The Talk

 

Driving home, we were talking about… I don’t know…. everything… when he said “It seems like adults hide a lot of things from kids.” I felt the sting of accusation.

“It’s not that they want to hide anything good from you. It’s to protect you.”

“Protect us from what?”

“Bad things. Hurtful things. Sad things. We remember the carefree happiness of childhood and want the same for you.” He gave me a funny look. “Or some of us had short childhoods and want our kids to have more than we did.”

“I never used to think adults could feel like kids do. I didn’t think they could be sad.” I glanced at his face, so serious.

“All adults were kids once. Every one of them. Some things you don’t lose. We feel – just like you; just as irrationally (smile) and deeply. Most of us learn to hide it as we get older. This is what I mean. This is what changes. The sadness – it eats away at childhood, at innocence, and we have to protect ourselves. We try to protect you, too.”

“So you cover up your feelings?”

“It’s like putting on armor, I guess.”

“Oh.” He stared out the window and I wondered what was on his mind. Death? Divorce? Sex?

“You can always ask me anything. I’ll tell you the… I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

I stopped the car and he turned to me. “Is Santa real?”

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Growing Up

 

Yesterday was Mom’s birthday. I spent some of it feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t know how to order flowers to take to the cemetery. I didn’t know what  to take to the cemetery. A wreath? A spray? A simple bouquet? My mother was competent. She knew these things.

When I was young – a teenager, really – embarrassingly old – Mom sent me to the grocery. She wrote a list. This was a necessity. I am a daydreamer. I wander off. So she wrote out a list. At the store I pulled it out. On the top in large letters she’d printed: ROAST. We were in trouble already. I looked at the meats. (Yes, I know – I couldn’t believe I’d found them on my own either!) They looked bloody and gross and disturbingly identical in their grossness. I picked gingerly through, trying to find a roast while not actually coming in contact with a roast. I thought I might be a vegetarian. I was surely not a cook. What the heck was a roast? I had no idea. Seriously. Chuck… Sirloin…. Brisket… Rump… Rump?  Finally I went outside and found a pay phone. Apparently “What is a roast?” is a stupid question to ask. A roast is a roast, I was told. Roast meat. “But none of it is roasted. It’s all raw.” I kept the “and bloody” to myself. She told me to just get a roast. But what kind??? There was ham, chicken, Lebanon bologna… My mother screamed into the phone.

“Just get a !@#$ roast!”

Okay.

Sheesh.

I imagined my mother saying the same thing about the flowers. “Just order flowers.” And I phoned the florist down the road. The day she died a huge bouquet arrived almost immediately, arranged and delivered by them. The simple beauty of it struck a chord in me when I walked through the door that night. Green-white hydrangea, white daisies, and deep green boxwood; it filled the entire table. White daisies were Mom’s favorite. How did he know?

“At the customer’s request, this number has been temporarily disconnected.”

Florists take vacations? I dialed the florist we’d used for the funeral. Then I started crying again and making incomprehensible noises at the poor man on the other end. I blew my nose. He asked me how much I wanted to spend. “It doesn’t matter. They’re for my mother. I want something nice.”

I phoned back. “Maybe not quite that nice. It does matter, a little.”

I phoned back. “White daisies. Did I say white daisies?”

I phoned back. “No lilies. More demure. De-mmm-your. Modest. Unpretentious. Un-pre- yeah, that’d be great. Whatever you think.”

I phoned back. “It’s me. Nothing garish. Only white daisies, no yellow or red. Stock, bells of Ireland, statice, viburnum, something pink…”

Someone told me recently it’s only when you lose your parents that you truly grow up and I think that’s right. There is, finally, no other choice.