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For the First Time
“Mom! Where’s my Ipod?”
Amy is desperately rooting through the mound of coats precariously perched on the desk chair.
Mom is stirring a bowl of egg salad, her spoon nearly catapulting the bits of egg out onto the floor with its violence. “For the hundredth time Amy, I don’t know! Ask your sister.”
“Liza!” Amy bellows up the stairs. “Liza! Liza! Liza! Li-”
“What?” Liza comes out of her room, her hair frazzled from running her left hand through it.
Amy looks startled that her sister had come so quickly. The shock doesn’t last long. “Where’s my Ipod?”
Liza sighs. “It’s in the car.”
“Can you go get it for me?”
“Why do you even need that thing?” Mom calls from the kitchen. “This is a family trip, why don’t you actually talk to your family?”
“Because Moooom,” Liza drags out the last syllable as long as her breath lasts. “You guys only talk about boring stuff.”
Liza starts walking towards the front door and peeks into the kitchen; her mom has assumed The Battle Stance. Hands cocked on hips, lips sucking on an invisible lemon, eyebrows drawn down in sharp inclines.
“The news is not boring, it’s important. And if you had started to pay attention to what was going on in our country instead of wasting your time on face book, your grades might actually-”
“I’m going to put the beach blankets in the car.” Liza mumbles.
She steps into the mudroom and picks up the brightly colored blankets. Stepping out the front door she looks down and sees a magazine and a newspaper on the front step. The cover of the magazine has the twin towers reflected on the Hudson while the New York skyline boasts two blaring holes. The newspaper has a picture of mourners.
“This is all your fault.” She whispers.
Liza walks around to the back of the Oldsmobile, pops the trunk, and slides the blankets in next to a picnic basket. She grabs the dented, silver first generation Ipod. By then, Mom and Amy have come out, both silently fuming. Liza hands the electronic to Amy as she stomps by. Amy throws herself into the back-seat-turned-disaster and pops her headphones into her ears. Mom takes a deep breath and gently puts the egg salad in the trunk. She walks around, sees Amy listening to some loud rap song, then gets in the drivers side and jams the key into the ignition hard enough that Liza is surprised that the dashboard doesn’t crack.
“Liza, could you pull the Garmin out and type in Crane’s Beach please?”
Liza pulls it out of the glove compartment and slides the switch over to “On”. The screen says, “loading, loading, loading, loading…” until Liza smacks it onto the dashboard and with a beep, it proceeds to the menu.
Liza had started typing when mom starts to speak.
Liza interrupts, “It wasn’t loading again.”
Mom nods and pulls out of the driveway.
After twenty minutes of silence Mom says, “Where the heck is this thing taking us?”
Liza pulls her forehead away from the windshield and look at the tiny screen.
“It’s trying to take us to I-95 and we need I-90.” Mom says and she takes the next exit, leading the car away from the suburbs and onto the freeway.
They had been driving for two hours. Mom and Liza had made some small talk while Amy pretended that no one was in the car except herself.
“Hey Mom,” Liza is hesitant to break the peace. “I think we took a wrong turn somewhere.
“No we’re on the right high way, I think… there’s a gas station at the next exit. I’ll ask for directions there.”
“Jeez Mom, can’t even drive a car right.” Amy mutters. Mom ignores the comment.
She pulls into the parking lot and leaves to go find an attendant. A few minutes later she is stomping towards the car, wrenches open the door, and slams it shut.
“Sh@#! Sh@#! Sh@#!” With each swear she slams her hands against the steering wheel.
“We should have taken I-95. Now we’re in the middle of nowhere western Mass. It’ll take us at least an hour to get back home” Mom turns the key in the ignition. “I’m sorry girls, we’ll try and make it to the beach next week end.”
“No we won’t.” Amy mutters. “You’ll plan something else that you can’t miss or you’ll totally forget about the beach. Jesus, you can barely remember how to be a decent parent let alone to take us to the beach!” By the end of her rant Amy is shouting.
Mom drops the car key and whips around in her seat. “What do you want me to do Amy? Do you want me to drop everything to pick you up after school? Well that isn’t going to happen if you guys don’t want to live off of unemployment!”
“We do live off of unemployment! You’ve been jobless for months and all you do all day is sit at the computer begging people to hire you! So yes, I would like it if you dropped everything to pick me up when it’s raining instead of making me walk two miles!” Amy shouts.
“You have no idea how hard I am working to get a job and if your father was here he would have never put up with your-”
“If Dad was here we wouldn’t have to redeem bottles at Stop and Shop for the extra cash!”
“Dad’s dead!” Liza yells.
Mom turns back around, bends down to grab the key, and starts the car again. Amy hides behind the screen of her Ipod and furiously wipes the tears from her eyes.
Liza turns on the radio for a distraction.
She's all laid up in bed with a broken heart,
Liza remembers exactly what happened when Mom saw that the towers had crashed. She remembers Mom running around calling anyone, everyone, trying to see if Dad had actually gotten on his plane. She remembers Mom curling up on the bed like a broken doll.
While I'm drinking jack all alone in my local bar,
Amy remembers Liza’s depression. She remembers finding the two twisted hairpins in the lock on Mom’s liquor cabinet. She remembers seeing Liza unconscious on the floor and the flash of red and blue lights and the smell of bleach.
And we don't know how,
How we got in to this mad situation,
Only doing things out frustration,
Trying to make it work but man these times are hard,
She needs me now but I can't seem to find a time,
Mom remembers how desperately Amy had clung to her when they were waiting for Liza to be released from the emergency room. She barely remembers when Amy had gone up and hugged her while she hunted for a job online. She can’t remember when exactly Amy stopped talking to her
I've got a new job now on the unemployment line,
And we don't know how,
How we got into this mess is it gods test,
Someone help us cause we're doing our best,
Trying to make it work but man these times are hard
Mom rolls down the windows as the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. Liza turns the radio up slightly until Amy unplugs her headphones to hear what’s going on.
But we both know how,
How we're gonna make it work when it hurts,
When you pick yourself up,
Amy starts singing.
You get kicked to the dirt,
Mom joins in.
Trying to make it work but,
Man these times are hard,
Liza starts singing for the first time since she quit chorus in 2002.
Sit talking up all night,
Doing things we haven't for a while,
A while ya,
Mom tries to remember the last time they had gone on a family trip and can’t
We're smiling but we're close to tears,
Amy gives a chocked laugh while her eyes shine.
Even after all these years,
We just now got the feeling that we're meeting for the first time.
Everyone belts out the oooo’s. Liza is just as loud as Amy and Mom and Amy hasn’t commented on how off-key everyone is. When the song finishes everyone laughs. After a few minutes Amy says, “I didn’t mean what I said Mom.”
Mom smiles and reaches back to grab Amy’s hand. “It’s alright. I shouldn’t have lost my temper.” Mom lets go of Amy’s hand to reach forward and give Liza a one-armed hug.
“At least we got to explore more of Massachusetts.” Liza says and after a stunned pause Mom and Amy laugh at the joke.
Liza is depressed, Amy feels isolated, and Mom is unemployed. Some how, despite that, in that moment they all could see a future for the first time.