Mommy DearestWillow Rose
A boy’s best friend is his mother.
- Norman Bates, Psycho 1960
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What hurts the most - excerpt
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“I can’t wait to meet your mom.”
Rob looks at Crystal with that smile, the handsome one. They have been together for eight months now and every day is better than the previous one. Crystal doesn’t know what it is about him, but he is different from all the other guys she has dated. Two weeks ago, he popped the question, and now he has invited his mother to come meet her, his future wife.
“She is going to love you, Crystal.”
She smiles and leans her head on his shoulder. Orlando airport isn’t exactly a cozy place to sit and wait, but still, she feels like snuggling up.
He puts his arm around her. His mother’s plane is delayed, it says on the screen. Only by fifteen minutes, so they sit on a bench and wait. Rob is looking through his Facebook feed on his phone while Crystal wonders what it will be like to have his mother living with them for an entire month.
“So, what’s she like? You never talked much about her. Tell me stories,” Crystal says.
Rob doesn’t look up from his phone. He shrugs. “She’s pretty normal, I guess.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Well, I guess you could say she is very old. I am the youngest of seven brothers…well, you already know that, but that means she’s been old for most of my life. She turned seventy-nine last month. My brother Jack told me she has trouble walking now. She had knee surgery in January and has been walking with a cane ever since.”
“That’s too bad,” Crystal says, thinking about her own mother who is only in her mid-fifties. There sure was a big difference. But then, again, she already knew there would be since Rob is ten years older than her.
Rob’s mother has said she might want to move here, to Florida, to be closer to her son and the possibly future grandchildren.
Crystal looks up at Rob. He has asked her about it lots of times. If it bothers her that he is older? And she keeps telling him, it doesn’t. So what if he is older than her? And, yes, if they do have kids, he will be older than most of the other daddies, but it won’t matter. The kids will be fine, and so will she. That’s what she told him every time.
“I love you,” she says.
He smiles and looks at her. “Same.”
She knows he doesn’t mean it to upset her, but she hates it when he says that instead of actually saying that he loves her. She cringes at the sound of the word.
Crystal shakes it off.
“So, how long till she’s here?” she asks and looks at her watch.
“Shouldn’t be long now,” he says. “It says on the screen that the plane has landed, then she just has to go through customs.”
Crystal nods, not knowing much about what it is like for foreigners to get into the U.S. Rob has told her it can take anything from half an hour to two or maybe even three hours to go through customs.
His mother is flying in from Romania. Crystal doesn’t speak any Romanian and Rob has told her his mother doesn’t speak English, except for what little she has learned from watching American shows and movies on TV.
As a flock of tourists passes them, she suddenly feels nervous about meeting this woman. How is she supposed to communicate with her?
She’s seventy-nine and can hardly walk. How hard can it be to have her visit? She’ll probably just sit in a chair most of the time. How bad can it be?
“I see her!”
Rob rises to his feet and waves his Romanian flag that he brought for her to easily find them.
A wheelchair is being rolled out through the crowd and an old lady sitting in it, wearing a scarf over her hair, smiles widely and waves energetically. Crystal breathes a sigh of relief.
“She looks adorable.”
“That’s my mommy,” Rob says and stands on his tiptoes, tears springing to his eyes. “I ordered a wheelchair for her and I guess it makes it faster to go through customs.”
Crystal smiles happily and waves as the old woman is being pushed closer. She can feel her heart rate is up, but the woman looks so small and sweet, she can’t help but be overwhelmed by love for her right away.
“Aw, she’s so cute,” she says.
Rob sheds a tear, then kisses Crystal excitedly. “I can’t wait to spend the next four weeks with my two favorite women. I simply can’t wait.”
They speak very eagerly in Romanian in the car. Crystal doesn’t get a single word, but she does understand that they are very happy. It’s hard to miss. Rob keeps pointing at things, then speaking to his mother with great enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter that Crystal doesn’t understand what they’re saying. Their mutual happiness is enough to make her smile.
Rob stops the car in their driveway and runs out to open the door for his mother. Crystal gets out as well. Rob hands his mom her cane. Rob then points and speaks to her in Romanian. Crystal is guessing he is telling her that this is where we live. His mother smiles again and nods very happily, then exclaims:
“Yes, Momma, yes,” Rob says while pulling her suitcase out of the trunk. “That’s the beach. We live on the beach.”
“Cocoa Beach!” his mother exclaims, pronouncing it co-co-ah.
Rob nods again. “Yes, yes, Cocoa Beach.” He looks at Crystal, grinning from ear to ear. He is so happy. It’s cute. “Crystal and I love the beach.”
“Cryst-al,” his mother repeats.
