Our food came then, and for a few minutes we busied ourselves with the chowder and accompanying salad. Finally, I said, “I got a message from Mom on my machine.”
Chris stopped with a spoonful of chowder halfway to his mouth. “Oh? What did she say?”
“She’s accepting my invitation to visit.”
“Here? Good lord, Suz, how’d you pull that off? She’s never come here. You didn’t tell me you’d asked her. When’s she coming?”
“We haven’t worked out the details. I wrote her a note and told her it would be fun to see her. I’ve no idea why she took me up on it. Didn’t expect she would.”
“Well, congratulations. But we’ve both invited her before. You have any idea why she’s coming this time?”
“Maybe Dad’s letter? His stories about her?”
“Maybe. But I doubt she’d bother to come all this way to defend herself against Dad’s gossip. She’s not that much into what other people think. ‘The dogs bark, but the caravans roll on’—that’s what she liked to say about stupid talk.”
“If it’s not that, I have no idea,” I said.
Over the next few days, I kept wondering. I didn’t kid myself that she was coming solely for the pleasure of our company. Mom wasn’t a witch-mother, but she was an extremely strange one. She’d been more than adequate as a parent, but she seemed studied, as if she were conscientiously following instructions from a couple of how-to books in her room. She hadn’t been abusive in any way—I’d simply been sure she didn’t love me. Or Chris either, for that matter. As an adult, I came to the conclusion that she didn’t have it in her to love anyone.
She certainly had her good points. She was brilliant, gifted, and often whimsical. Mom could make nearly anything seem funny. She treated us like adults even when we were little—probably because that was her whole repertoire, but it was flattering just the same.
Our friends envied us—she didn’t meddle or dramatize, even when Chris got busted. She didn’t guilt-trip, or pry, or try to live our lives for us.
I sometimes wondered if she was disappointed that neither of us had musical talent, but if she was, she kept it to herself. And even though she was gorgeous, a total knockout, she ignored looks completely. I never saw her give herself more than a passing glance in a mirror, and she never nagged me or put me down for looking ordinary.
But she was less like a mother than a quirky, capable, rather emotionless roommate, who saw us through childhood and then all but forgot us, the way cats forget their grown-up kittens. Detached, aloof. I had never met another parent like her.
Neither of us was surprised when she showed no interest in Brian’s birth or Chris’s marriage. I might never have seen her again if I hadn’t invited her to the island.
I was beginning to wonder why I had. And why she’d accepted. It promised to be a memorable visit.