We drove up to Arlington to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and my sister.
Every morning I accompanied the titular mayor of Arlington, aka my mother, on her daily walkabout to greet her subjects and to survey her lands. My father wordlessly walked behind my mother and me as we slowly made our way around the block. Every now and then my mother would use her cane to clear the sidewalk of errant twigs or to nudge newspapers a little closer to the houses to which they had been delivered. As we walked, she would tell me the life history of her peoples in astonishing detail.
“This man is a surveyor,” she said, brandishing her cane towards one of the little brick ranchers. She sighed and continued, “But he’s getting old. His yard used to be really nice when his girlfriend lived here. She’d always be outside weeding or planting flowers…But she left him because he refused to marry her.”
“And these people finally fixed their roof after a tree fell into it…It took them months to fix it and as soon as they did, they sold it and moved to Florida. It was on the market for less than a week and sold for over $700,000.”
“I see these people have weeded their garden. It was such a mess. It looks much better now.”
She stopped to gesture with her cane toward a shrub in front of another house.
“Do you know what that shrub is?” she asked me.
“The one with white flowers that’s right next to that house?”
“I think that’s a camellia.”
“A camellia? Well, it doesn’t have any scent,” she said with a distinct note of disapproval.
“You mean, you walked all the way up to the end of a stranger’s driveway to smell their shrub?” I asked.
“Why not?” she replied with regal nonchalance as she continued to process down the sidewalk.
We moved further along and she said, “There used to be a huge tree right here. They cut it down, which is good, because the branches were hanging right over their roof.” As she spoke, the man whose house we had stopped in front of happened to walk past his storm door. He glanced at my mother and politely waved. Taking this to be a request for an audience, she obligingly turned around and started making her way up his walkway, thereby forcing him to come out of his house to meet her.
“I see you cut down this tree. How much did it cost to do that?”
I turned back to exchange a rueful smile with my father as I was sure he would be writhing in embarrassment, but he had vanished. All I could see were the jet trails he left as he scurried back to his own house without so much as a goodbye.