I introduced you to Mariah last week, and today I thought I would post an excerpt from her mother's perspective. I tried to make Kaye sound a bit perturbed at almost everything, but I wanted her to voice a lot of the things that most people think but don't say. Kaye is distant from her two daughters, even though Rachel gives and gives to try and get things to feel right between the three. So, here is my introduction to this second character.
If I could just get out of work by 3:30 each day I wouldn’t have to sit in all of this traffic, but because the kids need so much stroking and attention I end up staying later than I should and doing the job their parents should be doing. My girls never needed as much attention as my current students need, thank goodness. They were always on the ball and well-adjusted. But Rossbury Academy has changed over the years, just like every other institution dealing with youth. Where did I put that CD Elizabeth gave me about learning Polish? Honestly, I think it is hiding from me because it senses that I am reluctant to learn anything from it. Only six more weeks until I get to go on this eye-opening trip with the Bodens, and I am regretting it already. Playing the widow everyone tries to include is a hard role, and nobody tries to include me as much as Bill and Elizabeth do. They are good, kind-hearted people, and I love them dearly, but two weeks in Krakow with a man that will be having NASCAR withdrawal? I am just grateful that Elizabeth and I can talk about things that matter, like we have been since the sorority days.
Oh, wait. I think I have it. Unbelievable. It is the CD about the Revolutionary War that I bought for Johnny last Christmas. He was such a history buff. I swore to him that it couldn’t be in my car one morning when he was in the mood to listen to it while he drove into the city. Why couldn’t I have just looked a little harder instead of mocking him for always losing things? Why didn’t he look in my car for himself? I always have so many questions and there is never anyone around to give me any answers. Well, maybe I should stop by the market and pick up some bok choy for that Chinese dish I have been wanting to try. Grading papers is a much more pleasant experience with a plate of good food sitting beside the stack.
I remember some of the dinners Mom would make when Eileen and I were growing up. She had her issues, but she sure was a wonderful cook, with her kale soups, seafoods, and anything baked. Why does it seem like each generation of women behind us produced better cooks, seamstresses, and homemakers? It’s like we keep getting more and more diluted as we move forward in time. Will there come a time when we won’t know how to even take care of our own basic needs? The girls think I am too thin, and they say they are concerned about my health. I wish they would worry about themselves more and not make me uncomfortable with their questions. I never liked being mothered and can take perfectly good care of myself.
This man they have bagging groceries is such a sad sight with his tatoos and his humming to himself. I am surprised they couldn’t find a job for him back in the stockroom where he wouldn’t make some of these customers uncomfortable. A dollar ninety-nine a pound? This will be interesting to see the cashier make change after she accidentally closed the drawer. Close enough. Consider the difference your tip.
I am glad to be on my way home now after a grueling day of trying to convince 12 year-olds that George Washington, at age 44, was quite a young Commander in Chief during those trying times when America was demanding independence. Forty-four. Mariah’s age. Maybe I was so caught up in that battle with my students because it has been months now that I have been repeating those same words in my own mind. Why can’t I convince my students that 44 is young? Why can’t I convince God? Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen teaching as a profession. I always enjoyed politics and I think I could have made a real difference in that arena. There was that time Sue Gledhill and Joanna Dockweiler almost had me convinced to run for that seat on the school board. It seems small but it could have led to other things, other paths. Sometimes it takes years before any real payback comes from teaching, like when Jason Helms called me after he had returned home from doing volunteer work in Indonesia. It had been eleven years since I had even spoken to Jason, and there he was on the phone telling me that I had inspired him to do something important with his life. I am not always looking for a pat on the back, but it helps.
Eight miles and it takes me just under an hour to get home. Maybe I should have moved out to Santa Monica years ago and gotten closer to work, but closer to work means farther away from the girls. I say that as if it would really make a difference. The crowd in Santa Monica isn’t really what I want socially I suppose. I raised my family in Cheviot Hills and I can’t seriously imagine living anywhere else as long as I have control of my arrangements. What am I going to do about the broken cement in the driveway though? Johnny always enjoyed taking care of those kind of details and I can’t seem to get interested. At least we got the house repainted last Fall, so that is taken care of. I wonder if it is foolish to consider redoing the den? I find myself spending more and more time in there lately and am getting tired of the carpet and even the paint color. I wouldn’t want to offend Rachel by changing the color, since she was the one to choose it for me. It will be perfect for this room, Mom . You need to try and loosen up a bit. I guess coral pink for 6 years isn’t quite loose enough. I need change right now. Not so much that it is disconcerting, but enough to distract me and keep me busy after I come home to a quiet house that is so loud it is deafening.
Why won’t the Harcourts trim those shrubs? Every time I come around the bend on Forrester I have to use my brakes more than I should have to. I wish everyone would just take care of their own space. I would never aspire to be friends with every person in the neighborhood, could barely stomach the idea really, but I would love to see a little bit of ownership around here.
On a long day like today I am so thankful for my garage door opener that is like a big magic button that allows me passage into my own private world, where I can lock everything out. There have been times when I have somehow managed to even lock myself out. I come in, drop my keys in the yellow glazed clay bowl Mariah made for me when she was in third grade, and wander around the house looking for me. I look in the fridge where there are remnants of lasagna and spinach from Monday night. I look in the pile of mail that has been building up for the past few days. My name is on every envelope, but I am not there. As I swing around the banister and start going up the stairs I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the old framed wedding photo of my parents, and I realize that I am actually spread around this house. Once I walk in I seem to dematerialize into a billion particles that can be found all over. Part of me is looking back from the reflection in the glass, but not all of me. I drag what is left and climb to my room where I dig through the small lump of laundry in search of my baby blue flannel pajama pants., which I put on before I go back down to the kitchen. The old tattered chenille bedspread on the quilt rack holds a bit of me. I stayed up until 1 a.m. for a week to finish that in time for Rachel’s ninth birthday. She was finally ready to sleep away from her sister and I wanted her first experience flying solo to be special. I wonder why she has never asked to have it for her own daughter?
Phone messages. Elizabeth should know better than to ask if my passport is ready to go. I go somewhere every summer. Somewhere meaning to Europe. She is spending a lot of time thinking about this trip and I am finding it so hard to leave, especially now. I need to call tomorrow and make sure my new cell phone service will allow me to make and receive international calls. I have to be available for Mariah, just in case. She may need me and I wouldn’t want her to feel abandoned by me. Other than that I will not be spending too much time and energy on planning for Poland. Elizabeth is acting as travel agent, concierge and cheerleader, and I plan on staying out of her way.
When there is only one person living in a house she can’t blame anyone but herself when things go missing. How many red pens have I misplaced around here? I only use them for grading papers, although when Johnny and I used to spend Sunday mornings doing the L.A. Times crossword puzzle I would sometimes use a red pen. It gave me a sense of authority. He would tease me about that. I needed something to give me the upper hand against him, even if it was just psychological. We had a real competition thing going on between us when it came to Sunday mornings. Maybe even when it came to other things. There were so many things he did well, but there were also so many things he could have done even better if he only had tried harder. I guess it won’t hurt to use a blue pen on these papers, and the students might even be able to take my remarks easier if they are written in a softer color. Maybe I will save the Chinese for tomorrow and just have a glass of wine tonight while I plow through these.