Nothing ever changes. Today I met mom for lunch at some bistro in town. She'd not seen me for a little over a month since I've been away at school and all. We'd just ordered. She'd have a turkey sandwich. I'd have a salad. Lite everything since I was trying to stay on the lean side. We had our drinks and some free time. This would be the moment where the tempo would wind down and she would say, "You look wonderful sweetheart," or "God you're growing up." Nope, not my mother. It ran more along the lines of, "You need to have your eyebrows done, don't you?"
People were ordering fresh wheat subs filled with greasy meat, backwashing into crystal glasses of water, and secretly worrying about whether or not they had anything in their teeth, while my mother was critiquing my appearance. Typical. Amid the calls from the kitchen and the bussing of tables, my childhood was coming back to me in thundering echoes only I could hear. "Aren't you going to do your hair?" "That's not the dress we bought for you last spring, is it?" "My, my, I'm going to have to buy you some benzole peroxide."
I used to just return with some adolescent remark about independence and inner beauty, like I didn't care. But I did. Most kids do. I would just take it and take it. But not anymore. I had decided. I was an adult. Her remarks, her concerns, her pointless search for a husband, that was all childish. I was more worldly than her. More intellectual. To hell with fake Prada bags and XXL mascara and having my nails done. Bags rip and dirty. Mascara leaves no room for tears or emotion. It leaks and leaves dirty rivers of black in its wake. Nails break and snag. If those things find you dates and husbands, I'll stick to books and I was going to tell her just that. I was going to tell her what I thought of her.
I looked at the waitress at the table beside me. We'd gone to highschool together. Her name was Logan and she worked parttime as a waitress and parttime at the mailroom. I looked down at the napkin on my lap and blew bubbles of air into my cheeks, making a face I'd made as a kid.
"Don't do that. You look like a monkey. You need your eyebrows done. Want me to take you?"
"No mother. I'll get them done."
"That girl there. What's her name?
"Yes. She didn't go to school did she?"
"Probably nobody to help her with her money. Nobody who had read to her every night when she was a toddler until she could read herself and even after that." A look of deep self-satisfaction covers my mother's face. She has forgotten to add that perhaps she did not get scholarships for academics and sports and community service as well. That those things and hard work too help pay for college and not just parents.
I was going to tell her. I sighed and looked back at Logan and then at my mother and her styled hair and lined eyes and sculpted face, things she had always highly valued as opposed to the things that were important to me like books and ideas and theories. Trivial things perhaps. "Yes. I suppose I have you to thank for setting such a positive example for me."
And that was it. I'd told her. She took it as a compliment and I took my pride down from my fiery gaze and into my lap with the wrinkled napkin. Staring at it, I realized. We were both of us used, blotched, and imperfect, and both of us still serving the people who had made us that way.