WHAT SHE WAS BEFORE YOU

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She packed your lunches, changed your sheets, pretended to be the tooth fairy, and made sure you had clean underwear. She stood on the sidelines at all those games. Trucked you around to gymnastics meets, swim team, and tennis lessons. She found all that drek under your bed. Once in a while, you saw her kiss Dad, but my God, they never did it. Just those two times for you and your brother. Jeez.

She is the one you call for advice. She never wavers in her support. You think she envies you in your life and your future. Sometimes, you feel sorry for her, stuck in that house with all those antiques, house plants, and “good dishes.”

But guess what? Once she was 16. She was in love with a boy that isn’t your father. She still dreams about him sometimes. At 16, she had very long legs, wore cut-off Levi shorts that revealed very supple thighs, and her hair was long and glinted in the sun. She liked to run. In her diary there were entries about all the adventures she planned to have, and they involved having sex, going to Portugal, sneaking out of the house after midnight, and writing poetry. She knew that she would go to New York and live in the Village.

At least four men loved her. And none of them were your father. One was a soccer star, and another one had a Harley. These men thought she was wild, exciting, and just out of reach. She laughed when they pleaded. Then she skipped away.

Your mother polished her nails bright red. She experimented with drugs, but they made her feel unmoored, and she hated that. She despised the taste of beer, but she drank it anyway. She danced all by herself at parties, never afraid of who was watching. She was free.

She has memories of bonfires, lying in the woods and looking up at the sky, skimpy bikinis, and laughing boys. She remembers the time she went to New York City all by herself to meet that young musician, and the weekend they spent roaming the city.

Don’t look at her that way. She is more than that.

 

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