Crystal smiles holding a hand on her chest. “Yes, Crystal.”
Rob’s mother puts a hand on her own chest. “Mommy.”
Rob is standing behind her, nodding. “She wants you to call her mommy.”
“Aw. That’s the sweetest thing.”
“Let me show you inside,” Rob says and repeats it in Romanian.
Crystal walks ahead and unlocks the door to their beach house. It’s actually Rob’s house. Crystal just moved in with him after they had been dating for five months, but she has put her personal touch on it, adding a lot to the décor along the way. Rob used to live there with his ex-wife and the woman had great taste, but even though she has put her own fingerprint to it, Crystal is still struggling to make it feel like her own home.
“Here we go,” Rob says and helps his mother inside the living room.
The room has huge windows with views of the beach and ocean from everywhere you look. It’s Crystal’s favorite room in the house and she can sit on the couch for hours just staring at the view. Sometimes, she spots a dolphin jumping out of the waves, but that’s rare.
“Ooh,” Rob’s mother exclaims when she sees the view. She nods and points then says something in Romanian that makes Rob laugh.
Crystal waits for him to translate for her, so she can laugh as well, but he doesn’t. He just grabs his mother by the arm and says:
“Come let me show you the kitchen. Kitchen. Bucătărie.”
“Ah, bucătărie,” she repeats, then lifts a finger in the air, addressed to Crystal. “Ve-ry important.”
Crystal lifts both her eyebrows. She’s a terrible cook. She hates to cook and it is usually Rob who does it or they order in. Crystal wonders if he has told his mother that she cooks or the woman just expects it because she is a woman. She is, after all, from a very different culture. The worst part is that Rob’s ex is an excellent cook. Suddenly, it makes Crystal feel inadequate.
Crystal nods along and repeats. “Yes, very important indeed.”
She walks behind her mother-in-law towards the kitchen, Rob leading the way. The old woman is walking very slowly, obviously strained by the pain in her knee. As they pass the dining room table, Crystal notices Rob’s mother using the cane to lift up one corner of the rug, then look down beneath it with a dissatisfied, Hmm, before she lets go of it again and walks on.
In the kitchen, Crystal addresses Rob while his mother looks around, opening cabinets.
“Did you see her check under the rug?”
“What do you mean?”
“She totally checked to see if I had cleaned the place properly.”
Rob scoffs. “She did not.”
“I’m telling you, she did. She saw all the sand underneath it and thought the place was dirty. She even grunted, dissatisfied.”
Rob gives her a look. “My mom’s here. She hasn’t been here in six years. Could we just enjoy it? Please?”
Crystal nods. She feels embarrassed. “Of course. I’m sorry.”
The next two days they hardly see much of Rob’s mother. She is hit hard by the jetlag and keeps mostly to herself in the guest bedroom, sleeping most of the day away. Every now and then, Crystal goes in there and checks on her, but she is sound asleep.
“She sure sleeps a lot,” Crystal says to Rob when he gets home from work after the second day of having her in the house.
“She’s old, Crystal. Old people sleep a lot. And she is on a different time schedule than us, you know because of the time difference and all. It’s day here when it is night there. There’s a seven-hour time difference. It takes time to get used to, especially when you’re her age.”
“Of course,” she says while putting the pasta in the boiling water. Yes, she is cooking. To impress her mother-in-law, she is cooking and now the old woman isn’t even there to see it. Crystal had hoped they would be able to chat a little, get to know each other while Rob was at work. But up until now, the old woman hasn’t even been up for long enough for them to bond. Crystal is a little disappointed but still hopes there will be time. She is here, after all, for four weeks.
“Is she still asleep?” Rob asks, tasting the sauce. He smiles widely. “This ain’t half bad.”
Crystal pushes him lovingly but takes the compliment.
“I’ll go check on her,” he says.
Crystal has just put the chicken in the sauce when the doorbell rings. She rushes to open the door, thinking it is probably the bikini she ordered from Amazon. Outside the door, she finds the neighbors, a couple in their mid-sixties who have bought their house as part of their retirement. They look upset.
“Hey, Coopers. What’s going on?” Crystal asks.
“We need to talk to you,” the husband, Steve, says.
Crystal steps aside and lets them in. “Sure.”
“Do you want something to drink? A glass of wine? Coffee? Water?” Crystal asks. “I am in the middle of making dinner.”
Steve shakes his head. His wife holds onto his arm, seeming almost like she is afraid. That is when Crystal notices that her eyes are avoiding hers. She wrinkles her forehead.
“What’s going on? Steve?”
“There was an incident…last night,” he says. It seems like he is searching for the right words to say, like he is afraid of offending her or something.
“What kind of incident?”
