Response Crafting

Three women of May

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Two weekends ago, I flew back to Colorado.

My best friend and my sister are nice enough to schedule their birthdays on or near Mother’s Day each year, so some years I fly in, and on the years that I do, it’s a “three birds, one stone” sort of situation. Cupcakes all around.

This, I decided, would be one of those years. And even though I had plenty of heads up, you know, with these milestones more or less being scheduled pretty far in advance, I deliberated, uncertain on where I would be – geographically, psychologically – until the Tuesday before, when I finally booked the flight.

I reached out to the friend and the mother that morning and let them know.

The friend, she was excited. She’s been away in other states for a few years and I guess I have been too, and I never went to visit her and she never came to visit me and so we went years largely without seeing one another. But now she’s back in Colorado and so it’s on me to make the haul back home for her. And so I do.

The mother, she was neutral. She says she has to work, says this in a way as though I don’t know that doesn’t mean all day, as though we won’t get the flowers anyway, as though we won’t wait for her and maybe suggest a movie, as though we won’t find a meal to take her out, or time to look out at the backyard together and talk about her new fountain. She says she’s neutral, as though I’ll believe her, and so I book the trip and tell her: “well, I’m coming anyway.” Don’t make this weird for me now.

The bed’s made up for me when I get in. It’s the same metal frame from my childhood, still painted black from that time I finally resolved what I agonized over for years; another one of the undertakings my parents chose to accept without comment, and have always left the same. It’s new bedding though, like a “bed and breakfast” version of your childhood bedroom: all of the good parts fluffed and padded; all of the other parts gone. Familiar, but also empty – a prettied-up version to which you subscribe, suppressing the other parts you know were there.

The next morning, I’ll pull the coffee maker out of its spot in the lower cabinet and make the coffee that’s only ever really made for me. And later, I’ll find a new wine bottle opener, for the wine only I drink, waiting for me in the utensil drawer, with the one I complained about over Christmas mysteriously missing.

The night we’re going out to celebrate, I meet the friend at her place beforehand. She answers the door in a robe and her hair wrapped up in a towel and then actually apologizes for it, which just slays me. We pick a dress for her and then she wants to dress me too, because of course I’m that friend who tries to get away with wearing jeans and flats when the occasion clearly calls for a dress and heels. And I let her.

She pours me a bourbon – we agree on the mug over the glass – while she wants sparkling rosé. And then she sits down to the task of her hair as I watch.

Hours later, I’ll leave her laughing amidst a group of friends, hugging her goodbye, taking her key, and then going out into the spring snowstorm.

I guess it’s not uncommon for it to snow in May, but it’s not all that common, either. We watched it pick up and then accumulate from the bar’s windows over the hours we were there, and now I’m out in it and glad I’m not expected to think about my hair anymore tonight. I take careful steps over heavy slush and puddles, several inches of snow coming up over my feet in her shoes. I get a cab.

Back at her place, I pull her dress off and drape it across the armchair in the corner of her bedroom.

Afterwards, I put my jeans back on, leave her keys, and go home.

The next morning, of course, there’s damage to trees all over the city – heavy spring snow combined with the already leafed branches. Taking my coffee with me, I go outside, the mother’s snow boots on and survey the yard’s damage, finding it better than other storms in other years. “Some,” I admit, “But not bad.” Even accounting for the fact that my dad likely already cleared it.

I actually missed my sister’s birthday. Part of me assumed I could just manipulate her schedule and ask things of it, but she has things now – work, finals – and, as it turns out, couldn’t make her birthday happen a day sooner than it does. So I got her a “good luck!” balloon for the final, some gas for work, and a card with an elephant on it for her birthday. I always get her cards with elephants on them. And inside, there were words, though looking back, I’m not sure what they were. I always agonize over what to write and how to write it, but then once it’s done, I can never seem to remember what it was.

The mother and sister drive me to the airport. When we hug goodbye, the mother says, not neutrally, “you should come back for Memorial Day weekend.”

I tell her I’ll think about it. I think I won’t and still feel that way now.

But it’s also still a few days away, so I suppose there’s a chance, knowing me, that I might.

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