Maternal Wind

In honor of Mother’s Day, a favorite story involving my Ma. It was from her that i learned to take things in good humor …

For a short while, i dated a guy in the British navy. His fellow sailors called him “Taff”- some kind of geographical nicknaming convention based on a river where he grew up. He was tall and lanky and funny as hell. Even better, he thought was funny as hell. A sweet, boyish face with a mess of dirty blonde hair that would have gotten him written up in my Navy. On my pier watch, he would come stand with me, and we would talk about a million things. When watch was over, we’d hit the break area of his vessel, his chief would issue me a beer chit, and we’d talk and sing and drink with his mates til morning.

To this day, when “The Lady in Red” plays on the radio, i remember him singing it to me one night, wax nostalgic, and wonder where life has taken him.

It was bliss, being with him. He felt (or at least made me believe he felt) that i was the most beautiful, smartest, wittiest woman in all the world. And he never hid that fact from others.  Not even his friends. Until that point, i’d never had a man show affection for me in public. Vulgarity, yes. Unseemly sexual overture, yes. But not affection. It was a wondrous thing to me, to have someone so outwardly pleased to be with me. Real magic.

Once in a while, we’d get a chance to run off. In my p.o.s. Datsun, i’d drive us to the beach in hopes of finding a secluded dune, behind which we could tumble and make trouble. Well, it could have been trouble… If we’d ever gotten caught.

It was one of those beach trips that i was thinking about today.

Taff and i had spent most of an evening rolling naked on the beach. Long enough that we had lost track of the tide. While we were running amok like a couple of playful rabbits, waves slopped our pile of clothes with seaweed and saltwater. By the time we were ready to pack up and head back to the pier, everything was soaked.

It was an hour back to the ship, but only a few minutes from home. So we wrung out what we could and then headed to my house, where i could put on some dry duds and loan him some sweats so we wouldn’t freeze in the night air. It was the wee hours, so we tried hard not to make much noise.

Leaving Taff at the kitchen table, i quietly stole up the staircase and grabbed the clothes. A few moments later, i was supplied, and we dried off and changed. At some point, we started giggling, which must have woken Ma.

The tall, narrow staircase led to a landing. While we were shushing ourselves and trying to stop the giggles, the landing light switched on. We looked up, and through the slight opening at the top, there stood the whitest, skinniest calves ever produced by God, at the bottom of which were what had to be the rattiest, shaggiest, pink slippers in all of New England. That was all you could see… My Ma’s signature stick legs and those awful, but favored, slippers.

She yelled down, “Is that you, Hol?”

“Yes,” I replied, “Just grabbing some dry clothes.”


My Ma cuts a loud, mean piece of gas that should have lifted her right off the floor. For real. It was at least a 4 on the Richter scale. The National Weather Service could have given it a name.  It was gloriously horrific. I was mortified.

“Ma!!!!!!! Taff is here!!!!!!” (His eyes are bugged out in shock.)

Silence for a couple seconds, then, as she shuts the light and heads back to bed….

“Oh, like they don’t fart in England!”


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