Sometimes you just need to step back, take a moment and learn how to breathe all over again.
It’s been a very long time since I have been able to sit down and talk to you. So much has gone on and though I tried to do this a few times now I was never sure where to start. So I’ve decided to just pick a moment and start from there. Everything else will have to fall into place. I’m sorry the time line is not in order, but I just couldn’t get my brain to work that way.
I’ve been sleeping in my childhood bed for almost a month now, well, not the exact same bed. The mattress and box spring had been replaced but it was still the same headboard and foot board that was here when I was young. Looking around the room so much as changed and then again nothing has. New paint, carpeting, curtains and blinds. The desk I had used to do homework was now the desk my mama used to keep track of her bills, write Christmas cards and holds the computer she was still learning how to use. Beyond Skype and the spreadsheet she had created to keep track of addresses and birthdates it was pretty unused.
Fall in Georgia was like summer some in most places. Even though the weather has been crazy this season was still warm. In a lot of ways it had me longing for New York City. I never thought I would say such a thing, but over the years I’ve learned to find the charm of a place that was so opposite to everything I ever knew. Warm evenings walking along the edge of the pond in Georgia, with its quiet being overtaken by the sound of crickets were the sounds I was used to from my childhood. But I was missing the cool crisp air, the distant sirens, the bustling traffic and bumping into millions of people right outside my front door. I never knew I could love two completely different things equally.
The smell of warm buttery brown sugar was seeping in under my bedroom door. Now this was the type of alarm clock I could get used to. Mama had probably been up for hours by now, I know she was always trying to be quiet for me, to let me sleep longer, but I hardly slept anymore. You can’t lose somebody you love without being changed profoundly. I heard the oven door snap shot and mama let out a ‘shhhh’ to nothing in particular. The sun was up, I had watched that happen a few hours ago. There’s something about sunrise and sunset that makes you wonder if other people in the world are experiencing the same thing at that moment. I wondered if Norman had seen the same pink and purple sky that I had seen this morning
The low whistle of the teakettle was quickly interrupted, I’m sure mama grabbed it looking towards my bedroom door hoping that it didn’t disturb me. I can only imagine what an adjustment it is to have your grown child with back in with you. It was time to start the day. I push back the blankets and stretched before I got out of bed and looked in the mirror at the mess that was my hair. It was almost comical. I ran my fingers through it and it tamed, well sort of anyways. I was overdue for a color and maybe a visit to one of the New York City hair dressers who seemed to know how to cut my hair better than anyone else. Even better than Annabelle, but don’t tell her I said that.
“Mornin’ mama.” Four weeks back under this roof and my subtle Georgia accent was full blown again. She was dressed for the day and stirring the pot on the stove top. I’m guessing that was the brown sugar and butter I was smelling.
“Morning Holly, I’ll start the pancakes now.” She had everything ready to go, I wished she would just knock on my door when she was ready to start her day. I was feeling like such a burden and not the blessing I had hoped to be.
We ate and talked, she had a few things she wanted to go out and do today and I was happy to play driver to her Ms. Daisy. The pharmacy always took longer than it should but that gave me time to browse the aisles while she sat waiting for her prescription. I found myself flipping through a magazine and my heart practically pounded when the entertainment article featured a picture of Norman and his newest bad-guy coworker, Jeffrey, pitted against each other. Jeff towering over a beat-down Norman, well, their characters anyways, though I rarely thought of it that way. Jeff’s charming smile seemed to burn a spot in my mind, in everyone’s I think. It had felt like a million years ago when I watched that scene being filmed. A hot Georgia night, with a few crew and tension all around. It was the most intense scene I think the show had ever shot, and though the set was usually closed to visitors, it had been extreme for everyone involved and loved ones had been welcome to keep things sane.
I stared long at the photo, not at the dank surroundings or the impending death scene I knew would be acted out. I focused simply on Norman’s face, it had been too long since I had seen it live and in person. A situation I had created for myself. Again. It seemed like a good idea at the time, oh but it always did.
