John’s Mother and the New Office
Friday, November 12th
I decided to go into Manhattan to see my mother and then go see a film at a revival theatre downtown. Her office recently moved to a new location and she has been spending a good portion of her days settling into her new surroundings. I pictured her arranging her furniture and mahogany bookcases; hanging her beloved paintings according to the sketch her interior designer had prepared for her—there’s always an interior designer; and unpacking her leather bound books with loving care, placing each one in its designated spot on the shelf. As at home, she arranges them in sections: first by the country, then by author, then by title—and I wonder why I’m so anal.
When I arrived she was sitting behind her desk. It was early evening and she was eyeing her new sofa with satisfaction. I knew the look. There was a calm silence about her. Some have characterized my mother as being cold and uncompromising, but that is not true. Her business partner told me once, ‘your mom is quiet yet absolute in her dealings with her work associates, and an intimidating figure to her staff. Nevertheless, she is a fair woman of business who conducts herself in a professional manner at all times.’ It was the way he said it that etched this perception of my mother in my mind. I remember feeling proud. She was startled by my sudden appearance in the doorway.
“Mom, I’m sorry I scared you. I should have called.”
“Oh, I am glad you are here, John. Come in and see my new set-up.” She stood up and gave me a hug and a kiss. My heart started to pound as I remembered my dream, and in that dream not being able to recall her face, as if she were lost to me. There were times I couldn’t stand to be around her, but I loved her.
“Is everything ok?” she sensed something and looked concerned.
“Oh, sure…all is well.” I changed the subject. “I had no idea you were so close to moving. I went by your old office and they told me where to find you.” I looked around now to take in the layout of the office. “I like it a lot.”
I was pleased to see my mother in a good mood. I looked at the sofa. It was nice; one I might have picked out for myself. If my mom taught me anything it was to appreciate the finer things in life, and we appeared to have the same taste in furniture.
I sat down and she returned to her desk, which is where she seemed most comfortable, and where I was used to seeing her. On many occasions when there was no school, and my father was at a job site, and the housekeeper was off, I would go with my mother to work. I was nearly thirteen years old before my mother felt at ease leaving me home alone, and even at that time she would try and coax me into spending the day with her by creating special tasks that only I could handle; telling me ‘you’re the only one I trust to do this, John.’ At first, I was pleased that my mother thought so much of my capabilities, but then when the work started to get boring, I refused to do any more time.
“What brings you into Manhattan?”
“There’s an old movie playing downtown that I want to see. It starts at seven forty-five, so I really can’t stay. Maybe you’d like to tag along.”
I knew she wouldn’t want to go. As a matter of fact, she didn’t even ask me what film was playing. She never seemed to have any interest in movies. It was the opera that she enjoyed—or the ballet.
“No, thank you dear, I have to stay and finish up here. I want to be settled in so I can oversee the rest of the move tomorrow, but I would like to have dinner with you one night next week.”
“I think I can get in here next week. How’s Thursday, I’ll meet you here at seven.”
I dreaded having dinner with my mother. We really didn’t have a lot in common—not that it’s required by law to have things in common with your mother, but I wished that we had—other than our taste in furniture— a common thread; something to connect us on a permanent basis; something that would prompt the call to arms of ‘did you know’ or “mother, guess what?’ These are the interactions I would have had with my father if he were still alive. I think if my father was alive there would be less awkwardness around my mother. I would be going to their home for dinner. It would be the three of us, and my father would be a big part of the day for me, as he had a ‘gift for gab’ as my mom would say; we’d be watching TV or listening to some Jazz, which we both loved, and my mother would be cooking in the kitchen and setting the table for dinner, and she truly loved that. For her, cooking was a pleasant distraction from work, and she did it well.
Anyway, what would it take to peak her interest? What could I say that would generate a spark and take her away from this business world that she has encased herself in for all these years, even if only for a few minutes?
“Oh, by the way, I’ve met someone.” I blurted out.
I noticed an immediate change in her demeanor. I was right. All it took was the announcement of a possible love interest.
“When did this happen?” She smiled, and there was a definite spark there.
“You met her in a bar?” she asked with a self-composed inquisitiveness.
“Yes, I did. Is there something wrong with that?” I was slightly irritated at the question.
“No, no, dear. I just thought that…never mind.”
I knew what my mother was going to say and I hated her reasoning on issues of social standing and refinement, that ‘nice girls can be met at church or in the library’. I always wondered about that church part, since I had not once witnessed her going to church, yet she would send me off every Sunday with a check for the basket.
“It wasn't that kind of bar, Mom, she’s a nice woman. Let us leave it at that.”
“I am sure she is nice. I would like to meet her. You should bring her along to our dinner Thursday evening.”
“Mom, I just met her. I haven’t even asked her out on a date. It was just an exchange of phone numbers and a promise to give her a call one of these days. We had a nice time talking. I liked her.”
“Oh, well, I am happy for you. Keep me up to date.”
I was intending to contact Katie, because I hadn’t really stopped thinking about her since the other night. Maybe I'll give her a call tomorrow and ask her out to dinner.