you smell the same. it has been two months since i saw you, and there are new streaks of grey in your hair, deeper smile lines around your eyes. small changes.
our conversation is the same: you worry that i am getting too thin, and i ask you if you’ve been sleeping enough. you tell me i should transfer to a university closer to home, that now you’ve got me back there’s no way you’re letting me go again.
i lie on the sofa under the quilt you made for my tenth birthday, watch you as you sew, humming motown under your breath. i know the strength of those hands.
(those hands that held me when i was too small to understand that i had the flu, when i went too high on the swings and fell off, when everyone told me i was too boring to be friends with, when my future was overwhelming and uncertain and i was too afraid to face it on my own.)
there is a picture of you on the mantelpiece from when you were nineteen.
you are wearing a red dress (the picture is black and white, but my dad, who took the photo, says it was red) and pearls in your ears. you are laughing at something and your face is glowing with it, every part of your body is laughing.
sometimes you look at it and say i used to be beautiful. you still are, we tell you, but you don’t listen. we wish you would.
you pick up the phone. hello darling. are you alright? i’m fine, i tell you, just wanted to know how your day has been.
you chatter for ten minutes about the latest episode of the archers, ask me what i think you should make for dinner tonight. nothing special, but it’s enough:
sometimes it just takes listening to your voice to make things that little bit easier to bear.
we go for coffee. you tell me you still think of me as a thirteen-year-old with holes in her jeans and awful taste in music. you don’t feel old enough to have a daughter who will turn twenty on her next birthday.
you ask me where i learned to be a woman. from you, i say.