Speaking Latin

Boy was making the kind of noise you make when you’re trying to be quiet.

I looked over at the alarm clock that’s sitting on my bedside table, the one that matches nothing I own. I hold on to it because I’ve had it since I was 19, it still works, and I’m sentimental like that. The clock reads 6:05 am. (I’m famously late for everything, so a long time ago I started setting my clock 15 minutes fast. I don’t know why I do that. I know it’s 15 minutes fast, so I just hit snooze twice every morning… But I digress.)

“Why are you just getting in?” I call out to him.

“I got you something,” he says.

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

He’s now standing in front of me, holding something. “Because it’s Mother’s Day and Dog’s birthday, do you want to go to IKEA later? You like IKEA.”

Yes, I do like IKEA. I like IKEA very much. They’ve just opened one in downtown Tampa. I’d already promised I’d go with Karli next weekend, but Boy likes IKEA, too… “Sure, Honey, that would be nice.”

“Do you want to get a cake for Dog for his birthday?” he asks.

“I’ll bake him one this afternoon.”

He puts flowers and a card next to my alarm clock, and then he says the words that are music to my ears, “I’ll walk Dog. Why don’t you sleep in?”

Two hours later, I wake up, head downstairs and start the coffee. I pick up the house phone and call my mom. My youngest sister answers. She’s sixteen. “Hey! Let me talk to Mom.”

My mother picks up on the other line, “Hel-lo.”

“Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Oh, I’d forgotten that was today,” she says.

“Me, too, so don’t look for a card.”

She’s got a busy day ahead. She’s heading over to her mother’s later. My cousin is coming over from Brandon with the babies for a visit.

“See?” I tell her. “That probably should have been our first clue that it’s Mother’s Day.”

My father’s coming into the country next week, and she’s got to get the house ready. She’s got to go to graduation next Saturday. My mother teaches Latin at a private Episcopal school. So, we plan for me to head over next Sunday for a day trip.

Then she tells me my youngest sister is heading off for camp in Vermont next month, and she’ll be at the house packing up for their move at the end of July.

“Ooh, I can come over and help you pack. We never get to spend time when it’s just the two of us,” I say.

“I know, we can spend some time on the beach or go on a gambling ship for the day,” she suggests. The gambling ship is my grandmother’s influence.

“I really don’t like big boats, Mom. How about we just rent a sailboat and play gin rummy?”

My mother retired from Federal law enforcement when she was still very young. She’d spent her twenties and most of her thirties raising three daughters by herself and playing with guns, going on stakeouts, and putting bad guys behind bars. I’m not sure which was the tougher job.

Sometime in my teens, she married her longtime boyfriend, had another daughter, and then she went to Ole Miss to finish her degree in Classics. For her degree, she needed a language and decided to concentrate on Latin instead of Greek because she reasoned she wouldn’t have to get up and do any oral presentations if she learned a dead language. See? That’s where I get my dislike of public speaking.

Mom always went against the grain. She did the things she wasn’t supposed to be able to do. When I was growing up, it wasn’t common, or really even acceptable by the standards of the day, to be a single mother. But my Mom did it. And she worked her way up the ladder, going from secretary to agent without a college degree and in a male-dominated field. And I have to say that if she’d been called upon to give an oral presentation of the history of Rome entirely in Latin, she could have done that, too.

My Dad tells me I’m a lot like my mother. She and I don’t really see it. Of my sisters, I think Julia’s the one who is most like her. But if I am anything like her, I count myself as blessed. I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do.

Okay, now I’ve got to go whip up a Dog friendly cake… I’m thinking banana cake with a peanut butter frosting. Not that it makes a difference. There’s really not any kind of cake that’s not friendly to Dog.

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