Say “Yaki Soba” With A Southern Accent

Posted on June 8, 2013 by

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For Mothers’ Day my sister and I took our daughters to Jasper. The plan was to pick up our mother and take her out to eat at the new Japanese restaurant in what used to be Wendy’s.

For once, and probably because I wasn’t driving, it wasn’t raining. Instead, the sun streamed down over the rolling hills and caught in the streams cutting through them. Not even the steam plant, steadily pumping new clouds into the sky, could ruin the beauty of the day.

The lunch was really good, even though I was initially leery of Jasper’s Japanese fare. Afterward we decided to spend some time driving around town, just looking at things, rather than going straight back to our mother’s house.

“Is the dance studio still open?” I asked. There is only one in town, so both my mother and sister knew what I was talking about.

“Oh, yeah,” my sister said. “After the director ran off with that kid her son’s age, she came back and has been teaching ever since. She opened a new fitness studio, too.”

“She ran off and then she ran right back again,” my mother said.

“I guess it’s a good selling point for her fitness studio, “ I said. “You know, that she looks so good she can run off with men who could be her son. But she came back, so it’s not like she’s too slutty or anything.”

All over town were these painted statues. “Cool donkeys,” I said, and my mother and sister both immediately said “They’re mules!” As if they couldn’t believe that I couldn’t identify a statue of a mule right away. Every mule was painted differently, some with sports themes, other with pastoral scenes decorating their sides.

I want a mule statue,” my sister said. I told her that she’d have to move to Jasper to get one, and she looked like she was seriously considering it for just a moment. And then we came across an amazing yard sale, and the conversation about the mules was temporarily suspended in favor of shopping.

There was some great furniture at the yard sale, but a wiry lady with very blond hair and an off-the-shoulder, Flashdance-style sweatshirt was sitting on one of the sofas and telling anyone who came near that she had already bought all of it. I had some uncharitable thoughts about the likelihood of her check bouncing, and then I got distracted by children’s clothing and a small Hispanic boy with Down’s Syndrome and a sleeveless t-shirt that read “100% Stud.”

We continued our drive with a few piles of clothes, some shoes, and a lavender guitar that my niece started playing the minute the car doors were closed, her determination to make noise overriding the fact that she didn’t know how to play the guitar. We drove around and my mother pointed out the houses of people she had known, including both of her dead doctors. One of the older houses in town had recently been turned into a museum.

“I used to make my mother drive me by this house,” my mother said. “I would cry if she didn’t.”

What kind of child, I asked her, cries over real estate? But that’s always been my mother’s thing: houses. She used to subscribe to house plan magazines and cut out her favorites, pasting them into a scrapbook. She’d talk to me about courtyards and French Provincial  style for as long as I’d listen.

Back at our mother’s house, my sister and I went out to explore the backyard. Now almost completely overgrown, some parts of it are far more beautiful than I remembered. I walked into one cool, shady vault of trees where the ground was covered in tiny wild violets. In another place, the largest garlic plant I’ve ever seen was sending up one slender, sleek flower, and a blueberry bush nearby was just starting to fruit. These used to be the places where I’d set up my inflatable pool each summer or hide to sneak cigarettes when I was older, but they were different now. Now, they had nothing to do with me, they’d outgrown me and transformed themselves into something new.

The drive back was long, and made longer by the guitar and my daughter’s grumpy wailing. She and I both went to sleep as soon as we got home, worn out by the weight of memory.