The girl with the umbrella in her drink

The kids are home with my parents, and Sally and I are driving to a movie, just the two of us. Cruising by grocery stores and fast food restaurants, Sally tells me about the fresh apples and bananas at Eli’s school cafeteria. She’s impressed that a public school would offer up so many healthy choices.

Up ahead, I see men holding signs close to the road. The signs say, “Abortion stops a beating heart” and “This is an abortion clinic,” and as we go past the men, Sally, who is still talking about the cafeteria fruit, rolls down the passenger window and yells, “You people are wrong! You’re wrong, wrong!”

She rolls the window up and continues on about bananas nonchalantly, like this all everyday stuff: Going to a flick. Chatting about the lunch at the kid’s kindergarten. Assaulting the hyper religious.

A few days later, on the way to dinner and another movie, my parents at home with the kids again, Sally wearing a skirt with her hair curled this time, we pass the same clinic. Sally rolls down the window once more, but this time she doesn’t berate the dudes with the signs.

“You didn’t heckle them today,” I comment.

“No,” Sally replies, “but I stuck my arm out and flipped them off.”

“You did what?”

“I gave them the finger. You know, the bird.”

“I see. And what did they do?”

“They just kind of stared.”

“You’re not going to convince them,” I remind her, acting grounded and smart. “You get that, right? The more you mess with them, the more they’ll believe they’re right.”

“I know,” she tells me. “But it makes me feel better.”

And then she adds, “Next time, I’m throwing water balloons.”

When she says that, I notice something, a shift in her tone perhaps, a flicker inside maybe, and for an instant, I don’t see the grown woman who sews Clifford The Big Red Dog costumes and buys fabric softener at Costco.

I see the girl at the bar, almost twenty years ago, sipping a Blue Hawaiian with an umbrella in it.

“Let’s go to Mexico,” that girl almost 20 years ago says, swirling her blue drink with the tiny umbrella.

“Tonight?” I reply. “But it’s Tuesday.”

The girl smiles. “I’m pretty sure Mexico is open on Tuesday.”

And I know I won’t say no. I know we’ll buy a map at a gas station, this girl and I, and we’ll drive deep into the night, all the way to the border.

And then the past slides away, and I’m back to now, to date night with my wife, the two of us puttering along in the station wagon. I glance at Sally—this mother, this wife, this teacher, this girl with the umbrella in her drink—and I’m struck by how much I still like just driving around with her. And then I notice she’s gazing out the window, smiling broadly.


She’s smiling. I know what that means. My wife is scheming about something, and whatever it is, it almost certainly means trouble.


1 Response to “The girl with the umbrella in her drink”

  1. 1 Teri March 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    That’s my Sally. She is one of a kind. I love her. I am so glad you do, too.

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