My mom came to town last weekend for a quick visit, arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving early Sunday morning. She’s 71, but she’s a Wyoming girl. It’s no big deal for her to drive seven hours to get somewhere and then, two days later, drive those seven hours back.

She knew before she came that she’d be plopped right into the middle of our lives—the first week of school, shopping at the mall, senior pictures, the peach festival, another round of senior pictures, and preparation for the Decades Dance at the high school. But she didn’t mind; she’s been a mother and now a grandmother. She knows what life is like.

Despite the busy two days of her visit, she and I did make time for a couple of games of Scrabble. We always do. We’ve been playing Scrabble together since I was a teenager. I recall hot summer days in Wyoming. My mom would work all day grooming dogs—putting me through college—at her dog kennel business, which was about 100 yards away from our farm-house. She’d come in, hot and worn out and itchy with stray dog hairs. I’d set up the board while she made the gin and tonics. Sometimes we’d wait to play until after dinner and when one of us studied the board for more than even a few minutes, the other would get up and wash a few dishes. It was a good way to get the kitchen cleaned up and let the evening wind down.

No one else in the family played. Just my mommy and me. We talked, of course. Important lessons were learned at the board. And they weren’t just about words and how to add up the score. We could also sit for stretches in silence, arranging and rearranging the tiles on our trays, straightening the words to help us think.

It’s a Friday when my mom arrives. I’m exhausted from the first week of school. She’s tired from the drive. So, I get the box down from its shelf. It’s dusty, having not been used since the last time she came to town. I pour a glass of sweet Riesling for my mom, a slightly less sweet red of some sort over ice for myself. We settle in.

My daughters hustle about the house in a flurry of getting ready for the dance and senior pictures. “Where is the fat curling iron, mom? Do we have another can of hairspray?” “Can you guys look at my outfits? Help me decide what to wear tomorrow? I’ll model them for you.” Meanwhile, the dog keeps dropping his soggy froggy in my mom’s lap, wanting her to throw it, once again, through the window between the kitchen and the living room. Our Scrabble game is the eye of the hurricane, still and peaceful, commotion and excitement swirling around us.eye of the storm

My mom keeps score. She always has. I love her slow, precise handwriting and the way she looks at the previous score, adds the new score to it in her head, and writes the total. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t keep up with her. Over the years, I learned to add like that just from watching her and now usually have the total in my head before she does. Still, I give the job to her. The little yellow pad with her columns of neat numbers–M at the top of one for Mom, R in the other for Randee–is a keepsake for me. I won’t discard it until there’s another filled with her tidy calculations.

Over the years, we’ve become less competitive and sometimes even put a joint effort into one or the other’s move. “Do you have a different consonant? Something that would let you make that word here instead? It’d be worth a lot more.” We keep the laptop near, checking to see if such-and-such is a word. Years ago, we would have had to risk playing it and then wonder if the other person would risk challenging it. Those days are long gone. When you play but once or twice a year, it makes more sense to keep it amiable.024

On Saturday afternoon, five teens are in my living room, once again curling each other’s hair, trying to make their doos as big as possible for the ‘80s look. Our Scrabble game happens within a few feet, again the calm in the center of the storm. We listen to the girls, watch their interactions, smile at each other as they share their impressions on what the ‘80s were like. I came to age in the ‘80s and my mom lived through it. We know the ‘80s well.

We didn’t finish our last game, opting instead to go downtown and watch the taking of the senior pictures. It remained on the table, a few words on the board, our tiles still on the trays. And on the score sheet, M 94, R 82. I noticed all of this after my mom had driven away early Sunday morning. I looked at it for a while, unable to clean it up. “Wait! Come back,” I wanted to holler after her, “we need to finish our game!”

Really, what I wanted, was for her t029o return and to not leave at all, to stay in the midst of our lives, to help create that center and share it with me. Not for two days, but for all of her remaining days. Or mine.

Any more, the storms in my life are generally mild—something you stand at the window for and appreciate, a little something different from the typical weather, worth remarking about, but not severe. It’s been a good stretch of time now since the devastation of the last severe storm, the big one that caused us so much damage and heartache.

My mom was there for us during that storm. She was there physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt her prayers. I depended on her support. She was the calm. She always has been. And I have learned from her, that as the center of my family, it is I who must be the calm. And I am. I have created it and so far I am managing it. And I thank my dear mom for that, for showing me how to be the center, the peaceful place, the calm. The mom.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. theclocktowersunset
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 22:55:33

    You are so gently eloquent. My mother and I used to keep an Othello board on the table by the door. We rarely saw each other, but on my way coming or going I would study the board and make a move then carry on with my day. As would she, this went on for years until, I guess I moved out on my own. Thank you again for the memory. 🙂


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