“What do you want to be remembered for, Ainslee?” Lara asks the countryside flying by the bus window.
“Why, am I dying or something?” Ainslee pouts and frowns at her sister. “Why are you asking me that?”
“We’re all going to be gone someday, I was just wondering what memories you’d like your girls to carry with them for the rest of their lives. What kind of mothers you’ve inspired them to be. What things about you Matt would cherish forever.”
“Pfffft. Matt is NOT going to outlive me, so that’s nothing to waste my time worrying about, how he’ll pine away missing me. He’s got so damned much life insurance it would be a crying shame if I didn’t end up collecting it. And the girls becoming mothers? Man, I can’t even picture that. Dani is so headstrong and bossy and independent, who could live with her? And Allie with her portable medicine chest. A hypochondriac mother is just wrong on so many levels. She worries herself to distraction about her silly cats. Maybe that’s all the responsibility she can handle.”
“But Katie is the most like you used to be. Wild and a little crazy now, but she’ll get over that, just like you did. Someday she’ll have children her grandma will love to distraction. What kind of legacy would you like to leave for all of them?”
Ainslee frowns and sighs and forces herself to consider. Lara is always trying to make her think about stuff and it just goes so completely against her impulsive nature to sit down and thoughtfully consider things for no reason that she can fathom. Unfortunately, at this particular moment she must remain in her bus tour seat and is at Lara’s inquisitive mercy.
“I would like them to remember that I was fair, and giving and happy and that I loved them. I was a good mother. But that I was a person first, with an interesting life quite apart from them. That I went off to Scotland with my sister and sat in a bus and hardly thought about them at all except when I was forced to agonize over my imminent death and their uncertain futures.”
Lara laughs and nudges Ainslee with her elbow. It’s a good answer, she thinks. And now Ainslee insists on hearing her answer, which is only fair.
“I guess I just would like my sons to remember how much I loved them. I think that would be enough.”
“Loved them?” Ainslee snorts. “You spoiled the little buggers rotten is what you did. It’s a miracle they turned out so close to normal. I bet their wives curse you daily though, for what those boys must have come to expect from the women in their lives.”
Lara looks stricken and Ainslee laughs at her and tells her she was only kidding her. Lara knows how true it is though. She always felt Stan overdid it with the discipline, needing to be seen as the strong and stern parent so that she felt bound to offset his harshness with her own softness. And yes they got away with a lot behind their father’s back.
“And what about Stan?” Ainslee prods her.
“What about him?” Lara rolls her eyes. “He’ll have a couple of rums and tell a couple of stories and then he’ll forget about me and get on with his work and his life.”
“Are you kidding? You are Stanley’s ROCK Lara. He’ll be positively adrift without you!”
It’s Lara’s turn to snort. “I’m more like a boulder around his neck I think. My gravestone will read ‘here lies Stan’s Albatross’. The woman who spoiled his sons and didn’t like to dance.”
“I think that’s entirely too much information to be putting on a headstone, unless it’s ten feet tall. And you just couldn’t be that ostentatious if you tried. Oh My God Lara!” Ainslee practically screeches as she leans around Lara to peer out the window, her eyes like saucers. “SHEEP!”
And indeed, there they are, hundreds of them, more than they could have imagined all standing around looking bored with their little black feet planted firmly on a rolling green field. Although they have been on the lookout for sheep ever since they crossed the border into Scotland it’s still an amazing sight to see all those cottony white dots scattered everywhere.
Ainslee sits back in her seat and announces that they look like maggots from this distance. Crawling maggots on a dark green lettuce leaf. The image makes Lara laugh and she makes a mental note to pass that one on to Ainslee’s daughters for posterity.
“I was so excited to see them and then there they are looking positively gruesome. Let’s get some pictures!”
They snap a few blurred shots through the window as the bus speeds away. In a few days the sight of sheep will be so completely ordinary and repetitive to them that they will not feel bad at all when they sit down on their hotel beds one evening to begin the arduous task of deleting them from their memory sticks. Getting the images out of their heads is another thing altogether.