Instead of the expected sappy Mother’s Day tribute, I thought I’d share this excerpt from my book in progress, and finish writing the scene while I was at it. Though she wasn’t able to understand, my mother inspired this book. I heard author Natalie Goldberg speak at the Seattle Public Library, and she told us that when her mom died, she attempted to record every single thing she could remember about the woman who brought her life. My mom suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s at the time, and I thought I should remember her the same way. Although she would have hated having her secrets exposed, the book is a fitting tribute because my mother was the first person to suggest I become an author, like it was a real possibility, not to mention a real profession. (Be careful what you wish for!) She also inadvertently inspired me by reading, all the time. My mom always had a novel in hand and she taught me that people respected and admired authors. I disappointed my father by not embracing the security of the insurance industry, but maybe it’s not too late for my recently-deceased mother’s approval. I miss you, Mom. We just said goodbye but I wish we had all those years we lost.
Three?” said the host as he picked up the thick menus. “Follow me.”
“Can we get a table instead of a booth?” my father asked. I hate tables, he hates booths.
We got to the table at the center of the dining room. I pulled out my chair and it hit the chair behind it. “Sorry,” I said, as I squeezed into my seat, my belly inches from our table. I grabbed a menu and surveyed it. Pizza burger, well done. A busboy filled our water glasses.
My father retrieved his reading glasses from his shirt pocket, held the menu at arm’s length, glanced at it and shut it. “What are you getting?” I asked.
“BLT. Without the mayo. Mayo puts on the pounds. Remember that.”
My mother also donned her reading glasses and opened the many-leafed menu. She looked at the first page. The waiter came over. “Can I start get you some drinks?” he asked, pad poised.
“I’ll just have water,” my father said.
“Can I have a Diet Pepsi, please?” I said.
“We have Coke.”
“I’ll have a Seven-Up,” my mom said.
I examined the map of Greece on the placemat. Touched Athens, been there; touched Delphi, been there; touched Sparta, haven’t been there, but that’s where Yaya came from. Looked in the northern part of Greece for Trikala, my dad’s homeland. I never found it on these menus. Too small, I guessed. Just like Mahopac. Doesn’t even show up on the map.
My mother turned the page, squinted, frowned. I looked up, surveyed the other people in the dining room. Families, mostly. After church crowd. I spotted a family laughing, teasing each other. I wanted to watch them more closely but I didn’t want to get caught. We never laugh like that. What do those kids talk about with their parents? My father stared into space. My mother turned the page again. “What are you gonna have, Viki?” my dad asked, impatient.
“I don’t know. I don’t see anything,” she said, holding the menu out farther.
The waiter approached with our drinks, set them down, “What can I get you?” he asked, pen poised.
“I need a few more minutes,” my mom said.
“Ok.” He left.
Thought about the report I’d put off until today. I hate Sundays. I looked down at the map again. I miss crayons. I know I’m too old for them but at least I’d have something to do. I looked around some more, studied the pastry-go-round. Oh, that big chocolate one looks yummy. Is that real whipped cream? Mom and Dad hate buttercream.
The waiter came back, “Are we ready to order?” he asked my mother.
“Oh, uh, ask them first,” my mother said.
He looked at my father, “BLT on white toast.”
My turn, “Pizza burger with fries.”
“How would you like that cooked?”
He looked at my mother. “What can I get you?”
She sighed as she closed her menu. “I’ll just have two eggs over easy.”
“White, wheat, or rye toast?”
“Oh…I don’t know…rye.”
“Jim, I want to go to Caldor’s and pick up some detergent. It’s on sale,” she said.
“Yes, I want to make sure they don’t run out. Last time I got there on a Monday and it was gone. I hate rainchecks.”
“Ok, after we eat,” he said.
I looked around at the other families. One of the booth’s jukeboxes played a song. I strained to hear. “Jessie’s Girl.” They never let me play the jukebox at the diner. Even if we wound up in a booth. Dad only likes Dixieland and Mom doesn’t like prerecorded music. “Why listen to that when you can play your own?” was her reasoning.
“Ok, pizza burger, BLT on toast, and eggs over easy. Is there anything else I can get you?” the waiter asked.
“More coffee,” my father said.
“More water, please,” I said.
He left to fetch the pitchers. Mom poked her fork into her egg.
“What is it, Viki?” my dad asked.
“These eggs are too done,” she said, pushing the plate away. “I can’t eat this.”
The waiter returned and poured my dad’s coffee.
“Excuse me,” my mom said, “These eggs are too done. Can you get me some that are softer?”
“Of course,” the waiter said. “Softer.”
“Yes, please,” my mom said with a whole-body sigh.
“It may take a few minutes, but I’ll get them out as soon as I can.”
He picked up her plate and left.
“Oh well,” my mother said. “Now I have to wait.”
My dad and I dug in.
I had one bite left when the waiter came back. My dad’s plate boasted a few crumbs. “Here we are, two eggs over easy, soft-cooked,” the waiter said, placing her plate on the table.
“Thank you,” my mom said. She picked up her fork and looked at the waiter over her shoulder.
“Are they ok?” he asked.
She took a bite, “Yes. They’re fine. Thank you.”
“Will there be anything else?” he asked.
“You can take these,” my dad said, waving at our plates. He picked them up and left.
We drank our coffee and Diet Coke.
“You don’t have to watch me eat,” mom said. “I hate when people watch me eat.”
We turned our faces to the windows to wait.
“Check, please?” my father pointed to his palm as the waiter walked by.
“Jim, I’m not done!” Mom said.
“Well, let’s go, Vicki. You wanted to go to Caldor’s.”
“Well, if we’re in such a rush, then I’m done.” She’d eaten half an egg.
“Eat, Vicki, eat. The check isn’t here yet,” my father said.
“No, I’m done,” she said, pushing her plate away and putting her napkin back on the table. The waiter slapped the check on the table and my father picked it up, looked at it, pulled out his wallet, did some calculations, then tucked a few dollars under the sugar dispenser.
“Ok, you ready?” I picked up my jacket, my mother got her sweater, and we followed him to the register.
“Was everything ok, sir,” the host asked in his thick Greek accent.
“Yes, yes, efharisto. Everything was fine.”
If you’re interested, Natalie Goldberg will be the keynote speaker at the Write on the Sound writer’s conference in Edmonds October 1-3. In the interest of full disclosure, I sit on the WOTS board.