A Quarrel, Between the Present and the Past
The woman at the table beside me is fairly old. I'd peg her for mid to late eighties, though in the the new millennium, one can hardly tell. Some people seem elderly at sixty-five and some are vital and young as they approach a century. I only guess her age thus because she's sitting with a sixty-something woman with all the trappings of an aging baby boomer who keeps calling her 'Mom.'*
The younger woman is sensibly dressed in a style quite fashionable and appropriate to her age. She has a short-chopped hairstyle that is business-presentable but will morph into old-lady-puff inside of a decade. She has all the speech patterns, mannerisms, posture and bearings of level-headedness and passing authority. It's easy to imagine her as a department administrator, a case supervisor or an assistant principal; she's someone's boss, but no one important. She's been nursing the same glass of white wine for more than an hour now.
The mother, though, is something else entirely. Gruff in manner, abrupt in mannerism, she sports a beaten up mens' work shirt, loudly-colored sneakers and she curses constantly. She's dyed her hair dark and wears it long despite her obvious sheaves of years. She entered with a banjo slung over her shoulder and, from hearing her talk, she's in a bluegrass band and has been for most of her life. She's something of a rascal and it's hard to imagine her as anything sensible at all. She's finished four Amstels since arriving.
Though with affection, the younger woman treats her mother with some obvious distance and more than a little impatience as if she were senile, which she clearly is not, or perhaps an unruly child that has chosen to behave for an afternoon. The mother chafes at her daughters admonition. They see eye to eye on nothing at all and are used to this immutability.
I am forced to wonder how one such woman could produce another that is so clearly different. Perhaps the daughter was raised by her father or by her grandparents. Maybe being straight-laced and professionally sensible is a daughter's way of rebelling against a libertine mother. She could be adopted.
I have heard that we are all doomed to become our parents but, in this case at least, that is not the case.
*This particular utterance, "mom," though I've been hearing it all my life, has always sounded a bit awkward to me. Having spend my earliest years in England, I call my mother "Mum," despite having lost all the other apprehensions of an English accent. My American relatives never called my maternal grandmother, the Matriarch of that side of the family, 'mom' either. She was always "Ma" to her four children. To me, "mom" is an alien word spoken by others to others.