Slowing Down


At just after six o’clock, a blue Subaru pulled up and parked along the curb in front of a quaint house with a light on in the living room . Barbara was tired. The tedium of the day consisted of the usual: meetings with broken records, stacks of paperwork that no one was ever going to read, organizing, phone calls, and a two-hour lunch break. It never ended. She knew that stopping by to see mom, however, would make her feel better.

She walked up the driveway and rang the doorbell, ignoring the yipping ball of fluff behind the fence in her periphery. The door opened and a local woman in a blue apron and house shoes greeted her with a welcoming smile.

“Hi Barb! Come in.”

“Hi Mona. How’s she doing?” asked Barbara slipping off her flip-flops and stepping onto the soft carpet and into the cozy warmth of the living room.

“Oh, she’s just fine. In fact, she’s been rather talkative within the hour.”

Barbara’s gaze shifted to the living room. In the back, bundled up in a Lay-Z-Boy chair with pink house slippers snug around her elevated feet, was her mother – a thin woman with a full head of white curls and a smile that wouldn’t be tamed. At 93 years old, with an audience in front of her, she was having the time of her life. Every muscle around her light blue eyes surged with emotion so as to make sure her listeners caught every word.

On the couch in front of her sat two men, one clearly the son and the other the father. The son looked on and listened to the woman speak while his father sat beside him with his chin on his chest in slumber, and his glasses steadily slipping off his nose. To her right, an elderly Asian woman stared blankly at the television from the other side of the room.

Following her mother’s soft voice, Barbara approached the Lay-Z-Boy and listened in.
.
“…so…ah…you need something to give before you can borrow the thing…”

“Mom?” Barbara beckoned.

“Oh, Hi Barb!” The ageless smile and the childlike blue eyes comforted her at once. Daughter gave mother a warm hug and a kiss on her cloudlike head.

“Hi Mamma! What are you doing?”

“Ah,” she paused to collect her thoughts. “I’m, ah, … I’m talking to them about collateral.”

“Col..collateral?” Barbara responded, puzzled.

“Yes. You need it if you’re going to borrow something…ah…it’s…you need to have enough of it so that they’ll let you borrow…ah…what you want.” Barbara sat on the floor, her arms around her knees to keep her upright, thankful to listen and observe.

She waited until her mother had finished the lesson before helping her back to her room to wind down for the evening.

When she was in her pajamas and tucked in, the woman with a head full of white watched her daughter smooth the comforter over her.

“Boy, you’ve had a busy day, haven’t you, Mom?”

The woman smiled, squinted and nodded from under her sheets. “Right,” she agreed. “Well,” she added, “it was busy but..ah…I didn’t have any stress.”

“Oh really?” Barbara followed. “Well that’s good, Mamma.”

“Yeah, that’s what I say. Why would I want to go through all that?”

Such a simple concept, but so overlooked, Barbara thought. Being with her always slowed Barbara down. She needed that. Hers was a life that seemed to have invaded overnight without asking. She brought her eyes back down to the bed to meet those of her mother.

“Okay, Momma, I love you. Have a good rest. Don’t let the bed bugs bite! I’ll be back to see you again tomorrow, okay?” She leaned down to give the woman a kiss.

This was returned with a big smile. “Oh, okay. I love you too, Barb.”

Barbara patted the sheets and watched her mother close her eyes. Turning off the lights, she walked back to the car, relaxed. All the stressors of the day had been washed away by a white-headed woman that spoke at length about collateral.

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