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.