"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

Dear Mother

Dear Mother

Friday, April 22

I am letting go. This is me letting go. When M. was home yesterday for an interview, wasn’t I the one who suggested that she had time to drive back to Winston-Salem last night? 

Yes, it’s true that it was raining cats and dogs—and, quite honestly, I knew that M. wasn’t likely to choose to drive four hours in the dark. But I believe that I should still get credit for suggesting that she go back for P.’s party. (Who doesn’t like a bonfire?) 

And, while on this subject, I feel obligated to point out that I did not suggest that M. interview with the Raleigh organization whose “offer would put her back in the area, within reach for lunches and dinners and movies and shopping trips,” as you put it. I actually suggested that she not make a decision until she sees what other offers come through. 

In fairness, I will admit that I knew that she was already anxious enough about THE FUTURE that she was likely to go for any bird-in-hand. And, yes, that I knew, too, that enthusiasm for the job on my part might only have pushed it out of the running. But still…

To plan a graduation party does not constitute clinging to the past. I must protest that judgment on your part. To plan a graduation party is simply a rite of passage, a time-honored tradition practiced by cultures around the world for eons. Did you know that some cultures hold coming-of-age ceremonies that carry on for WEEKS? I am only talking about two DAYS. And only small portions of those two days, for that matter. (And no drumming, chanting, scarification, fire jumping, naming ceremonies or the like.)

I did cry at M.’s high school graduation, I will grant you that. Crying can be a symptom of HAPPINESS, as I am certain you must be aware. I can not guarantee there “will be no tears,” as you have requested at this event. I do NOT have control over my tear ducts, as you must be well aware by now. I cry at the most blatantly manipulative movies, knowing all the while that I should not be sobbing over the brilliant-yet-somehow-still-bubble-headed girl’s remorse over the missed opportunity with the dreamy-but-blue-collar firefighter who ran back into the blaze to rescue her Golden Retriever rescue puppy. Did you see that movie? It was awful. I loved it. And if you’re honest (and if you saw it), you would admit that you did, as well.

I think I’ve made my point. Will the A.’s be coming with you? M. would LOVE to see them. Do they like salmon? I think we’ll have herb-crusted salmon topped with goat cheese and pine nuts. It’s M.’s favorite. Even as a toddler, she was a nut for seafood—precocious taste buds. (No rush for the answer, but the caterer does need the count by the 8th of May.)

Saturday, April 30.

Yes, Mother, I have dreams, too. (Though I’m not certain that your “dream” was really a dream—you wouldn’t possibly be guilty of trying to send me an indirect message with that “dream” about a tug of war with M. in the middle and me holding my own on one end of the rope against a multitude of people on the other, would you?) 

I have NOT been having those baby dreams. I’m certain that’s what you were suggesting. Not that I think they’re peculiar, but the last one was YEARS AGO—or last year, at least. It wasn’t one of those GIANT BABY dreams. The baby was tiny in that last one I had. It was winter and I put the baby in my pocket to keep it warm when we were outside, but then I came inside and sat down in front of the fire that T. had set for us in the fireplace (the one at your old house, though I didn’t even know T. then; how funny…) and I panicked because I couldn’t remember which pocket had the baby. 

I can imagine what you’re thinking. But you are WRONG ABOUT THIS. I believe that is accurate to say that this is a fairly common dream—in some form or another. It represents recognition of the responsibility of parenthood. I imagine that YOU have also had this dream, even if you do not recognize it as such. You MUST have.

But we do not need to discuss dreams now. Here are the things that I need to know: Would you mind cutting the hydrangea blooms from the bushes in the back of your yard and bringing them? (If you put them in buckets with some Stay-Fresh, they will travel well; you’ll just need to brace them.) That boy next door could cut them for you. We could use all of them, really. 

M.’s lawn has no garden to speak of, and I want this to be a GARDEN PARTY.  You really can’t enjoy the hydrangea anymore from the kitchen window at this point, right? Perhaps he could trim those overgrown butterfly bushes at the same time. (But we don’t need the trimmings for the party.) (Unless you can suggest a way to use them.)

And, of course, the count for dinner needs to go in to the caterer. Have you spoken with the A.’s? No rush. (May 8th)

Also, thanks for the best wishes regarding my work. Could it be that you are concerned that I’ve been neglecting my business on account of my “preoccupation,” as you put it, with M.’s graduation? Rest assured, I rarely think about the graduation party. I am simply ON FIRE at work. Really. 

Who has time to mull about children and graduations and the passing of time, when the ever-fickle voters must be polled weekly, months in advance of the mid-term elections about which they know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING? One has to stay on top of the changing directions of the wind, after all. I don’t need to be reminded of that, I assure you.

Love to the A.’s. (Are they coming?)

Friday, May 20

You asked about my “health.” Was my lack of writing due to a lack of sleep? (Did you suggest this—or am I guilty, once again, of inferring too much?)  I am sleeping as well as can be expected. Did you know that 47% of the U.S. population believes that Trump is doing a GOOD job? This is why I lose sleep, Mother.  Truth be told, I am far more concerned that you call yourself a REPUBLICAN, for God’s sake, than that you are not going to M.’s graduation. 

Please stop apologizing. I didn’t stop writing my weekly missives simply because you said you couldn’t come. Or perhaps I did. In any case, you don’t need to apologize. You had to make a decision. You made it. 

Like you, I have never seen “magma in situ.” It must be a sight-to-behold. (The Costa Ricans have an expression about the “fire of the gods.” Or is that the Micronesians?) Going on a hike up a volcano with the A.’s is, I’m certain, “the opportunity of a lifetime,” as you have pointed out. So, too, I might point out, is your only granddaughter’s only college graduation. You, no doubt, will not appreciate me pointing that out, but it is what it is—whether we call it what it is or not.

But I did NOT mean to hurt you when I sent the Mother’s Day card without “so much as a note.” (Why even send the card, when you think about it? Weren’t you the one who told me that holidays like Mother’s Day were simply inventions of the greeting card industry?) 

Don’t worry about the hydrangeas. We have found a great source for irises, which are M.’s actual favorite.  Speaking of M.: As it turns out, she did not take the Raleigh job, and she will be moving to San Diego with P. I am FINE with this. Really. Also, M. said to tell you that they want visitors.

As for another point in your last note: Salmon and goat cheese DO go together (to say nothing of pine nuts)—but we are not serving that, rest assured. M. said that P. said that more people would like the fire-roasted chicken (with a sun-dried-tomato-and-basil sauce) suggested by the caterers. Enough of the details; you don't need to hear them, and I need a nap.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and found myself thinking about how I used to walk around carrying M. in my arms long after everyone said I should. You included. I realized something: I wasn't clinging to her, like you all thought. I was just there, in those moments, with my arms around the creature I cherished most in the world. I found myself aching for one more chance to hold her like that. So, I sat up in bed and tried to read, but I couldn’t stop thinking. I realized that I don’t really give a damn about salmon or pine nuts or chicken or hydrangeas. That’s not what ails me, is it? 

So, just one more thing to say: Bon voyage. Bon voyage to you (really, I MEAN it, in the literal sense) and to M. Just bon voyage to everyone—even me. Good journey—but everything sounds so much better in French. Don’t you think?

Jody Brady has published non-fiction (essays and articles) in numerous magazines, newspapers and journals. She has recently returned to writing fiction, some thirty years after graduating from George Mason University's MFA program. Her previous stories appeared in journals and anthologies, and she has a story forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine.

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Empty Vessels

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Enough to Drown a Man