My Mother Was a Girl
By Sheldon Kranz
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 Shaw.
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
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 window.
"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 mother.
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. Really--."
He kept staring at her, hardly hearing what she said.
"Do you ever think about Cleveland?" He hadn't planned to ask it so
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 you ask?"
"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
"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 laughed awkwardly.
"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
"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
"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 again."
"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 ago."
"And I'd like to hear more about Cleveland."
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
"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
"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 know.
"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.