From Open Arms:

        My mother drives her van as if she’s sailing, leaning her weight against each turn to keep an even keel in this stiff breeze. Sometimes when I go with her through the dark streets I fall asleep on the bundles of newspapers in the back, and wake to see her shoulders and head arched black against the windshield, some song slipping out under her breath. On my grandmother’s piano there’s a photograph of my mother hiking far out over the waves, one hand on the tiller and the other on the spinnaker line. Her head is flung back and her eyes are closed, and the sun is everywhere on her. She liked a good wind off Mahone Bay, then. Now she sails the prairie streets in a black van, delivering bundles to the paper boys from midnight till six in the morning.
        For a long time I wasn’t with her. When I was five I got taken to live with my grandparents in Nova Scotia, and for seven years I didn’t even see my mother, until she started sharing a house with Katherine, my father’s second ex-wife, who was alone too and had a little baby, my half-sister Irene. My father, the poet Patrick Connolly, lives on an island in British Columbia now, with Doreen. When my mother moved in with Katherine and got the newspaper job, I guess she convinced my grandparents that she was stable enough to have me visit. After that I got to be with her in the summers, at least.
        Things got confused this year by my grandfather’s illness. My mother came out to Nova Scotia to help, and in June, after he died, I went tree-planting with her in Saskatchewan, so we could be quiet in the woods. The deal was that I would spend one more year in Mahone Bay, to keep my grandmother company and finish high school. But something happened once I got there, and I couldn’t stay after all. It was nearly September by the time I came back to Saskatoon for good.
        The night I arrived, my mother took me out in the van with her, for a treat. I was past going to sleep by then. The branches whipped the windshield in the back alleys as if someone was running ahead of us, some big hasty girl at Guide camp. I put her in yellow shorts and watched her white imaginary thighs until we swung onto a street in the maze or obstacle course of my mother’s route through town.
        Usually the bundles aren’t ready till 12:30, sometimes 1:00. We hang around the back of the newspaper building, behind the press, drinking coffee from a machine and talking to the other drivers. My mother knows them all, of course. One of them is in a band she sometimes used to sing for. This night the bundles were peeling off the conveyor belt as we drove up, and I went to open the van doors while she started grabbing the packs by their bindings. The band guy’s van was beside ours. He sang out to her, “Company tonight, Isabel?”
        And she said, “Not tonight, not tonight,” lightly, happily. Then she handed me a bundle and said, “Oh! Yes! Company tonight—you know Bessie—”
        Then the band guy, whose name is Lee, said, “Hey, Bessie, how you doing?” and clapped his doors shut and drove off.
        We finished loading the bundles and got back into the van, and I said something about the night being nice and called her Grandmother, pretending the mistake to even out the insults, so she’d feel better about forgetting me.

Copyright © Marina Endicott