“But you had started learning to drive before. Why did you stop?”
“Because I don’t need to,” Mattie shrugged in reply. “My husband takes me wherever I need to go.”
Tamsyn scratched her head and raised one eyebrow.
“You do understand women are allowed to drive, right?” she smirked.
“Ha-ha,” came Mattie’s sarcastic reply. “Look, I have nowhere to go and if I need to get somewhere, Lennie will make the time and take me there.”
The sisters were having coffee in Mattie’s small, but very warm, kitchen. The aroma of freshly-baked breakfast rolls wafted through the air mingling with the fruity fragrance of homemade strawberry preserves.
“And if one of the children falls ill when Lennie is away?” Tamsyn pressed. “He works at least an hour away and the town ambulance is always a hit or miss.” Then she added, “What? Do you need his permission?”
“Don’t you ever just quit?” Mattie snapped. “Every time you come here to visit from ‘the big city’…” in air quotes… “you find something wrong with the way I run my family.” She added, “We can’t all be Big Executives, you know.”
Tamsyn quickly shook her head. “No that’s not what I meant. I was just saying that you had options, that’s all. You don’t have to be stuck at home waiting for a man to drive you where you need to go.”
“I’m not ‘stuck at home’!” Mattie retorted. “And if you don’t mind, my options are my business, not yours!”
In an adjacent room in a playpen, 2 month-old Jojo, Mattie’s youngest, stirred and yawned in the middle of her morning nap. Outside, her brothers Matthaus, Lucas, and Marco, all under the age of four, were playing “King of the Hill” in the backyard.
The uncomfortable silence following the exchange in the kitchen was interrupted only by the rhythmic tapping of Tamsyn’s nails on the side of her coffee mug.
Later that day, she went for a stroll through the town to see what changes had occurred since she had last visited three years before. But there were hardly any. Vincenzo’s Diner was still closed on Sundays and Mondays, according to the little sticky note now yellowing in the window. Mrs. Ollios still closed her shop, “The Graceful Ballerina”, for two weeks every summer and two weeks every winter and went on vacation to Florida. Every morning at 8:00 am, as he did for the past 22 years, Mr. Roberge opened his hardware store, swept the sidewalk outside, raised the awning, waved to the passersby on the street, and returned inside to have his cup of coffee (2 sugars, no cream) while waiting for customers to arrive.
Even the houses in the village all looked the same. Nestled in a high-altitude valley, they were mostly old farmhouses that still contained the original plumbing and electrical wiring from decades earlier. Only the necessary repairs and maintenance over the years could count towards any type of newness to the structures.
Tamsyn ducked into a coffee shop in the center of town to take a break from all the walking. They didn’t have any of the designer coffees that she wanted, to her dismay. What the heck was a ‘grande caramel brulée latte’ anyway? the server asked. And so opted for a regular cup of coffee, which she found rather boring. She then proceeded to lecture the owner of the shop on why Starbucks was a better coffeehouse, and wouldn’t the villagers appreciate some variety in their coffee?
She was eventually asked to leave the premises.
It was only the first full day of her visit back home and already Tamsyn was wishing she could get back to her normal life.