When I got older living in a radiation shelter out West my mother took to visiting me. But it wasn’t my mother now, it was my mother when she was fifteen, my 1950’s mother. When she still wore makeup and had her hair done. She rapped her knuckles on my metal door and the sun burst in when I opened it. She was slight with intense eyes and coal black hair. She’d sit and play the piano while I made myself a drink, watching the radiation levels rise and fall on the various readouts. I’d offer her a soda and she’d give me an odd look, fingers still moving on the keys.

Last Tuesday when my young mother went to leave I gave her a science fiction paperback- one that I remember her reading to us when we were kids. She took it and laughed, dropping it into her leather purse. I’d never seen my mother with a purse or anything made out of leather. I guess she’d shed those things later. I closed the door gently and heard the gravel crunch under the tires of her car as she left.

When I was fifteen myself I remember waiting outside the house of my future daughter, me smoking a cigarette, hung over. I wore steel-capped boots and the same exact plaid shirt every day that I’d taken from my father’s storage in the attic. I finished a bottle of beer, set it beside the steps, and rapped on the metal door.

She wasn’t home yet so I sat and waited. Her dog, a big, fierce-looking three-headed mastiff, rested all three of its heads on my thigh and stared up at me until I scratched behind its ears.

When my adult daughter returned in a convertible with her new husband and some loud friends I lost my nerve and slunk back down the porch, crouching behind an Adirondack chair as the merry group bustled into the house.

But when I left I found myself feeling elated -just at seeing her having such a good time. I strolled down the dirt road alongside the cornfield, bobbing my head to punk rock on my headphones and thumbed a ride all the way back to the city.




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