“All set.” Mama’s voice interrupted my thoughts of Norman’s sweat smell mixed with Jeff’s smile which of course would make Norm smile. Jeffery had hit Norman’s life like a whirlwind. They had so much in common from their love of bikes to music, tattoos and their own twisted sense of humor that kept them both in stitches. I shook their smiles out of my head. We still had to get over to the market before we went home. Mama looked tired, she did more now these days than ever before. It made me sad but I plastered on a smile and opened the door for her.
The market was busy, Tuesday was senior citizen day. This was mom’s favorite place to socialize and she looked forward to it. I left her in the produce section with a neighbor while I went off to work the shopping list. It was somewhere near the cleaning supplies when I ran into Annabelle. I saw her before she saw me and I got caught staring at her in her tight, painted on jeans and her curve hugging t-shirt. She smiled and walked over, never stopping to say hello, but hugging me as if she hadn’t seem me in a life time. We held each other and I inhaled her perfume faintly laced with hair dye chemicals.
Her voice was small, “I’ve missed you.” I had missed her too. It had been almost two months since we had seen each other. We finally stood, a little too close for casual friends. “How have you been?”
She had been there for my father’s funeral. She had stood to the side of Norman and Mandy as part of the extended family. She was with me on that hardest day of my life and it meant the world to me to know that she thought of me as more than just a playmate, but a true friend.
We talked, me choking back tears sometimes as I told her how I had spent these past few weeks. “Well, mama wasn’t doing so well for the first few weeks and Norman was going to be on the road so much, it just made sense for me to move home for a while. It’s been good for her. She still rambles around the house and all without him but it’s better to have someone there, ya know?” Annabelle nodded. She and I had texted over the past weeks, she knew most of this.
I babbled on, “How are things with you and…” I still wasn’t entirely sure how to address her new relationship.
She smiled then bit at her lower lip a bit. “Good. Over the newness of it mostly, so now we are just, you know, all settling in.” Her life had changed so much over the past months, and sometimes I wondered if my father’s passing had been a good thing for me in terms of getting over her.
“What about Norman?” She always cut right to the case.
That was the million dollar question really. “He good, he’s wrapping up filming this week but then he has to go to LA. I don’t think I’m even going to see him before he flies out.” It had been over two weeks since we had seen each other now. He was staying just outside of Senioa which was almost two hours away from mama’s. He had come over for dinner the last time I saw him, but he had an overnight shoot that kept us from spending the night together. “We’ll get together next week for a few days. I’m going to fly out to meet him in New York.” This was the longest and strangest time apart we had ever had, and that was saying a lot for us. “I’m just worried about leaving mama, even for three days.” She was a strong woman, there was no doubt where I got it from, but she broke down in tears every night when the sun went down.
“I can come and stay with her if you want.” It just stumbled out of Annabelle’s mouth but I knew she was sincere. I thanked her but I knew that was something my mother would never allow. “But how have you been doing Holly?” Since my father past seven weeks ago, the community had rallied around my mother for support, but my support system wasn’t as extensive as hers.
I smiled, “I’m fine. Really.” She looked at me knowing I was lying. In a matter of weeks I had lost my father to a heart attack, buried him and moved in with my mother, leaving behind the whirlwind life I had grown accustomed to, the man I loved and my independence. I hadn’t been ready for any of it. “I’m ok. I’ll be ok.” It was the same thing I said over and over. She just smiled and nodded at me. I needed so much more than that. Another hug, a kiss, a friend to hold me while I cried some more. Someone to make love to me. But then I thought about my mother and the fact that she had lost her love of 49 years. How does a person recover from something like that? My relationship with Norman didn’t even compare. Not in matters of times or depth of love, or so it seemed to me.
I promised Anna that we would get together soon, and I meant it, I needed it. Then I was off to find my mom and get her home. It was my turn to make dinner and I had a video chat planned with Norman if his day was going as planned.