I'm working on my next novel at Starbucks, sitting in a comfy chair, typing my manuscript as I sip my latte. Sharing the leather sofa across from me are three women, and I can't take my eyes off them. My best guess is that they're two middle-aged daughters sitting on either side of their elderly mother. They're speaking in a foreign language--a Middle Eastern language, I think, although I can't hear them well. The two younger women look very American. It's the elderly woman who caught my attention as soon as she sat down. Her face is incredibly lined. I've never seen so many crinkles and wrinkles in one place, and she's absolutely beautiful. I wish I could take a picture of her to share with you. She's tiny, and she's wearing a little beige hat that looks hand-knit. On the side of the hat is a small, floppy, coral-colored flower. I think she's figured out I'm staring at her, so I'll try to stop, even though her face is like a magnet for my eyes. I want her in a story. Maybe in the book I'm writing. I want to get up and hug her.
The younger women, soft mirrors of their mother, have a few lines on their faces too. They clearly love their mother. They're talking non-stop and seem to be explaining something, using their hands to help in their descriptions. The older woman doesn't say much. She nods and says "oh" from time to time, a tiny smile on her face as she sips from her Starbucks cup--which somehow looks incongruous in her hands. Her hands are not nearly as wrinkled as her face, and I notice she's wearing identical rings on the ring finger of each hand. Each gold ring holds a single pearl in a large, round beaded setting, and I wish I knew the significance of wearing the identical rings.
Have I mentioned how beautiful she is?
The younger women are oblivious to me, but the old one is not. I feel her eyes on me and wonder who or what she sees in me. A third daughter? One who's missing? I glance at her one more time and suddenly understand my attraction to her. In her face, I see both of my grandmothers, long gone. I see my mother, who never looked this old, although she lived to be eighty-eight. I see all of them in her, and feel the pull.
It's time to leave. I turn off my Alphasmart and slip it, along with my notecards and synopsis, into my carry-all. I get up and walk past the leather sofa, but impulsively turn back and step in front of the women.
"I'm sorry I've been staring at you," I say to the elderly woman, not knowing if she understands me or not. "It's just that I think you're very beautiful."
The younger women smile and translate for their mother, who laughs and says "thank you." One of the women says, "She's our mother," with more pride in her voice than those three little words can possibly hold.
I'm a little weepy by the time I reach my car. I want to take my mom to Starbucks. If you're still lucky enough to have a mother or a grandmother, will you do that for me, please? You'll make my day--and hers as well, I bet.
ps. the beautiful woman in the picture is my Grandma Chamberlain on her 95th birthday.