The summer before I graduated college, I lived in Atlanta with Leslie. At her suggestion, I secured a position with a family planning program affiliated with Emory University. Then I packed up my car and drove south for the summer.
For the most part, Leslie and I got along really well. It didn’t matter that we were sharing a double bed bedecked with Laura Ashley floral sheets. It didn’t matter that she liked to spend her nights dancing in the VIP section at Tongue and Groove while I preferred strolling the aisles of Barnes & Noble. We always came together for poolside sunbathing on Saturday or a bagel brunch on Sunday.
“Get out of the car!” I instructed as I pulled up to the curb outside of the apartment complex.
“I thought we were going to dinner?” Leslie asked from the passenger seat.
We were. The plan was to head over to Roasters on Lenox Road for some chicken and macaroni and cheese.
“Get out!” This time I was almost yelling.
“Fine,” she said with a huff.
Leslie opened the door and got out. But before slamming it closed, she leaned into the car and said, “You’re acting just like Mom.” Then she flung the door shut and stomped off toward the apartment building.
From childhood, I have resembled my mother. The slight bump on my nose is just like hers. Our faces have the same shape. We also both adore Paris, can eat grated Reggiano Parmesan by the forkfuls, and know every word to any Celine Dion song released before 2000. In other words, it wasn’t shocking that I would act like her. What was shocking, what stung the most when Leslie pointed this out, was that I was like her in the bad ways too. I was emotional, irrational and unreasonable.
To this day, I have no recollection of what I was angry about. No matter how often I revisit that memory, I can’t remember what it was that had me so upset. Which ultimately means it was something stupid and childish. What it means is that Leslie’s accusation was spot on.
“I’m so sorry,” the Southwest representative said as she tapped on her keyboard.
“It isn’t your fault,” I noted, leaning against the counter and looking around the empty terminal.
“No, but you still must be frustrated.”
“Eh, worse things have happened than getting stranded in Denver.”
“I’m still sorry.”
“Unless your name is Irene and you’re a Cat 3 hurricane, you don’t need to apologize.”
The woman looked up. She scrunched her nose and then told me that Tuesday was the best she could do. I’d have to fly to Tampa first, linger there for three hours and then, then I would finally be Philadelphia bound. When she finished, she raised her shoulders toward her ears and waited for the backlash.
“Well, that’s better than Wednesday! Thanks for working your magic.”
She exhaled. Then she smiled and thanked me for being understanding. But on the inside, I knew she was thanking me for not being my mom, a woman who would have complained loudly, wagged her finger and demanded the moon and sun swap positions in the sky. On the inside, I knew the representative was thankful that I had been reasonable and calm. And in that moment, I was thankful too.