10 June 2010

a question i shouldn't have to ask

This is the beginning of a story for my writing class.  I've actually written more of it, but I thought I'd start with this sneak peek intro.

Since it's part of my writing class, that means I'm opening it up for critique.  Not that everything else on here isn't open for critique.  Critique away, really.

Just please remember the Oreo theory of critiquing:  make your criticism as yummy as possible and sandwich it between two nicer, chocolate-y things.  I think I just made that up, but you know what I mean—go for constructive criticism and eat a lot of Oreos.  They're very good with peanut butter.

There my mother stood in the bathroom at the Walnut Room of Macy's on State Street with her skirt hiked up.

There I stood, skirt thoroughly unhiked, staring at my mother's thigh.

“You got a tattoo?!?”

It was a Sunday in late June, and downtown Chicago was sweating.  Or at least everyone there was sweating, me included as I power-walked down Randolph as efficiently—yet gracefully—as my strappy gold heels would allow.

I was late for meeting up with my mom, grandma, and aunt.  They'd all taken the 7:30 train in from Iowa that morning—leaving Burlington at 6:00 to allow plenty of time for the 45-minute drive to the station.  You always want to have a time cushion; this is one of my mother's travelling rules.

Another travelling rule is:  always take way more underwear than you'll need.  They can be shoved in the corner of your suitcase, barely taking up any room, and wouldn't you rather have them than need to turn an already-worn pair inside-out in the event of an underwear emergency?

So—even if it's just a day trip, consider putting underwear in your purse.

The time cushion rule is a family joke.  It's one of those reliable, comforting yet overdone conversations that families can fall into.  Everyone knows their lines.  No one strays from their part, and we all laugh.

It goes like this:  my dad will say, “Melodee, our flight is at 10 tomorrow morning.  What time do you want to leave for the airport?  How about we get there 2 hours ahead?”

When it comes to schedules, my family typically plays by the rules. If the airline says to be there two hours in advance, we like to be there. Even if we've checked-in online and aren't checking any bags.  You never know what can happen; this, perhaps, is an unspoken family mantra that leads us to do things such as bringing seven pairs of underwear for an overnight trip.

My mother answers, “So that'd be leaving at 7:15, if we want to be there two hours ahead.  What if we aimed to leave at 6:30?”

“If we leave at 6:30, there won't be any traffic, and we'll be there three hours ahead,” my dad explains.

Three hours early starts to sound very appealing and safe to my mom, so she expands it.  “Maybe we should shoot for 6:00.  Even if there isn't usually traffic, there could be tomorrow.  You never know what can happen.”

The time gets pushed back and back until my dad says, “Oh, why don't we just leave now?  If your mother had her way, we would've left for the airport right after breakfast today.”

That's when we all laugh.

Even though I hadn't confirmed this with my mother, I was pretty sure she'd made everyone leave for Chicago by 6:00 this morning.  Maybe even 5:45.

And here I was, rushing, but I wouldn't make the deadline—12:00 under the clock at Macy's. I should've worn more practical shoes, but the strappy gold sandals go perfectly with the brown dress I got for my brother's wedding and then only wore the one time.

Dresses should always be worn more than once.  Except a wedding dress, of course, but other dresses you should try to get good use out of.  It justifies buying them.

Seeing Fiddler on the Roof (with the original Tevye!) on a girls' day out was a fine justification to pull out my brown dress.  First, though, we were meeting at Macy's to ogle all the fancy things but certainly not buy any of them, a worthwhile and cheap way to pass the time before curtain.

“You're late!” my mother greeted me.  She had on very comfortable shoes and khaki skirt, a more matronly choice, to be sure, but I looked longingly at her cushy sandals and tried to imagine my feet in them.  She always dresses so practically, which means she's never worried if she'll be able to walk all the way back to the train station from the theatre.

“I know I'm late!” I greeted her back.  I launched into an explanation about sneaking out of church early to catch the train, but she cut me off.

“Well, you're here now.  We thought we'd go up to the Walnut Room, and you can eat.  You're probably hungry.”

She was right.  I'd had a banana on the Metra into the city, but it wouldn't be enough to get me through the show.

“That sounds good, Mommy.” I don't normally call her that, but it slipped out, I think because I felt taken care of and anytime somebody does that, you're bound to become more relaxed and a little childlike.

And then in the bathroom of the Walnut Room not too long later, my practical, comfortable-shoe-wearing mother hiked up her skirt and said, “Do you want to see my tattoo?”

More to come soon, including what exactly her tattoo is and my very grown-up reaction to my mother's complete departure from everything I ever knew about her.

If you want to know more now, right now, you can jump ahead in the story here:


  1. wait, wait... have I missed the post where you tell us what the tattoo is and from where (whence?) it came?

  2. Try this: look at "a blue horse galloping away from me" and "tradition, expectations, and favorite underwear" from the June archive :) (and I think I should stick some other links in, too, eh?)



Related Posts with Thumbnails