Mother Was a Girl
Part 5, conclusion
Robert watched him walk away.
Then he slowly crossed the street to where his car was parked. Mr.
Howitt liked him. Things were working out well. May would be pleased.
"Josie had a tough time. Tell Josie Davenport I'll call her tomorrow."
The girl who was such fun and who wanted to leave home.
Robert drove automatically through
the busy streets thinking about his mother. He should stop and
call May to tell her about the lunch and the coincidence of Mr. Howitt
coming from Cleveland. But instead he turned the car west, and drove
towards his mother's house. He wanted to see Josephine Davenport
His mother looked surprised when
she opened the door. Then frightened.
"Is something wrong?" she asked
quickly. "Is someone sick?" She was wearing a brown knitted suit Robert
had never noticed before that accentuated the slope of her narrow
shoulders. Otherwise she looked the same.
"Everything's all right," he said,
"I was in the neighborhood, so I dropped in."
He saw her face grow suspicious,
but he ignored it and walked into the apartment. The radio was on, and
there was a skirt she had been sewing on the table near the
"You're all dressed up," she said,
following him into the living room. The edge in her voice told him she
remembered last night.
"I had lunch with an important
customer." He thought of Josie Davenport, and he stared at his
She had seated herself in the gray
overstuffed chair, with her hands folded formally in her lap, waiting.
It was the same thin, determined face with the deep, sad lines, and the
neat gray hair.
"Well, are you over your temper?"
she asked. "Such a performance. I'm glad no one was around to see it.
He kept staring at her, hardly
hearing what she said.
"Do you ever think about
Cleveland?" He hadn't planned to ask it so abruptly.
She looked at him, startled.
"I mean, do you ever think about
your family and before you were married?"
"What a question," she said, and
smiled uncertainly. "I guess so. Sometimes." She looked at him. "Why do
"I met someone you and Uncle Jess
used to know." His voice made it sound almost like an accusation.
"Used to know? Who?"
"Walter Howitt. He says he and
Jess graduated high school together. And he knew you both in
Cleveland." He watched his mother's face.
"Walter Howitt?" she said slowly.
Then her voice rose to a thin scream. "Wally Howitt! You met Wally
Howitt? Where?" Her eyes were wide open.
It was true then. She was Josie
Davenport. Somewhere Josie Davenport still existed.
"He's the man I had lunch with,"
Robert said slowly. "He's going to call you tomorrow. He wants to see
you again." Then he said irritably, "Why didn't you ever talk about
Cleveland? I didn't know any of the things he told me."
"Wally Howitt," his mother said.
"I haven't seen him in years. Oh, I wish Jess could be here.
What does he look like? I remember he always was too short. But
he was a very nice boy with brown wavy hair. And he was smart. I'll bet
he's successful today."
"Very," Robert said. "But he's
lost all his hair. He said you were very lively. Lots of fun." He
"I was," his mother said quickly.
"I was! Her voice rang through the room, and for a moment Robert caught
a glimpse of Josie Davenport. He looked away bewildered.
"Mr. Howitt said you had a big
fight with your family. You've never talked about any of that."
His mother was silent for a
minute. " I haven't thought about it in years," she said
slowly. "I don't suppose anyone else has either. It was a very long
time ago." Neither of them looked at each other.
Robert thought of all the time
going back to Cleveland. He had an overwhelming sense of all those
years filled with so many feelings, and he had never even thought about
them before. What had happened to that girl and all those
"Are you hungry?" his mother
asked, and Josie Davenport disappeared abruptly. "I've got coffee on
the stove. Have some coffee and cake."
"No, thanks," he said. "I just had
a big lunch. Why did you want to leave your family?"
"You've never asked so many
questions before," his mother said briskly. "Ask Jess, he remembers
those things better than I do. Are you sure you don't want coffee?" But
her voice didn't insist as it usually did.
He shook his head. Neither of them
spoke for a minute.
"Mr. Howitt said he'll call
tomorrow, " Robert said. "I guess it will be exciting seeing him
"Yes," she said. "But I'm afraid
I'll look very different to him."
"I'd like to hear about the visit
after you see him," Robert said gently.
She looked at him. "Would you?
Well, there may not be so much to tell. We all knew each other so long
"And I'd like to hear more about
Robert looked nervously at his
watch and stood up to go. "I've got to go. It's getting late."
His mother got up, and they stood
there looking at each other.
"Give my love to May."
"Yes, sure," Robert said.
"And watch how you drive in
traffic. I'm always worried about you driving in traffic."
"Sure," Robert said. He didn't
quite know how to leave. "And remember to call me after you see Mr.
Howitt. He was in Cleveland recently, you know."
"Cleveland," his mother said. "I
dream sometimes about the house we used to live in there. I wonder if
Wally Howitt remembers it." She looked at Robert as if he might
"I'm sure he does," he said.
"Well, so long."
His mother didn't answer. He
waited a moment.
"Well, so long," he said again.
And when he left, he closed the front door quietly behind him.