Nine days out of ten my mother answers the phone, serious and concerned, “Anthony?”
“No, Ma, it’s Andrea.”
“Oh Francie, good. I thought it’d be you.”
“Then why did you say Anthony?”
“I thought it was your brother calling me.”
“But you just said you thought it’d be me…?”
“Uh huh. Hi. I’m glad you called. How’s things, luv luvs?”
“Bu- oh never mind-“
I pause and I realize how much I love her. Because I know that when she answers the phone, whether it’s me or my brother, it’s the most important conversation she’s ever had.
Her tone and note is pitched in such a way that I know she would rather be hearing about my day and the way I cut the nail on my first finger too short (thus throwing off the whole consistency of a good polishing), than hear secrets about when the world will end and what she could do to save it.
I know that when she asks strangers and my sisters to text message me on her phone, saying things like, “This is what you’ll get married in,” or, “I put a hat on DeeDee” (our family pug), that she’s just trying to get in touch. And I learn that the time I tried to teach her to text didn’t work. Never will.
I hear her whisper to my brother, now 33, over the phone, and say things like “ I love you Teeny Tiny Tony.” And I know that even though it would absolutely be offensive and patronizing to any other reasonable human being, it’s the kindest, gentlest thing he’s ever heard.
We’ve never, my brother and I, been able to leave her for long. Anthony went off to school in Arizona, and he’d call and talk to her for hours. Hours. And minutes. And more hours. Telling her all about life. Things so honest and personal I’m sure they’d file into her brain under “I didn’t need to know that but thank you for telling me… I think.”
I went away to college too, and then to Italy, and then to various United States to live and work in film, and each move felt like I was taking off another piece of clothing and going out onto a busy street. The last move, here and now in Seattle, leaving me near-topless. I miss her. I feel bare without her.
I want to crawl inside that spot between her earlobe and the base of her neck, where it smells like Clinique Happy and reassurance.
I know (almost) everyone loves their mother. But how can all of us think ours is without question the best? How can I be so sure she’s the one I’d pick if I had to start my life again and this time, I could choose the players?
I just know.
She’s the one person I cannot imagine living without.
Don’t even know how
To live without.
She’s my best friend. And if I were to find the right language to explain it, I’d have to do some math. Multiply love by infinity, and then take that to the tenth power. If that’s possible. Don’t quote me on it.
And so, when I talk to her and when she calls to tell me she’s just made a dinner I’d love, eaten a candy I’d coo for, licked the marshmallow off a Mallo Cup wrapper, I know food is one of the ways we send, we share, we receive love.
And when she sends me a 7 pound box of Easter Cadbury, Russell Stover, and Peeps
I know for sure it’s love.
And she smiles on the east coast.
And I smile on the west.