“Someone tried to get into our house. While we were asleep,” he says. “We woke up when someone was grabbing the door handle outside, trying to pull it open.”
Crystal clasps her mouth. “Oh, my God, Steve. That’s awful. Did you call the police?”
They exchange a glance. “Well…not yet.”
“Why not? If it were me, I’d make sure to call right away. This person might have been looking to break in, he might be looking for a place he could find cash or something to sell. They’d need to know.”
“Well…we didn’t because we wanted to talk to you about it first.”
Crystal hears steps behind her and soon Rob is standing next to her. “Steve. Marcia, hey. What’s going on?”
“Someone tried to get into their house last night,” Crystal says. “While they were asleep. Can you imagine?”
“Did you talk to the police?” Rob asks.
Crystal shakes her head in sympathy.
“No, we wanted to talk to you two first,” Steve says.
Rob and Crystal look at each other, then back at them. “Us? Why? We didn’t see anything last night, did we?” Rob asks.
Crystal shakes her head again. “Nope.”
“Well…because…we kind of know who it was.”
“What do you mean you know?” Crystal asks.
“Well…when this someone tried to enter the door, I pulled the curtain and spotted her as she ran out of the yard.”
“What do you mean, her?” Crystal asks.
Steve looks at Rob. “Your mother. We met her yesterday, remember? You introduced her to us in the driveway. It was her.”
“Well, at least we’re pretty sure it was,” Marcia says. “It looked like her. A lot.”
“It was her,” Steve says. “I saw her up close. You didn’t.” He looks at Rob. “Maybe she got lost or something?”
Rob wrinkles his nose, then shakes his head. “No, no. My mother was in her bed, sleeping last night. Besides, you said she ran? My mother just had surgery on her knee. She can’t even walk without her cane, let alone run.”
“It’s true,” Crystal says. “She is very slow and can hardly get around the house. I don’t think she would even be able to walk all the way over there. Rob has to help her just to get around.”
Steve changes his expression. He seems embarrassed as he nods. “Oh, well, okay then. I am kind of relieved to hear that.”
“Could it have been some homeless person, maybe?” Crystal says.
Marcia nods. “That’s probably what it was. There was this homeless guy a few weeks ago who slept on the beach not far from our house. It’s probably just him. I told Steve, but he was so sure it was your mother. I’m sorry.”
Rob shakes his head. “No problem at all.”
“We just thought maybe she sleepwalked or maybe she had taken a stroll and lost her way and thought our house was yours,” Steve says, laughing awkwardly. “Maybe she got confused or something.”
They look at each other, then prepare to leave. “Well, maybe we should…” Steve says.
“Thank you for showing concern,” Rob says as he opens the front door. It is beginning to smell burnt from the kitchen. Crystal hopes they’ll leave soon so she can get back to the dinner.
“Maybe we should go to the police, then,” Marcia says on her way out. She points a finger at Crystal. “Make sure you lock those doors at night, you hear me? This guy might be trying all the houses around here till he finds one that is empty and unlocked. Who knows?”
Crystal nods. “We will. Don’t worry.”
“And enjoy the rest of your mother’s visit,” Steve says on the way down the stairs outside.
“Oh, I will,” Rob yells after them. “I sure will.”
He closes the door, then laughs. “Can you believe those guys? Thinking my mother tried to break into their house at night. Tsk.”
sp; “I know,” Crystal says with a laugh, circling a finger at her temple. “Cra-a-zy.”
Another two days passes and Crystal is beginning to feel like things are going pretty well with her future mother-in-law. Crystal, for one, is doing her part. She wants to impress her, wants her to like her, so she goes out of her way to cook for her and clean the house and put out fresh flowers on the dining room table to make the place look really nice. She even vacuums underneath the rug.
Crystal feels like Rob’s mother enjoys being there. She doesn’t sleep as much anymore, only a nap in the middle of the day, and otherwise, she just walks around, looking at things with impressed moaning, or sitting in a chair outside on the porch watching the ocean or the people on the beach. She seems to enjoy it and, to Crystal’s pleasure, she seems to enjoy her company too.
They don’t talk much, for obvious reasons, but Crystal speaks to her anyway and Rob’s mother nods and smiles politely, her eyes narrowing in her round face, making her look cute and adorable. She tries really hard to seem like she understands, but Crystal senses she really doesn’t get much. Their conversations pretty much boil down to Crystal talking about this and that and the old woman nodding going, “Yes, yes,” and then pointing at the ocean, exclaiming happily, “Beach.”
She seems to like the beach a lot.
“Do you want some lunch?” Crystal asks out the open window, where Rob’s mother is sitting in the shade. Crystal is preparing a sandwich for herself and wonders if Rob’s mother would like one.