Lunch with her mother was a weekly occurrence for Imogen. Sandy had a sound philosophy for why this should be.
“We’re both housewives now. Kept women. You have plenty of time to let me make you poppy seed chicken salad. And if it’s after noon we can have white wine.”
Sandy was on a high. Widowed at thiry-eight, she had just remarried at sixty-one. She acted like a girl most of the time, excitable, busy, and always ready to talk about her newly established sex life. The details were graciously kept to a minimum, but the images entered Imogen’s mind anyway: her mother’s legs wrapped around the dimpled hips of her seventy year old husband, his sweaty nose and chin buried in her freckled cleavage.
Why was it allowed for her mother to possess better stories every Wednesday? How could a woman supposed to be walking into her sunset years have the sex drive of an eighteen-year-old boy? Imogen had heard several times that women reach their sexual peaks at thirty. It could be true, but only if the women boast advancing careers and eighteen-year-old husbands.
“How’s Mark?” Sandy blinked into the sun as she rinsed out the wine glasses in the sink. She looked surprisingly beautiful, Imogen decided, the light touching her blonde lashes and painted lips. The lines and peach fuzz only gave her the faintest sign of matronly grace, and Imogen sighed in response to everything.
“Excellent as usual. He’s very busy right now with this lesson of his. A junior class is lucky enough to have him balancing dangerously close to teaching Christianity with a ball of glass that has little people inside.”
“It’s called ‘Roman Cosmology’. Apparently it has something to do with the development of both Christian doctrine and modern astrology.”
“Okay. I’m already lost, but go on.”
“See, the Romans believed that the earth was at the center of the universe, the cosmos, the creation.” Imogen made a fist and waved her free hand over and around it. “It was made of rock, but outside, there were spheres of glass that encircled the earth. They were in layers, like seven of them, and in each layer there were beings. Each layer got better and better, like, first layer, sun, next, planets, next, stars, next, spirits, on and on. The higher spheres could move around and exchange beings and affect the lower spheres. Anyway, the Romans thought that the creator existed outside of the spheres, and was superior…”
“Why are the stars and planets better than the sun?”
Imogen froze her hand mid-wave. “Huh?”
“The sun. I thought the sun would be like a god.”
“Well, the astrology part is that the Romans thought that whatever was largest was closest. So, the sun, being kind of bigger than everything else, was closer than the itty bitty stars.”
“Ahh. My little smart cookie. How do you know all this?”
“Mark told me. When you’ve been married as long as I have you talk sometimes.”
“Stop it.” Sandy flipped the dishtowel in Imogen’s direction and flashed a mischievous grin. “I talk.”
“You might. So, in conclusion, class, Mark has a glass and porcelain model of the earth rock surrounded by glass spheres and supernatural things and tells these kids that it is the basis for western progression. Meanwhile you’re here with your life and I think I am dormant.”
Sandy poured two generous glasses of Pies porter. She was silent for a moment and then looked steadily at her daughter. “I’m not so fabulous. I’m happy as a goose but not because of activity. I am happy because I have a reason to enjoy being still.”
A silence rang against the fluted wine glasses and Imogen studied her mother’s content disposition. “After your father died I thought that if I just kept busy I would be able to overcome the emptiness. But the emptiness was in my home, and what I really wanted was to be there, still. I knew middle age was approaching. When Bob came along I knew I could be still with him.”
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