I called my son in Dublin to find out how his French oral exam went.
When he answered the phone he was crying. I said, why are you crying?
He replied, onion, I'm chopping onions, making your butterbean and chorizo stew. Be sure to add a quarter teaspoon of vegan stock, I said and don't forget a tad of sugar to counteract the tomatoes.
Now why am I calling you, I said, surely not to talk stew. How was the oral, I asked.
Terrible, he said.
Why, I said.
It was to do with the ageing population in France, he said. It entailed a cartoon of an elderly couple at a disco.
My god, I said. Mon Dieu, I said. Pardons, I said. C'est incroyable.
I know, he said.
I said, I mean how many elderly couples go to discos in France, anywhere for that matter.
I can't figure that one, he said.
Then I said, is it sunny in Dublin. He said, it was showery all day but now it's sunny.
I said, same here.
He said, I still don't get it Mom, about the elderly couple in a disco.
I said, why don't you forget about it, it's not the end of the world. You are good at statistics and all the economic stuff, that I'm no good at.
He said nothing. I told him to make sure to allow the stew to stew and then we hung up.
I met a woman today. Highly educated. Smart and nice and kind and full of life and she told me that maybe she would not like her friends to see her washing dishes in a restaurant. Maybe she felt ashamed of that. I said this- that I was in a car wash queue one day with one of my sons. We were the next in line and I watched the car wash guy wash the car ahead of me. His clothes were soaking wet yet he washed the car with a passion that was enviable. I remember saying, see that man, watch how he works, he is washing cars and he is doing it like he will never do another better, more prestigious job in his life. I said to my son, if you ever do anything in life do it like this man and you will be happy.
Beetroot seedlings take their time. I go down to watch the tiny purple sproutings like they are my babies and I count the days when I can harvest the fruits of my tiny patch. But such is life. Time will tell. Crying over onions and exams and watching people wash cars and listening to fears of what makes our lives invaluable and valuable all fall into one day and I see my son now, in his little city flat, placing a bowl of food on his small table, thinking it must taste like home, convincing himself that it does and forming sentences in French, over and over in his mouth, like soft heather bloom ready to be picked. Ripe for harvesting.