The Mommy Manual, page four, said: a mother must model good behavior.

I thought: fashion model, new vacuum cleaner model, I am the very model of a modern major general.

I admit, my mind wandered. I reeled it back.



Part of Speech: verb

Definition: form, shape

Synonyms: base, carve, cast, create, design, fashion, mold, pattern, sculpt

Okay, I shall model good behavior and mold myself—fashion myself, even!—into a model mother.



Part of speech: adjective

Definition: typical, ideal

Synonyms: archetypal, classical, commendable, exemplary, facsimile, flawless, illustrative, perfect, quintessential, representative, standard, typical

Looking back down at the Mommy Manual open on my lap, I thought: A model mother must be perfect. Or maybe just standard. But surely not a copy, not a facsimile.

Then I remembered when you said years ago: I want to date a model. And I said: a model what?

I said to you: maybe you have it backward? You want a model date? The Best Version Of a date, yes?

Just a model, you said.



Part of Speech: noun

Definition: person, thing that poses

Synonyms: dummy, manikin, mannequin, nude, sitter, subject


Ah, I said, thinking particularly of nude.

And I countered.



Part of Speech: noun

Definition: type, version

Synonyms: configuration, design, form, kind, mark, mode, style, variety, most typical, average, classic, clichéd, conventional, hackneyed, representative, stereotypical, stock, textbook, trite.


You said: you’re being mean, now.

I said: the newest vacuum cleaner model you purchase isn’t—

You interrupted: vacuum cleaner? I could see your mind wandering.

So I said: the newest car model you purchase isn’t The Best Version Of.  It’s just the newest thing.

I said, smiling and searching your face: you want to date a thing?

By then you’d stopped listening.



When I ran into you at the Oakland airport you asked: what’s new?

Not much, I shrugged.

Good news, you said.

Hadn’t seen you in years. Did you ever date that thing? That Best Version Of? Did you want to see a picture of my four year old of whom I am a (sometimes) model mother? I kept mum. Safer, smarter, easier to let you guide the conversation.

But again my mind wandered.



Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: pleasant, fine

Synonyms: acceptable, admirable, agreeable, congenial, excellent, favorable, great, honorable… all the way to wonderful and worthy.


You okay? You grinned at me.

Yeah, I’m good.

It’s a great job, you told me. A good opportunity.

At the playground, my son flies down the slide. Good job! Digs in leaf-strewn sand with a stick. Good job! I’m distracted, reading a magazine, looking up at a tree silhouetted against the sky. Good job I exclaim, without knowing why it’s good, why it’s a job.

What Is Good?

How To Be Good?

I kept those questions to myself, while I listened to you describe your good job.



Part of Speech: noun

Definition: morality

Synonyms: class, dignity, excellence, ideal, merit, prerogative, probity, quality, rectitude, righteousness, uprightness, value, virtue, worth



Goods. I am too materialistic. I reduce life to things. People to things. Women, especially.  I am guilty of that. I objectify ‘em, though I try not to. Don’t you?



Part of Speech: noun

Definition: merchandise

Synonyms: cargo, commodities, freight, load, materials, stock, stuff, textile, vendibles, wares

Going up!

Sporting goods third floor. Household goods fourth floor.

I. Magin’s, San Francisco, 1972 or so, Christmastime. I am the size my little boy is now, crushed against grown ups in overcoats, as the man in the uniform pushes elevator buttons with a gloved finger.

All their worldly goods.

If a good is a thing, an object, material, stuff, then is a good idea a tangible one? Is a good story one that is heavy, physical, not ethereal?

In the airport waiting area, you said, indicating your suitcase: But I’m moving to Charlotte.

I said: pretty name, Charlotte.

You cocked your head, listening to an announcement: that’s my flight. Gotta catch that plane.

My son loves model airplanes. He loves flying down slides, poking elevator buttons, and swaying like a dancer, a plastic airplane in his hand, riding it up and down on invisible currents of air.

You said: goodbye.

Goodbye, I replied, and good luck! In—


Good luck in Charlotte.

In Charlotte. I giggled. You always make me think of sex. It’s puzzling.

While I walked through the airport to meet my husband coming in from Seattle, I told myself stories. I worked them this way and that as my son does with his brightly colored plastic tubes and elbow connectors, concentrating, twisting, trying one way then another.  They’re the kinds of puzzles that have no solution or resolution. They are processes. And, yes, they are things.

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