"It sounds like a dirge," I said.
My Ruth, she laughed at me, reaching for her phone.
"It's not a dirge, Mom," she said, "it's a fugue."
She glanced at the phone. "Oh, it's Jenna. I've gotta take this. You mind?"
I shook my head. "No, no. You go ahead."
She had answered already, turning slightly away from me.
"When did you get so grown up?" I asked silently. There she was, so much a grown woman, dark hair swept back from darker eyes. Face alive as she talked with her college friend.
I caught a glimpse of myself in a store mirror. "When did you get so old?" I swept my hand through my own dark hair. I didn't look closer. I already knew where the gray was hiding.
Ruth chatted on. I listened, more to the sounds than the words. You hear more that way. Warm tones. They were close, this Jenna and my Ruth. Making plans for when she returned after the break.
I stepped away, from Ruth, from the mirror. I didn't want either of us to see the expression I could feel on my face. I hoped this Jenna didn't give Ruth any ideas.
I laughed quietly. "Ideas? You think you could prevent her having ideas?"
I could hear my own Mother's voice in my head. Probably as she heard her own in hers. And all the way back, daughter to mother, back to Eve herself.
I looked back at my Ruth's bright, quick face. Her free hand moved as she talked, eyes alive with intelligence and fun.
I fingered a shawl draped over a mannequin's shoulder. A widow's shawl. I nodded.
"Perfect for me." I pulled it off the mannequin and slipped it over my shoulders.
"Bye Jenna," I heard as Ruth finished her call. She turned to me just as I drew myself up and I threw the right end of the shawl dramatically over my left shoulder.
"Oh Mom," she said. "That's perfect for you."
I smiled, took her face in my hands and kissed her forehead. She looked at me, her eyes seeking mine.
"We Goldbergs come from a long line of strong women, Ruth. I cannot put into words how proud of you I am."
I patted her arm as I linked it in mine. "Now, we must buy something special for when you return to your friend Jenna."
With these words I set my daughter on her way to her future.