My Shooting Star

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You should know this first of all. I never fantasized about my mother when I was a teenager. I never spent mornings stroking myself in bed with her in mind. Nor did she ever walk in on me accidentally — I knew how to lock a bedroom door. I never rummaged through the dirty clothes to sniff her panties.

Your mother may stroll the house in little more than a tee-shirt and thong. My mother was completely dressed by 7 a.m., or in pajamas from neck to ankle. Let me be candid. During my teen years, not once did I see her even partially naked. She never left the bedroom or bathroom door ajar. Never.

Your mother may be a 35-year-old blonde bombshell, a Pilate-obsessed gym rat who looks 10 years younger. If so, your friends no doubt drool over her voluminous breasts, especially when she wears that trashy micro-kini while tanning beside your backyard pool. We don’t have a pool. And my mother’s swimsuit is stylish but very modest, her shorts, even her summer dresses, reaching almost to her knees.

So, there would be no story for me to tell had it not been for a return home during my final summer vacation in college. Previous summers had been spent away, on sweaty, low-paying temp jobs. This last stint at home was to be spent writing resumes and lining up interviews for life after graduation. I had my eyes on some kind of job far away, maybe the west coast.

But as John Lennon once wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Life was about to get in my way.

* * *

In those first few weeks home, I made myself scarce, didn’t want to have to hang out with the folks. They were boring. Too quiet. They never did anything anymore. To avoid them, I made constant plans to head out with friends. Such was the agenda one day in early June.

My mother was sitting in the small sun room at the back of our house as I walked past, my car keys and sunglasses in hand, ready to leave. This was her favorite place, her refuge. Quiet, sunlit, warm. Her gaze was out the window at our small patio flower garden, which she brings to life each spring, while on her knees, trowel in hand.

She looked at me. “I’ll have dinner ready at 7.”

I left, drove a half dozen blocks, turned the car around. Her smile wasn’t there. Something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Something wrong. I went back home, into the sun room. Leaned down on one knee beside her chair. We looked at each other. She knew I could tell.

“Michael, I have cancer,” she said, softly but straightforward. “Breast cancer.” We both stood up, I held her in my arms and we cried together. She grew weak, could hardly stand. I picked her up in my arms and sat on the sun room sofa, she in my lap, head against my shoulder, arms around each other. We stayed there for two hours. “Where’s Dad?” I asked at one point.

“He can’t take things like this,” Mom said. “We both know your father.” Yes. As heavy-handed and stern as he could be at his small accounting firm, at home he avoided conflict or any emotional involvement. In truth, a coward. He knew about this but went on to work. She insisted. Said it was a small thing. Not to worry. For her, it was a relief that he did.

You can see why my father figured little into this. There was a time when the three of us — I’m an only child — would vacation at the beach, backpack down the zigzag trails of the Grand Canyon or spend a week in New York traipsing from one Broadway theater to the next. Now he just watched TV at night, puttered in the yard on weekends, played poker with his pals each Thursday. He grew older than his years, gained weight and looked tired. Their marriage, if I had to guess, was like so many others over time: worn out. They went through the motions, each with their own lives. At least, that’s my take on it.

Sitting there, with her, may have been the first time in years that we held each other. It certainly was the first time she curled up in my lap. With her knees pulled up, I reached down below her skirt and massaged her legs, then her feet as she filled in the details of her illness, her sandals dropping to the floor.

Her name is Mary. Mary Armstrong. She was 54 then. Slender. Brunette. A fascinating face. All cheek bones. An unusual, modest smile. Large brown doe-like eyes. From my point of view, beautiful. Also, quiet, thoughtful, reflective. But don’t confuse that with being shy or unintelligent. She speaks when she has something to say. For years, after earning her Ph.D., she taught quantum physics at the university graduate level. She retired to write poetry. Some of it has been published.

I can’t express how much I liked holding her in my lap. Our bodies fit perfectly into each other. And it had been forever since I smelled her perfume or her hair. “This feels good, Michael,” she said. When dad pulled in the driveway, we got up, she smoothing down her skirt and adjusting her rumpled blouse.

I drove us to her oncologist appointment the following day where she pangaltı escort was told a lumpectomy might suffice. Worst case, they would have to take her left breast. They wouldn’t know until they were headlong into the operation itself.

She held up well during that conversation. Stoic. No tears. Just the facts. Surgery in two days. We drove home. She took my hand, walked us into the sun room, turned on Frank Sinatra — her favorite singer — and motioned me to the sofa. Again she curled up in my lap. No crying this time. We had cried it all out. Just talking and quietness.

She brought her hand up and cupped her left breast through her white blouse. “It’s hard for me to believe,” she said, “that by the weekend I may not have one of these puppies any more.”

She smiled that modest smile. I laughed out loud. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Never would I have imagined my mother referring to her breasts as “puppies.” She lightly massaged her breast for a moment, before putting her hand down in her lap.

