It was never supposed to happen, and looking back, I often wonder if I only imagined it. But my mother died last week and I found her journals, including the one for the summer of 1955…
We lived in Boston, outside Boston, really, now all part of the city, it used to be a neighborhood. The house was brick, sharing walls, row houses. We moved there just after I graduated high school, July 1955, a hot, humid summer. I was at a funny age, not really independent, but wanting to be. I was 18, starting at State University in the fall, but still living at home.
I was shy, and not willing to admit that I was scared. I would be the first one in our family to go to college. I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want to meet anybody. As much as my mother tried to get me out, I preferred to stay in. I loved the tiny back yard and spent most of my time watering plants and playing with the hose. That first hot summer I’d set up the sprinkler, lie down, and let the twirling spiral of spray cool me down. I was happy, safe in my little world.
Dad was a salesman. He sold supplies to drug stores. When he wasn’t on the road, he was gone during the day, heading into town on the train early in the morning, coming home late, after I’d already had my supper. I’d be up in my room reading when he would come home. He was like a tornado, loud and complaining, about how everything was somebody’s fault – his boss, a customer, management or a politician, never his own. Mom would listen to him, nod sympathetically. I wanted Mom to tell Dad to “buckle up” and “quit whining,” but she never did. I knew when I got a job, I would never come home and complain. I imagined how I was going to be. If I wanted something, I would go out and get it! I felt sorry for Mom that way, that she had married such a weakling.
I had hoped that the summer heat would be over by the time school started in September, but it was still hot and muggy. Mom saw me off to school with a good breakfast every morning. Late in the afternoon I’d come home, drenched from the heat. The first thing I’d do when I got home was strip down to my underwear and sit under the sprinkler in the back yard.
It was only the second week of school when Dad went off on a sales trip. I liked being home alone with Mom. School was a confusing place. There were girls, older girls, girls that seemed so confident, so sure of themselves, of their bodies, and what they wanted from the boys. I enjoyed how safe I felt at home, especially when Dad was gone.
“You love Dad?” I asked Mom.
I was home after a hot day at school, standing in the doorway, dripping wet, just standing there in my briefs. I guess I wanted her to notice me, notice how I felt safe around her. She was ironing, rocking with the iron as she pressed dad’s shirts.
“Course I do…” she said.
But her voice told of far-away dreams, what might have been. She looked up from her ironing. I saw her eyes glide from my hair, down my face, to my chest, where she smiled, then down to my wet underwear.
“Your dad was handsome when he was younger.” She turned her attention back to the shirt she was pressing. “Just like you,” she said. “I met your father when he was about your age.”
I watched a smile grow on Mom’s face. The years seemed to melt away. Her smile turned sneaky, sly, like she just swallowed a secret. When she looked back up at me, she was different, kind of mysterious. She stared at me. I couldn’t keep from staring back.
I could see her, what she looked like, when she was younger. She was pretty. She smiled and it sent a shiver through my body. Her eyes darted to my crotch, where I now felt the discomfort of a bent-over erection trapped in the wet, clingy cotton.
“He was so eager,” she said, and looked up at my eyes with the happiest, biggest smile I’d ever seen on her. “Just like you.”
I blushed bright red, turned, and ran upstairs to my room. I closed the door and pulled off the wet briefs. I was breathing hard and it wasn’t just from running up the stairs. I was scared. I looked at myself in the mirror hanging on the back of my door. There it stood, hard as wood.
I was embarrassed that the erection had happened, that my mom had seen it. I was scared, too, not because she seemed to enjoy seeing my reaction, but because I realized it was looking at my mom that had given me the erection, her smile, the way she seemed almost playful.
The next day I went straight to my room after school. I shut the door and read about all sorts of new technological wonders. What an age I lived in! New inventions every day! By the time Mom called me for dinner, I had forgotten about yesterday.
“Weren’t you hot, today?” Mom asked.
“Yeah,” I said, then lit up as I remembered a story about how we would control our planet’s weather in the future. “Someday, we’ll be able to set the temperature on a dial,” I said, excited at the prospect.
“Yes, I expect you will…”
I started to eat, then realized my mom was watching me. I stopped eating and looked up.
“You like your dinner?” she asked.
“It’s swell, Mom,” I said.
“It’s your favorite,” she said. “I made it just for you.”
She was twirling her fork in her fingers, flipping it over and over, not really using it to eat, just turning it. I looked up towards her face, but was distracted by her other hand, which was delicately holding the neck of her dress, just above the buttons that climbed the front. She was fanning it open and closed. I watched as the motion caused her dress to billow, a wave of cloth, which washed over her chest. I stared as her movement became more pronounced, and she lifted the material further away with each flick of her wrist. I saw her bosom, the top of her breast, then more. Afraid she would catch me, I looked up at her face, expecting to be chastised, but she was daydreaming, staring out the window. My heart was beginning to pound in my ears, and time seemed to slow to a crawl as I looked down at that flapping cloth, looked underneath at the milky white skin. The top button came undone and I was sure my mother would notice, but her eyes were closed, now. She seemed to be enjoying the coolness on her skin. With the next couple flaps, I saw she wasn’t wearing any bra. I got a glimpse at her dark center, and her nipple. I swallowed hard and leaned just a bit to the side, hoping to see further inside.
“Oh, it is so hot,” Mom said. “I do believe I’ll take a bath.”
I quickly stared down at my plate, afraid to look up at her. I squirmed as I felt that uncomfortable swelling in my pants. I reached for the napkin in my lap, looked up and smiled as I gave my erection a gentle push to straighten it out.
Mother was just smiling at me, the same smile I’d seen the other day. She seemed so much younger when she smiled like that. And she had a sense about her. She was more confident, more relaxed, just like the girls at school. I knew that she knew what it was all about, knew that something that I didn’t know much about. My only education had been the stories the boys would tell, about kissing and touching, about tongues and fingers, and the hole between a girl’s legs…
I swallowed, a dry swallow, that made my chin lift as nothing went down my throat. That’s when I noticed the nipples, the little poking rise out of her dress. I just wanted to touch those, and the breasts, just to see what they felt like. But she stood up.