Over Lunch

We had spent lunch over crepes and coffee. The Creperie was about as tall as it was wide. A shelf with bottles--Glenlivet, Chimay, Bombay gin--crowned the walls, under which was rose-colored wallpaper. We sat at a small table, white linen under glass, in the corner. We had cleaned our plates and were drinking our second cups of coffee--water too, with lemon.

"We had a dog, when M. and I got married, a toy dachshund named Mary Collins" R.D. told me.

"Growing up we couldn't have a dog (and we tried three times) because my father was so unpleasant with them. He was gone most of the time, but when he came home he was so grumpy that we had to get rid of each.

"My father had an airplane, so when M. and I moved he picked us up in it. I didn't think about it before hand, and I brought Mary Collins with us, if I had thought of it.... No, I would have brought her anyway.

"When we were packing to move we couldn't find her. We called her name and looked all over the house. We finally found her already in the car. She was not going to be left behind. Smart girl.

"In the cabin of the plane there were four seats that narrowed towards the front where there was a ledge and a shelf. Mary Collins, before we did anything, went pip pip pip and curled up beneath the shelf. She stayed there the whole flight on her own accord. She didn't yelp or anything. By the time we got to Florida, my father had undergone a complete transformation. He had Mary Collins sit on his lap--and I had never seen him let a dog sit on his lap before. Because Mary Collins knew how to fly, he figured she was alright with him.

"He liked her so much that when we moved to Italy my parents offered to keep her because she was too old to move with us."

We talked about other things, but before we left I prompted R.D. to talk about her childhood some more.

"Everything was different then," R.D. said.

"Like what?"

"Everything," she shook her head.


"I was a little girl on an oil field in East Texas. We were a minority numerically, a part of the population. There were mostly blacks, and all the blacks were servants, and we didn't call them blacks."

She looked at me.

"I was just a little girl on an oil field in Texas," she said. "I didn't know to dream. If you had told me then that my life would be what it was and is, I--"

She didn't finish. And if there is, somewhere, a congregation of our younger selves, I wonder what they are thinking.

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