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THAT LAMOKA LAKE FEELING/Barbara Sutton MY MOTHER carried huge pocketbooks with everything in the world in them but money. When she got a new pocketbook it was a bright new day, cleared up for ship sightings. The old pocketbooks she'd leave stuffed to the hilt just as they were, and they'd wind up somewhere on the floor of the hall closet with the other vinyl and plastic residue of our skinflinted lives. My mother never went much of anywhere, her excuse being her appearance: she lived in wide cottonpoly shifts and black laceless Keds with holes to accommodate the corns on her baby toes. School events to which parents needed to come, relatives' weddings, and Christmas and Easter were terrible for her, and for me and Toby, because we'd have to go shopping for a new size-22 dress. She could not bear wearing the same dress twice. On its debut the garment would become the text of my mother's life, and it always said the same thing: I hate what I am. You'd have to adopt a different mindset for this kind of shopping: what was "nice" for her wasn't what was nice for you. There was basically no cut to these enormous dresses; they were of a curious texture, like girdle fabric, big synthetic rectangles with short sleeves attached . They had matching fashion belts that any sensible, size-22 woman would discard, gold buttons or simulated leather ones, Nehru collars, fringed faux pockets, and other groovy details. Td display a specimen, lifting my arms over my head. "How 'bout this, Mom. It's purple." Often Td unknowingly venture into the 22 1/2 section of the rack, and my mother would be affronted to the point of outrage. "Td never wear a half size." She had her dignity, her standards, even though we'd hear the clink of a spoon in the middle of the night and know she was eating again. Any number of things could make my mother cry—"Ave Maria," Pattie Page, steel guitars. On Saturday nights we'd listen to an AM radio broadcast of my uncle's band, Delmar Huber and His Country Gentlemen, from where they were playing down in Pennsylvania. When Uncle Del ran through a certain series of twangs my mother would take off her glasses and sob into her fists. This was a routine in which everyone knew his part: Toby and I would pat her on the back in the way I had touched the bony fur of a guinea pig for the first time. Comfort was not a goal or even a consideration: this was simply the way you spent your Saturday nights. The Missouri Review · 259 Then my father left, and my mother had to go to work, and here is where the story that I like can do nothing much but end. Toby and I stood on the front sidewalk, watching our father's preparations for departure . He pulled Toby's ear like he always did, but this time Toby did not slap back at him like Dad's fingers were a June bug. As he backed out of the drive, he leaned through the window to tell me something. He was a gaunt man with a rugged dusting of black that never came off on his razor. "Don't wind up a dope fiend," he said, "and don't let people get under your skin." Right after this my mother began tapping frantically on a Royal portable that wobbled on its tiny metal stand. She was so huge at the typing stand that when she reached sixty words a minute it was frightening —you expected a boom, a Frankenstein bolt of lightning. Because she was a woman encumbered rather than helped by her looks, she had to type well to be able to go back to her profession as a bookkeeper; she had to do everything better than any other woman who wanted to bring home a whopping eighty dollars a week. The wardrobe for my mother's first post port-desertion job consisted of all the size-22 dresses she'd bought and immediately despised. She...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 159-169
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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