At pizza/dinner tonight, we played a game in which each of us had to make a vow.  Mine was to start every day with a smile this week.  Addao vowed not to make vows about strange things, after realizing that a vow not to vow was a lose-lose situation.  Jessica, diving into a pile of salad, vowed never to go so long without eating.

We stuffed ourselves silly (me with over-priced but delicious GF pizza) then we made our way home.  From the back of the house, I heard Addao calling, “Mom!” and in a flash, I found myself back in time, maybe 45 years backwards into a shotgun bungalow in Jennings.

I hover in the kitchen doorway.  My mother has her hands in suds, her back to me, staring out the window.  I can’t see the season in my memory; I am mainly aware of my mother’s shoulders, hunched and huddled.   Feelings of powerlessness and helplessness rise in me as I recall standing, silent.  She had no idea that I watched her.  I could not speak.

My little brother, eleven or so at the time, called from the basement.  Mom!  Mom!  She did not answer.  He shouted more loudly, MOM!  MOM!  I could feel his urgency; I’ve no idea — not then, not now — what he needed.  My mother remained silent until the third call:  MOM!!!  MOM!!!  MOM!!!!

Then she spoke — still facing the window, hands still plunged in the dishwater, shoulders still taut.  In the tiniest of voices, barely above a whisper, she said, “What?”  Stephen called again and again, Mom whispered, “What?”  On his fifth call he seem to reach a frenzy but still she did not raise her voice nor move:  “What?” and I gasped, Mother! and she jumped, reeled around, her hands sending a shower of soapy water across the room, slapping me in the face cold, wet, greasy.

We stared at each other.  Moments passed, then I heard the sound of my brother running up the stairs.  He charged through the basement door and skidded to a halt at the sight of our stand-off.  Mom, he finally demanded.  Didn’t you hear me calling?

Mother’s eyes never left mine as she said, “I answered; didn’t you hear me?”

I turned and walked out of the kitchen.  I did not betray her; nor did I take my brother’s side.  I went out onto the porch.  I cannot remember — was it raining?  Winter?  I do not know.  I sat on the porch and thought about my mother but I reached no conclusions.  After a while, I went back into the house and closed the door.

Addao and his mother, the lovely Jessica, our island girl

Addao and his mother, the lovely Jessica, our island girl

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