Better than dreaming

October 17, 2008

They say that after death people live on in others’ dreams. But I rarely dream about my mother, dead for five years. I much prefer how she materialized last month at my forty-year high school reunion in Winter Park, Florida.

Several friends told me how much they liked my mother. Who could blame them? She swore a lot, was intensely curious about their love lives, and freely dispensed advice on how to attract girls. By the time we were seniors, she let us throw back a beer or two. Better than driving around town and drinking, she’d say.

One friend at the reunion, Bob, told a story about her that I’d never heard. My house was a gathering spot, mostly because it was on a lake and surrounded by orange groves and had a side yard big enough for football games. One evening my mom wanted to know how we bought beer, given our underage status.

Bob explained how he slicked back his hair to look older and made his purchases at the dimly lit drive-thru window of a package store in Maitland, where I lived. Prove it, she said, hopped into his 1950 Chevy and rode with him to the Linc-Inn. They returned with beer in hand.

She must have been giddy, basking in ribbing from my friends. How did I miss this gem all these years? Now that I have the basic story, I fill in the images flickering past. I see my mom in that Chevy, looking over at Bob and his temporary greaser hair as if she’s back in high school at thirty-seven. Her signature sly grin emerges.

As I freeze that frame, a feeling flutters past and away. Is it mine or hers?