Back in the Bay Area for a medical meeting, I drove to my mother’s house. I wanted to ask her about Fallen Lake and whether she remembered events in the way the book tells them — or the way I remember them.
I found her weeding the last clover from her front lawn. Violets bordered the lawn in perfect profusion and jasmine saturated the air. Mom stood up, her powder blue trouser knees darkened from the damp earth, a trowel in her hand and a bandana over her short white hair. Though it must have gone white fifteen years ago, it always surprises me to see it that way. In my mind’s eye, it’s still honey yellow and curled at the shoulder, the way it was throughout my childhood.
My mother is never the person I picture when I think of her. And the conversations I imagine for us — detailed scripts that include declarations of love in familiar settings like my old bedroom – don’t take place.
We sat and talked in the kitchen. She’s as mad about the book as I am. Laird had called her, but she hadn’t given him an interview. The story is completely distorted, we both agreed.
“What did he change that bothers you the most?” I asked.
“I never had silver boots,” she said. “I never made Szechuan beef stew.”
So I asked her how a fairly conventional women — she grew up Republican — could end up in a group marriage, she got a far-away expression on her face. “It was actually quite wonderful,” she said.
“We had twice as much of everything good in our lives.”
I stared at her, shocked.