By Betty Jo Buro
I chew the inside of my right cheek while I loop from closet to suitcase. Jeans on the bottom. Pajamas next. I’ll save the dress for last. What a relief it would be to sob and fling my clothes in a twisted heap. To keen, like the Irish women in the novels I used to read, to work my way through an entire box of tissues, soaking them with tears and snot. But my mother, whose funeral I’m packing for, had no appreciation for spectacle, and has passed this trait on to me. Perhaps it’s because she had four teenage daughters at one time, and intuitively knew, that if allowed, girl drama plus high levels of hormones could combine and possibly blow the roof right off of our house. Our upset was never rewarded with her attention, and thus suppressed. And now, when I could really use a bout of hysteria, I can’t even cry. Instead, I run my tongue over the shredded skin on the inside of my mouth. I carefully count out the appropriate pairs of underwear, roll and tuck them into the corners, filling the dead space, the way my mother taught me to pack. The eulogy is placed in the carry-on. Just in case.
There are shoe issues. Emma, my oldest, has been charged with carrying her father’s dress shoes in her luggage. He is working in Missouri and meeting us in Boston. She has plenty of room, but resents the idea of those big shoes in with her things. Alice, my younger daughter, disapproves of my shoe choice. She’s scandalized, actually, by my blue Louise et Cie closed-toe sling backs with the 2 and ¾ inch heel. They match the design in my dress perfectly, and even though they’ve had two sleepovers at the shoe repair shop to stretch the toe-box, I love them.
“You can’t wear those shoes to a funeral,” Alice says.
“You just can’t,” she says, shaking her head. I know she’s referring to the pointy toe, the ankle strap. She thinks they are too sexy. She throws her hands up in a gesture that says, Mothers. They never listen, and walks away. I turn the offending footwear so they are facing in, heel to toe, and place them in my luggage.
The next day, I wrestle the girls out of slumber and into the car for the long drive to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. Twenty minutes into the ride, Emma’s voice from the back seat, “Mom, I forgot my sandals.” She means the ones she needs to go with her dress for the service. If we go back, we will miss our flight. I keep driving. Inside my mouth, I taste the metallic tang of blood.
I am three days into my new routine of waking an hour before the sun rises to meditate, pray and write, when I call someone an asshole. I am walking my dog Misty, and we have paused at the top of our street, under the shade of a Banyan tree to greet our neighbor-friends, Karen and McDuff. I have been up for so long the day feels solid, as established as the blacktop under my sneakers, and it’s only eight am. The orange grove across from us and the remnants of night-blooming jasmine carry an almost sickly sweet scent through the air, already thick with heat. Continue Reading…