Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Generation Apart

The front door slammed.

"I've told you before, don't slam--"

"Sorry," said Ruth, "it's windy out. If all the windows weren't open..."

I turned to her, brushing my gray-streaked hair out of my eyes.

"You're not in your fancy air-conditioned college--"

"Don't I know it," she said, tossing her coat on the kitchen table and opening the fridge door.

"Don't eat too much," I said automatically, "you'll spoil your dinner."

Ruth took a soda can from the fridge and stood up. Light shone on dark, dark hair. Her eyes were as dark.

"Yeah, well," she said, "I think I'm going out with friends. Jenna--"

I let out an exasperated sound. I just couldn't help it.

"It would've been nice to let me know earlier. Who is this Jenna anyway? And where will you be going?"

Ruth slammed the fridge door.

"I didn't know earlier. Anyway, Jenna's at school with me. You'd know if you ever listened."

"Don't talk to me like that, young lady."

"Then don't treat me like a child," she retorted. "I've grown up. You need to learn to deal with it."

I nodded. "I can see you're all grown up. In fact--" I eyed the neckline of her top, "--the whole world can see how grown up you are."

It was Ruth's turn to make an exasperated sound. "Oh Mom, like the world doesn't already know women have breasts."

"If they didn't, they do now."

"I've seen photos of you when you were young," Ruth said. She glanced down where the tops of her breasts were showing. "This is nothing compared to some dresses you wore. When did you get so old?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but her phone rang.

"That sounds like a dirge," I said.

"Then I'll play it at your funeral." Ruth answered the phone. "Oh hi Jenna. Just a sec..." She walked out of the kitchen.

When did I get so old? Ha! When did I become my mother? She and I used to argue like this. And probably she with her mother. Back all the way to Eve?

Ruth and I are too much alike. We are sisters a generation apart. There's so little of her father in her, and he's dead a long time.

It's been so lonely, lonelier still since she left for college.

"I gotta go. I'm meeting Jenna," Ruth said as I heard her heading for the door.

"Don't slam--," I began.

The front door slammed.

11 comments:

  1. Wow, you've captured this truth very well!
    I loved how the mother thought about when she got so old, but better yet, when she became her mother ;)

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  2. Bravo! There is such a ring of truth to this, it's uncanny. Great story.

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  3. A continuation of characters...methinks the trip to Ireland brought family and generations to the fore. ;)

    This is so true. I'm trying hard to break that cycle though!

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  4. Excellent dialogue here.
    "Then I'll play it at your funeral" - marvellous! I laughed at her humour, but the cutting remark brings back moments of my younger life I'm not too proud of!

    As an aside, I was always so terrified I'd end up turning into my mother that I seem to be turning into my father - eccentricity awaits!

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  5. Ah, yes, that universal dance of mothers and daughters. What is particularly poignant is the line about the mother being so lonely. Unfortunately, trying to hold on to her daughter is not the answer.

    Excellent dialogue makes this piece ring so true.

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  6. A day in the life of mothers and daughters everywhere. Well done!

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  7. Marisa's right, this is a universal conversation between mothers and daughters. You nailed it, as well as that moment when we realize we've actually become our mothers. You've got an uncanny line right into a woman's head, Kevin! :)

    Beautiful story.

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  8. You really do have these characters down. I'll be interested to see where you go with them.

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  9. Many, many thanks for stopping to read this story and comment. I'm glad the dialogue rang true. It's fun stepping out of my skin, so to speak, to hear how the other half lives.

    These last two stories, and the characters, are part of my Goldberg Variations project. I've another written, a fourth percolating in the back of my mind and a fifth just coming into focus. The trick, should I be able to pull it off, will be to fit them all within a developed/developing theme.

    I am glad the story itself held together and feels true. I really appreciate your comments. They suggest that the characters are real - and that's what I need them to be.

    My thanks to you all.

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  10. Kids. I think we were all at least this bad, but if we're lucky enough to still have good parents alive, we can make up for it.

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  11. When did I get so old? What a great exploration of that question. Generation after generation it's always the same. You captured that well.
    ~jon

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