs to pee on a road trip, she will go ANYWHERE. Side of the road, mooning the passers-by. ANYWHERE. Such an Aussie.

  2. erikamarks

    A perfect tribute to your mother, Teri. What every mother would want to know: That her daughter was loving her day, celebrating with those she loves dearly, in and out of the waves.

  3. Laura

    This was so touching. I loved it.

    After my mother died, I spent her birthday visiting her best friend. I thought I’d ask her questions about my mom, get her to tell some fun stories. I was 20 years old and my mother had been dead for 5 months. Her best friend and I chatted all afternoon about everything…except my mother. I think she was probably waiting for me to bring it up, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I haven’t see the best friend since, and I now live hundreds of miles away. Wish I had brought myself to just ask.

    I love your aunt, by the way.

    1. Teri Post author

      I get it, Laura. I called Aunt Mary to talk about my Mom, yet I don’t ask about Mom, I just wait and hope that she will bring something up. (Aunt Mary is a key character in my memoir — she’s priceless.)

      Only 20 yrs old when your mother died? I don’t think I knew that. She would be so very proud of you! I’m sure she’s always right there with you.

  4. Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

    Oh, I’m so glad to see your comment about Aunt Mary being a key character in your memoir! That’s exactly what I was hoping as I read this piece!

    I think a lot about family members as I write, even when I write fiction. Sadly, most of the ones with the best stories are gone now. I wish I would have appreciated those stories more when the people were still here to tell them.

    I’ll bet your mom was listening in on that conversation. And smiling along with you.

    1. Teri Post author

      Aunt Mary has been my writing fuel — who knew?! She truly makes this memoir business entertaining.

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