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Turning Tides

As told to Leah Gebber

Dressed in silk or lace and wearing a large hat decorated with peacock feathers, my mother used to lean over my bed and kiss me goodnight. Then, she’d be off, again, accompanying my father to the many social evenings required by his business. Old Mrs. Cooper would stay with me, but although she dozed off on the couch downstairs, I was never able to sleep. I would lie in bed and read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or whatever wonderland I was immersed in. And I would wait.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mother knew that I waited for her, and when she and Daddy returned home, usually around midnight, she wouldn’t even take off her fur coat but come straight up the stairs to my bedroom. She would sit down on the end of my bed and say, “Now which chapter did you get up to?” I’d tell her, and she’d want to talk about Aslan or Edmund andLucy or the fawn that had the gall to betray the children to the White Witch. But I wanted to hear about the women’s gowns and their hats and all the magic she had seen that evening. A shadow would pass over her face. “My sweet nightingale,” she would say, “I had the loneliest evening on the planet.” She would linger at my forehead as she kissed me, and I would breathe in her honeysuckle eau de toilette and the slight smell of my father’s cigarettes, and wonder. How could she have been lonely surrounded by all those people? I certainly hadn’t been lonely, although I had been alone. And so I learned that, with a book in hand, time alone can become simply solitude. 

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