Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Drivin' by Matthew McConaughey's

           "We drove by Matthew McConaughey's house last night."
           I strive for safety.  "That's nice, dear." 
Lily gives me an exasperated look.  "You don't know who he is, do you, Mother?"  Lily is twenty-one, a college junior, and knows everything.  "He's the movie star, the one who was in that space movie with Jodie Foster.”  Her voice drips daughterly contempt.
I decide to assert myself.  "Oh, he's the one who was arrested for playing his bongo drums and dancing around naked one night with the window open." 
"Not so loud."  Glancing around the upscale deli she's lured me to for lunch, Lily checks to make sure none of the other college-age customers have heard me.  She's funny that way, very self-conscious, which is odd because I'm the opposite, a born performer.  Maybe I didn't get enough attention as a child and have been making up for it ever since--and maybe, as a reaction, I gave Lily too much attention and she's spending the rest of her life avoiding it.  Or maybe it's just mutant genes. 
Whatever, Lily can't help but get attention wherever she goes. She's a white blonde, some sort of throwback to pure Scandinavia, I’d guess.  She's three inches taller than I am and built slender, with wide shoulders and hips.  Every male eye in the place lights up when she enters a room, but she immediately lets the hopefuls know she is committed, that she has a boyfriend and is faithful to him.
I think she hides behind him.
"Did Kevin drive you by Matthew McConaughey's house?"  
Kevin is the boyfriend.  They've been going together for two years now, so I guess I've come to accept him.
Lily rolls her eyes.  "No, Mother.  Kevin is at karate on Wednesday evenings. You know that."
Well, I didn't know that, but I let it go, which is something I work hard at, letting things go and maintaining my cool.  I want a better relationship with my daughter than my mother had with me.  It wasn't that Mother and I fought--it was just that we never really got to know each other outside of being mother and daughter.
Our number is called and Lily leaps up to fetch our matching plain-and-dry turkey sandwiches. She must be hungry because she starts on hers the second she arrives back at our unstable little table.
After a few bites, the conversation resumes.  "Jennie and Tiffany and I were out driving around Old Austin, and I was showing them where Granny and Granddad used to live so we drove by Matthew McConaughey's since it was in the same neighborhood."
I decide to risk it.  "And was he dancing in the window?"
She laughs.  It is amazing how food improves her mood.  Five minutes before she would have been scandalized. "You're so wicked! No, he wasn't home."
"How do you know?"
"His van was gone."
"How do you know he has a van?" I’m heady with conversational success.
Lily has the grace to look a little embarrassed.  "Well, we've driven by there before."
“You and Jennie and Tiff?”
"And what, Mother?  We've never seen him.  What did you expect?" 
Now she’s mad at me again. I feel my way carefully across my unsteadfast verbal footing.  "I should think he would realize at first sight that three such lovely girls are destined for Hollywood stardom." 
Was it a save?
Lily smiles her forgiveness and reaches across to take my free hand.  "I'm sorry I'm being such a bitch.  Thank you for putting up with me."
My heart overflows.  I remembered the tiny bald-pated baby the nurse put into my arms in the hospital, the one with the perfect little nose and rosebud mouth.  I remember the shy toddler hiding her head under my loose shirts when I tried to introduce her to my friends.  I remember her in early grade school, never wanting me to leave, and  in later grade school, being mortally embarrassed when I would stay.  I remember her talking over her middle school problems with me until I felt like screaming.  I remember my pride when she delivered her high school baccalaureate prayer.  I love her so much.
"You're not a bitch.  You just have a lot going on right now." 
We finish our sandwiches and head to the car.  I look around.  The clouds are white and fluffy in a sunny, bright blue sky.  "It's a nice day to be on the road."
 I unlock the car doors.
Lily smiles at me and checks her watch. "I don't have to get back yet. We could drive around for a while. Do you have the time?”
"Sure."  I don’t have the time, really, but I'd rather spend it with my daughter than stocking up on groceries.  I pull out of the parking place and find my way to an exit from the shopping center.  "Where do you want to go?"
"How about Granny and Granddad's old neighborhood?"
Husband’s parents had lived in an older section of town--rather posh, actually.  When I was first married, I used to imagine myself getting hold of one of the big, old houses nearby and renovating it, and I still like to drive down the narrow, tree-lined streets and dream a little. 
I head west. The ride will be easy on the digestion.. 
There's something about being in a car.  Maybe it's the small, closed space or maybe the rhythm of the road.  I can feel the intimacy starting to build between us. Please, God, don’t let me screw this up.
I turn into my parents-in-laws' old neighborhood and slow my speed. 
It was too bad that my mother never learned how to drive.  What would she have been like on an outing like this, I wonder, with just the two of us in the car, isolated from the world?  Could we have talked as two people who loved and cared for each other, or would it still have been the same constrained parent-child relationship?
I tell Lily a little of what has been going on at my job lately and she tells me a funny story about her roommate
"How is Kevin?"  I venture.
"Why?  What have you heard?  Did Ethan tell you something?"  Lily's voice is sharp.
Wrong move. What’s up? 
I make my voice soft and reassuring.  "No, he hasn't said anything.  You know how close-mouthed he is." Lily sometimes confides in her older brother and is always concerned that he may be passing information on to me, which he sometimes does. "I'm sorry if Kevin's having more problems."
Kevin is always having problems, which Lily sympathizes with him about and helps him solve.  He is a project, as far as I can tell, and she has improved him a lot, but not enough that he is in the least interested in attending college or getting any sort of training to raise himself from being a stock clerk at Best Buy.  To make it worse, his father remarried recently, and the new wife tossed the old offspring out the door, so while Lily is mothering Kevin, he is mothering his younger sister, which makes Lily, figuratively speaking, a grandmother before her time.
Lily stares straight ahead, not looking at the houses. "His sister is sneaking out at night and meeting boys."
"That must be hard on Kevin."
Lily's voice hardens.  "It's hard on me.  He got me up in the middle of the night to help hunt her down.  And I had a biology test the next day."
I make soothing sounds, not wanting to risk words.  My own mother never lacked for words.
"It's just fine for him," Lily continues.  "He calls in sick and gets to sleep till noon, but that was my midterm!" 
"I’m sorry.”
“Kevin really makes me mad sometimes.  I’m thinking of breaking up with him.”
“Oh.”  I’m not weighing in on that one. 
I drive slowly past her grandparents’ old home, and Lily cranes her neck to keep the house in view as long as possible.   We drive a few more blocks in silence.
Finally Lily sighs, looks at her watch, then suddenly smiles at me, her eyes dancing.  "There's still time.  Want to go by Mathew McConaughey's to see if he’s left his window open again?"
I smile back at her. “Point me the way.”


No comments: