The Move // There are two sides to mother-daughter time

As told to Naomi Raksin

I found my phone on top of the washing machine, a tiny rectangle of white on white. I sent up a brief murmur of gratitude that I’d discovered it before it fell to the swirling waters of death.

12:14 PM: Hi, hon, it’s Mom. Want to meet at Café Jay for lunch?

I glanced at the numbers glowing red on the oven clock. It was after 1 o’clock and I hardly had a second to consider breakfast, let alone lunch. I read my mother’s message again. I should probably tell her that she didn’t need to identify herself in her text messages. It came across as needy, as if she felt like she had to remind me of who she was. As if she doubted her number was saved on my phone. My mother had the latest iPhone, texted on WhatsApp, and owned all the modern, techie stuff, but her age tended to peek through in the details. She probably thought it was one of the texting rules or something.

1:03 PM: Hey, Mommy. I just saw your message. I hope you ate already?

I transferred the baby to my other hip and scrounged around in the cabinets for something to eat. There wasn’t much in there. I stuck my hand into an open bag of pretzels. They were slightly stale and had no salt. Who bought pretzels without salt? I frowned and put it back onto the shelf.

1:04 PM: No, I was waiting for you to answer. I figured you were busy. How about we go now?

I was supposed to be working on a new logo for a client this morning. I started on it after the kids left to school, but the baby was cranky and I was worried she was coming down with something. If I went out with my mother, I’d have to work on it later tonight, after the kids were asleep. Those plans always sounded manageable, even practical, until the kids were actually sleeping and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed with them.

1:16 PM: Okay. I’ll be there soon.

1:17 PM: I’m here already. What should I order for you?

I didn’t respond. I stuffed Shaindy into her snow suit, grabbed a jacket for myself and headed out into the cold. By the time I got to Café Jay, my mother was sitting in a corner table with a splay of salads, soup and two huge baguettes in front of her. She took Shaindy from my arms while I went to wash.

As the cold water spilled over my chapped hands, I stared at my face in the gold-rimmed mirror above the sink. Pale cheeks, cracked lips. Some strands of my sheitel were sticking straight out, the winter static effect. I patted them down, my fingers zapping. I did not want to be here. I wanted to be in my warm, cozy home, putting Shaindy down for a nap. I wanted to be working on the logo so my night could be free.

As my mother and I made our way through the food, she chatted about the arctic something or other that had changed our mild winter into a Sub-Zero freezer. She chatted about Gita Sommer, whom she bumped into at the cleaners, of all places. She chatted about the upcoming trip to Israel to visit my newly-married sister, Esti. We passed Shaindy back and forth between us, until she finally fell asleep on my shoulder.

There was no way I was going to transfer her into her car seat and wake her up just after she’d fallen asleep, so my mother went to get us both coffees to pass the time.

“What’s doing with you?” She asked, placing the steaming mug in front of me.

“I have to work on a logo today for a client. She wants it by tomorrow.”

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