Two Weeks Ago

Two weekends ago, I drove back to my hometown to visit my mom. I had had a day off, which had given my a lovely, three-day weekend to enjoy at home. The days, however, went by far too quickly, and my time at home made it twice, four, a dozen, a hundred, a thousand times harder to return to work. I barely thought of my job as I put together rings, made necklaces and organized puzzle pieces. InDesign and column-width and headlines and bylines were not on my mind as we watched "Cupcake Wars," "Chopped," "Four Weddings." I touched newspapers for only an hour, for only a moment of one day, during which I considered design elements.

It was wonderful.

The highlight of the weekend was a trip to Omaha, where mom and I visited the Durham Museum. It's a landmark of Omaha, the Durham, and--along with the Joslyn Art Museum--is a fine example of art deco architecture. The Durham was once Omaha's main station for the Union Pacific (whose headquarters are in Omaha), and was opened to the public in 1931. However, as other forms of travel become more popular, the station lost money ... and traffic. Now, what was once the Union Station, is now a museum dedicated to preserving the history of Omaha, as well as its surrounding regions.

The museum, which used to usher in the most lavish of railroad travel, still exudes some of its vintage glory. Each year, for example, the museum displays an over-sized tree in the passenger area; Omaha's own Rockefeller Center.

In addition to its outstanding and interesting locomotive displays (and, yes, you can stroll through all of the cars), there are many traveling exhibits.

The current visiting exhibit is a costume collection called Cut! Costume and the Cinema. The exhibit features 43 period costumes from 27 movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Duchess, Ever After, Finding Neverland and The Prestige. It was interesting to see that I am taller than Johnny Depp, and that his captain's hat appeared to be made from a thick felt, rather than a crisp leather I had always imagined it to be. I was stunned by the thin hips and narrow waist of nearly every actress, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman included. I saw that, yes, Nicole Kidman is that tall. I admired heavy, unbelievably detailed gowns from The Duchess, smiled at the small seams around the busts.

"Hey, mom," I whispered, pointing at a dress. "Keira Knightley wore this. Ha! Remember that, for Pirates, she had to have to cleavage painted on?"

We continued about the costumes, admiring stitches, seams, beading. Maggie Smith. Daniel Craig. Phantom of the Opera. Sherlock Holmes. Sandra Bullock. Casanova.

"Mom," I said quietly, pointing at one. "This was Heath Ledger's." We looked at it a bit more carefully, took in the shapely calves and broad shoulders. A moderate height; a bit taller than me.

Mom shook her head. "Too soon," she said.

I nodded. "I just want to give this mannequin a hug."

Overall, I can tell you that Daniel Craig is actually quite small, and that my shoulders may actually be wider than his. I can tell you that actresses really are freakishly skinny, and that even the more "normal" ones (read: Winslet) seem a hundred times smaller than the average woman. I can tell you that things will surprise you--that a person's height (or lack thereof) will make you realize that a celebrity is no larger than life than you are. I can tell you that some are made with intricate detail and that others (including Captain Jack Sparrow's outfit) is not as intriguing as you believed it would be. I can tell that I am roughly the same size as Angelica Houston was in 1998 (a compliment? a bad thing? You tell me).

Back at home, we puzzled. We walked in the snow. We laughed. We joked about opening a vintage store, an ice cream store, a piano store, a cat store. We discussed names for each of the venues, threw out words and ideas and thoughts in a melee of sarcasm and seriousness.

Mom made it hard to leave.

She didn't drag me from my car and back into the house. She didn't beg to me stay. She didn't ask me to quit my job and take care of her and keep her company.

She just gave me a hug.

I could hear it in her voice. I could feel it in her fingers, in her hands; hands broken and bent, callused and scarred from years of hard work, hard life. Despite wishing me a safe trip and a good evening at work, I knew she didn't want me to leave. It wasn't because she was lonely, because she was afraid of becoming a desperate empty-nester. It was because she sensed my dread; in her protective nature, she wanted to keep me from unhappiness.

I just hugged her back, kissed her goodbye on the cheek. "I had a wonderful time at home, mom. Thank you for everything. I loved the museum, the puzzle, the television. Very relaxing, very worth it. Thank you. You did everything I could've possibly imagined, and then some. I love you."

My last glimpse of her was after I had backed the car out of the driveway. I paused in the street, shifted into overdrive. I glanced at mom, who, clad in her blue, puffy winter coat, had walked to the front sidewalk. "I love you," she signed with her right hand. I held my left up the window in a matching gesture. "Goodbye," I mouthed, putting my hand back on the wheel on preparing myself for a long drive. A drive to another city, another place known for its trains.


  1. this is wonderfully, emotively written. I'm glad you had the time to relax with your Mum, and I'm sorry that it had to end.


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