Sitting on the deck having wine and cheese and olives with a friend. The neighbor stops by with his dog as he does whenever I am on the deck. The three of us chat, play with the dog. A white pickup driving by honks its horn. It backs up, rolls down the window. It is Mr. Tree. "I'll come back to see you," he shouts. "It's a funny thing," I say to the neighbor. "Whenever I hire a worker, we end up having Thanksgiving dinner together." "That's a good thing," he says.
Sorry, Sugar. . . I stole your line.
Two big trucks roll down the street, massive things, with "Mr. Tree" painted on their sides. The Cuban worker who is driving the first one honks the horn and waves. Twice. Following behind them is my friend who writes for the N.Y. Times. He rolls down his window and shouts out a hello. More neighbors walking their dogs hail and wave. My neighbor on the deck says goodbye. Giant thunderstorm warnings fill the airwaves. My mother calls to tell me so. One neighbor says there are reports of hail as big as softballs. We are under a weather warning until nine. The sky is blue, the air cool and wonderfully breezy. I tell my friend that I was planning to cover my car with blankets if the storm came, but blankets wouldn't do any good with hail that size, so I would, if and when the sky grows stormy, drive up to the parking garage on the Boulevard and sit there waiting it out.
The friend leaves. The storm never comes.
I go inside to make a small meal of brown jasmine rice and spicy lentils. I sit down in front of the television and turn to YouTube. Christopher Hitchens. O.K. Meal done, I pour a scotch. When I wake up an hour later, I clean up, take two Tylenol and some ibuprofen and go to bed. I dream sweet dreams all night long. I don't wake. I am pain free. A young woman has fallen in love with me. I want to love her back, but another woman, a former lover who I still love, is watching. Where do my loyalties lie? It is a lovely dilemma that plays out in the light of day.
I wake and think about the coming week, six parties in four days, command performances. How can such a thing happen? I'll need clothing. What to do?
* * *
This is my mother with a cousin and aunts, I believe. She is twelve. I've been waiting to hear from my mother on this, but she has not gotten back to me, so it is unverified. But I believe I remember this correctly. That would make it 1943. America is at war. My father is in the South Pacific. They have never met, not to the best of my knowledge. You may not believe the girl on the right is only twelve, but elsewhere I have photos of my mother at that age, and it is true. She looked like a grown woman by then. She was poor, as poor as one can be. She lived in a small house on her grandfather's farm, first in a converted grain shack and later in a small house. She slept in a bed with her brother and sister. In winter, snow would blow through the cracks in the walls where they stuffed newspaper to keep out the cold. Her father rarely worked. He liked to hang out at the pool hall in town, she says. He didn't like to work after getting a thorn in his eye while clearing brush for his father in law. He went blind in that eye and became a disappointed man.
Her mother made money by crocheting doilies that she sold. She was crippled with terrible rheumatoid arthritis. When she was young, she needed to be carried from room to room. She "made do" with the scraps from her father's farm. When my mother's brother was old enough to help, he moved in with his grandparents and never came home. Most of the people in the small town spread out over the hills and around the banks of the river were related in some way.
My mother went to high school in the next town. There were only sixteen people in her graduating class. Here she is at sixteen years old in a convertible with some boy outside a log cabin truck stop. This is verified. It is written on the back of the photo.
This would be circa 1947. My mother cannot remember who the boy was, she says. It would seem it was not a boy she went to school with for there were only two in her graduating class. So she says.
In another year or so, she would meet my father. He was semi-related to one of the families who lived in this rural part of southern Ohio. His mother had remarried after whatever happened to my grandfather, my father's father, happened. It is a strange story of which I haven't full knowledge or fact. His father was mixed up with bootleggers, it seems, and was having an affair with the mobster's girl. He was beaten and thrown out of an apartment building's window. I don't know how many floors. It gets weirder, but that is for another time. For now, we'll leave it that my father's step-family lived near my mother's family and they all would go up to hunt on her grandfather's farm. Or rather, the woods he owned on the hills behind the farm. But I will have to talk to my mother about this before I can go any farther.
I've never thought all of this out in an orderly fashion, really, let alone written it. I'll need to be careful. I'd hate to be wrong.
I wish they had all kept journals.
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