farm daffs 1 (2)We’re sitting in a smorgasbord restaurant somewhere north of Cissna Park, Illinois, on Easter Sunday, my parents and I, because we live in Oak Forest, a southern suburb of Chicago, during the school year now. My mother lost her teaching position downstate because the school board thought she was too lax with her discipline of her students, and my father thought we couldn’t do without her salary. So we live “up north” where my mother teaches the third grade. We make the five-hour drive south on weekends in good weather to check on our farm where we spend our holidays and summers. On Sundays during the school year, we make the drive back to the apartment we rent. On this Sunday, it’s raining. We sit near a window and I watch the rain streak the glass. My mother by nature is soft-spoken and meek. I’ll inherit that from her and add to it just enough of my father’s fire to give me a temper of my own that will take some years to finally learn to control. My mother bows her head, closes her eyes, and says a silent prayer before picking up her fork to eat. My father manages his fork with his prosthetic hands. I know the other diners are watching him. Although on occasion they bother me, for the most part I’ve become accustomed to their stares. This is my father the way I’ve always known him. After awhile, other people’s curiosity starts to bore me. My mother turns to look out the window. She’s fifty-five years old and in the midst of a life she never could have imagined for herself: married, a mother, and a caretaker for her husband who relies on her for so much. I wonder whether on some days, like this one, perhaps, she dreams of a different life. Does she dream of escape? She looks out on the dreary day, and then in a quiet voice, barely audible, she says, “Guess it’ll rain the next seven    Sundays.” “Why?” I ask her. Suddenly I’m fascinated by her weather forecasting. My mother, who always seemed rather ordinary to me, has turned into a prognosticator. “Because it’s raining on Easter,” she says. “If it rains on Easter, it’ll rain seven Sundays in a row.” She turns back to her plate of food. “It’s just a saying,” she says. “That’s all.” Then we all return to our meal, this odd family of a ten-year old boy and his aging parents—the father happens to have artificial hands—this family a long way from home, both the one they’re going to and the one they’ve left behind.

 

5 Comments

  1. Angie R on April 21, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Ooh, I loved this. Is it for Brevity or just because?

  2. ruth ann zwilling on April 21, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Yes, My husband says that very same thing and believes it. I do Not believe any weather forecasts~~think I can do a better job most times myself.

    And you are right; you do take after your Mother. In You catch a glimpse of how she was.

  3. Richard Gilbert on April 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

    What a poignant and haunting tableau, Lee. I think there’s a prompt here! Speaking of which, my cnf class just did your Tell a Lie, Tell the Truth exercise, with stunning results. The lie part—in its often-iconic specifics—takes on such power, resonance, and frequently sadness as we learn the truth. Yet the retrospective wisdom fostered by the truth-telling makes it all moving, bearable, and a gift.

  4. Susan Cole on April 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Lee,
    This is lovely. So much is packed into it about the characters and the past and yet it is about that moment in the restaurant. I wanted to add that I’ve now used the “truth, lie” prompt several times with great success. I hesitated to write this for fear of jinxing myself. I’m working on a memoir. Somehow, the prompt enables me to get underneath a scene and reflect much more deeply than I’d been able to before. I love writing scenes but am still learning how to reflect upon the action meaningfully. The prompt seems to fool me into it.

    • Lee Martin on April 28, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you, Susan. I’m glad the truth/lie is working for you. I often find that a prompt like this indeed “tricks” us into saying things we wouldn’t otherwise. Knock on wood 🙂

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