The moment of revelation seared itself on my brain. I stood in the bathroom at my house in Winslow, Arkansas. The fake wood paneling bore a long, frameless piece of mirror. I gripped the little stick and strained to see the window. I don’t recall if a line meant “positive” or if a word appeared but whichever, there it was. I lifted my eyes to their reflection and held my own gaze. In that instant, my life forever changed.
This evening I ate leftover salad and pasta that my son and I prepared for last night’s dinner. The Airbnb does not have a dining set-up, so Patrick and my sister had moved the rickety desk from the downstairs bedroom into the small living space. Patrick chopped vegetables while I boiled gluten-free pasta and made a mushroom sauce. We sat on a weird combination of chairs: An odd white rolling number, a pink glam thing, and a tall iron bar stool from beneath the 8-inch plank nailed under the front window to make a breakfast bar. Joyce had Panera’s soup. Patrick drank cold O’Doul’s that I bought from the nearby Schnuck’s. I had my usual: natural spring water. The fanciest restaurant had nothing on our shared repast.
Miraculously, I managed to bludgeon the electric stove into submission this morning to turn out perfectly scrambled eggs and pan-toasted bread. Patrick got out the goat’s-cheese and I peeled an orange. We perched on the barstools and worked the NYT spelling bee, with Patrick listing all the words and hints in his notebook and me entering our guesses into my tablet. At ten, car packed, upstairs bedroom surveyed and wallet located, my son pulled from the driveway and started northward, while I got ready to meet my cousin Kati and her daughter Aimee for lunch.
Later, I drove to a local park to seek out my niece Emily’s fabric work on display. When I pulled in the driveway, a sturdy woman leaned into my car window to inform me that all of the ADA parking had been filled in the closest lot. I’d have to walk from the farther spaces. I met her eyes. Here’s the thing, I began. I’m disabled; I’m visiting from California; and my niece is a vendor here. I can’t walk as far as you suggest that I would have to do. Is there some way that you and I can solve this problem together? She studied my face. Then she turned and walked back to her place, and consulted her co-worker. I heard her repeat my assertions. The other woman gestured to the nearest spaces, all marked “reserved for this person or that person”. My lady waved her arm towards something that I couldn’t see. They fell silent. Then I heard the other woman’s voice, clear and strong: “Oh the hell with it,” she said. “I’m not getting paid to be rude. Let her park here.”
A little while later, as I struggled down a set of stairs panting from the distance that I’d thus far traversed, a group of visitors approached me and offered an arm. We slowly descended. Then one of them asked, Where are you trying to get? I explained; and she told me that I still had a while to walk. Just then, a volunteer on a golf cart passed us, and my savior flagged it down.
My niece wasn’t at the display in which her work was included. I talked to her collaborator. He showed me the jackets that she had made out of old quilts and army half-tents. Without having planned to do so, I bought one of them. I also bought one of the collaborator’s aprons, with his company logo which he said that my niece had designed. I spent a fair bit of money but I had no regrets. Afterwards, he directed me to the artist relations tent, where I found another golf-cart volunteer, who got me a bottle of water and gave me a ride all the way to the entrance.
Back at my rented abode, I drank the rest of the water and scrolled through the news. By and by, I rummaged in the refrigerator and put together my simple meal. With no dining table, and the desk returned to its original location, I stood in the middle of the living space, confounded, thwarted. Then I saw the silly rolling stool, and suddenly knew what to do. Now I’m well-fed, and quiet, sitting in the small bedroom at the back of the house. Beside me is the ring dish that my son thrifted and gave me for Mother’s Day, with its coincidental, symbolic giraffes and its contrasting design suggestive of balance. I tucked the accompanying card inside the cover of my tablet. I’ve re-read its message enough times to know it by heart. My heart. His heart. Whatever the miles and memories between us, they will never part.
This has been the best Mother’s Day ever.
It’s the fourteenth day of the one-hundred and thirteenth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
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