I finally called my mom today and told her I wanted to see her while I’m in Virginia. She said she’s working in an office now but asked if I’d come for dinner. I didn’t think I could handle that until I knew her situation, so we agreed to meet for lunch at Village Inn, a little Bakers Square kind of restaurant with great pie.
As soon as I walked in, I saw my mom’s hair across the room. It’s hard to miss upswept platinum blond hair like that, and I’d bet money she was wearing her OPI “I’m Not Really a Waitress” red nail polish. Taking a deep breath, I started across the room to confront her, but before I took three steps, a pretty, middle-aged woman with slightly faded blond hair stood up at a nearby table.
“Regina, is that you, honey? You look wonderful!” I could hardly believe this nice-looking woman was my mother. And dressed so age-appropriately. I couldn’t even think what to say, I was so shocked. I’m sure my jaw dropped. “Mom?”
“Come on, honey, sit down,” she said. “It’s different, right?” Her hand touched her hair tentatively as she sat back down. I practically fell into the chair across from her. “Yeah, but I like it,” I said. “It looks, uh, real nice. When did you change it? Why did you change it?”
Mom explained, although her voice shook a little and sometimes she got so quiet I could barely hear, that after she’d gotten a second DUI and had her drivers license suspended for three years and spent two months in jail, she’d decided to make some changes in her life. She went to AA again and this time it stuck. The sleazy husband was gone, she’d been sober going on two years now and she’d gotten a job and a hair and wardrobe makeover with the help of a local women’s program. She was even thinking of going to college! My head was literally spinning.
She seemed so eager to hear about my life. I told her about my job at the preschool and about going to Hawaii in a few months for my college roommate’s wedding. She seemed really happy for me but was embarrassed she didn’t remember me talking about Jamie before. Of course I’d never brought her home to meet my mom and sleazeball stepdad so I wasn’t surprised. I did promise I’d come home more to visit and probably go home this coming Christmas. “Or,” I said, taking a deep breath, “you could come to Chicago for Christmas and stay with me. Meet my old roommate, Jamie, and her husband.” The look on my mother’s face just about brought me to tears. She looked so grateful that I’d even invite her to come visit.
Mom and I talked throughout lunch, even if it was a little stilted. She told me again how sorry she was that she hadn’t believed me about the incident in the kitchen with her ex-husband. I think I’m starting to believe her. The rest of lunch went well and I could feel something tight inside me start to uncoil. For the first time in my life I began to feel we might be able to work through things and have a relationship.
I spent the rest of my vacation with Rhia and we had a blast. She took me to the art gallery to see her work and we spent time shopping and at the beach, which was fabulous. We ate seafood every chance we had and Rhia took me to this little neighborhood place called Surfrider, which had the best crab cakes ever. I told her about the wedding in Hawaii at the end of summer and begged her to come with me and we’d make a vacation out of it. She said she’d try but didn’t know if she could afford it. We’ll play it by ear and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that she can come.
We even went to the Botanical Gardens before she took me back to the airport. If you haven’t seen azaleas and rhododendrons blooming en masse, you should go sometime. They are pretty incredible and always make me a little homesick for Virginia when I see them.
After that trip and all the emotions I felt after seeing my mom, I really was not ready to get back to work. But since there are bills to pay and a trip to save up for, it seemed like a good idea! And summer would be here before we knew it.
I’d only been back a few weeks when Jamie called to see if I’d go with her and her mom to look at dresses for the wedding. Of course I said yes. Jamie said I should wear whatever I wanted since I’d be her only attendant. We agreed we’d try to find dresses that complimented each other’s, something long and floaty and gorgeous, perfect for a beach wedding.
God, I’m so not a shopper but Jamie and her mom were having such a good time that I started to enjoy myself, too. Her mom and I were sitting in the bridal shop having coffee while Jamie tried on dress after dress. We both gasped in awe when she came out in maybe the tenth dress and Jamie just smiled. “This is the one, isn’t it?” Her mom and I just nodded solemnly. She looked like a fairy princess in a gorgeous creamy white slip dress with a sheer overlay encrusted with shimmery iridescent beads across the bodice. “Reg, they have almost the same dress in a beautiful green-blue for you. And, Mom, I think there’s a dress you might like.” And just like that, we were ready for the wedding…
A few months later I was getting on a plane to go to Maui! Jamie and Mike had decided to get married at the end of July and it was perfect for me. I didn’t have to be back at work till the middle of August so I was staying on Kaanapali Beach for a whole week. My only regret was that Rhia couldn’t go, too. Just too many conflicts with her gallery job.
The plane ride was long and I had to change planes at LAX and pray that my dress bag and checked luggage would arrive when I did. There really wouldn’t be a lot of extra time to shop for something new if the worst happened. But I was as zen as I could be and read a new book on my tablet on the planes, landing in Maui a little tired and rumpled, but so excited to be there. As I made my way to baggage claim, looking up at the signs and, of course not really looking where I was going, I also turned my phone back on and it buzzed to life with text messages.
The first was from Jamie. Call me as soon as you get checked in!
I’m excited, too, so of course I’ll let her know. Maybe we can all have dinner together.
The next message was from Rhia. Call me ASAP. I need to talk to you!
I’m frowning at my phone now, thinking what on earth could be wrong? Unless something happened to my mom — and I accidentally bump into what felt like a concrete wall but turned out to be a tall, nice-looking guy with light brown hair and mirrored sunglasses. “Whoa, there,” he said, grabbing me by the shoulders. Then he bent his head and peered at my face intently. “Gina? My, God, Gina,” he said in a shocked voice. Only one person in my whole universe had ever called me that. “Bobby? What are you doing here?” It was all I could manage before I felt my knees give out…
(To be continued)
~Diane D. Photo from Pinterest