I don’t know why I did what I did. It’s totally unexplainable. Inexcusable. But I then lifted my own hand and gently cupped her breast. Even massaged it a little. It fit perfectly in my hand. She said nothing.

I was embarrassed, put my hand down. “I’m sorry. Mom. I shouldn’t have done that.” She reached for my hand and put it back.

“I’d rather you than anyone else.”

I caressed her breast through her blouse and bra. I felt her nipple get hard, squeezed it gently with my fingers. Her head was on my shoulder, eyes closed. I think it soothed her.

You may not believe me, but this wasn’t about sex. It was, as I realized only later, about intimacy. My mother, a very private person, was sharing this very private matter with me. Crying with me, talking with me as she would with no one else. She chose me over her girlfriends, even over her own sister. She wanted closeness with me. I was only 22, but even I could see the gift she was offering. For the first time in my adult life, I wanted that same closeness with her.

We held similar feelings years before, but lost them. As a kid, our relationship was special. I was her child, of course, and she babied me enough, but more than not she approached me with respect, as one adult to another. No talking down to me, always including me in adult conversations, letting me drink a little wine at the dinner table when I was still in elementary school. She taught me how to cook, beginning with pancakes on Sunday mornings. I’m quite good at it now.

By my early teens, she turned to me as her date for social events when Dad would no longer budge from his sofa. And she was embarrassingly frank in explaining sex to me. She spent hours telling me what it is to be “a woman.” That alone was worth more than my college degree. I was her son, but also her friend. That is until I rebelled as a teenager, determined to go down my own path. I paid a terrible price in those years, losing perhaps my best friend as I distanced myself from her. She, of course, accepted it gracefully and without complaint.

We knew each other well back then, which is why, seeing her sitting in the sun room, I had sensed something wrong. You see, we’re both on the same page. Kindred spirits.

“You know, Michael,” she said, while sitting on my lap, “There’s a great irony here. My breasts are the one part of my body I’ve always liked, the only thing I really admire about myself in the mirror. They’re too small to attract most men, I guess. But they suit me. There’s a heaviness to them. I’ve always thought they were quite pretty, in their own small way.”

She sat up, turned to me, and straightened her back stiffly to show them off. “See. They look good on me. They’re the best part of me.” She was being part silly, part serious.

And once again, I did something that made no sense to me, made me feel like a fool. I said, “Can I see your breast?”

She gave me a gentle smile, ran her fingers through my hair, and closed her eyes as if deep in thought. I remembered her doing that a lot when I was younger, always asking her some weird or hard-to-answer question that made her pause, muss my hair and shut her eyes, contemplating how to respond. You see, I was an inquisitive kid. She taught me to be.

She looked down at her breasts and slowly began unbuttoning her blouse. She let it fall off her shoulders. Then slipped off her bra, lifted her head to my eyes. And then that slight smile again.

I didn’t know what to do.

“You can touch it,” she said. “It’s okay. It’s the left one.”

Her breast sloped just slightly down, the skin white and unblemished, feeling almost like satin to the touch. Her nipple was brown and soft, her areola smooth. It surprised me how warm it all felt. She put her head back down on my shoulder, closed her eyes and I caressed her left breast for long moments, gliding my fingers lightly over her nipple, then in circles around her areola. Then pendik escort very gently cupping and squeezing her breast. Just her left one.

“This is where the incision will be made,” she said, taking my fingers and pressing them just to the side of her nipple, which was now getting hard. “I might lose some feeling in it. That is if I don’t lose the whole thing. At least that’s what they told me earlier.”

Then she took her thumb and index finger, lightly squeezing her nipple, pulling it out, tugging on it a little. “I don’t know if other women do this, but it feels so good to me,” she said. “I love this tugging feeling.”

She took her hand away. “Start out gently,” she said.

For such a slender woman, her nipple seemed large as I put my fingers on her again. I started to realize how beautiful her breast was. Her nipple stiffened even more as I began gently pulling it. “Like that, yes. Do that awhile, will you honey?” She put her head back on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

She was sharing this with me, letting me see and feel the physicality of her breast, this part of her body soon to be cut on and maybe amputated entirely. She was allowing me into the most private part of her life. For a few minutes, I think she fell asleep.

* * *

The surgery went well, a standard lumpectomy. We drove home, smiling at each other all the way, jubilant at the outcome. She was sore and fatigued. After 24 hours of sleep, and some days of soreness, we were back to some normalcy. But not really.

I was between girlfriends, so once Mom recuperated, I joined a few of my college mates for a long drive to the beach and quick weekend getaway. I pulled back into the garage late at night. Mom was up, reading in the living room. She walked over, said how happy she was that I was back and hugged me close, burying her face in my neck. I could hear her breathing in the smell of my skin. I didn’t know why, but I liked that a lot.

Within a few days we were readying for a long-planned family wedding out of town, a good three hours away. One of my cousins. We’d be gone overnight. Mom went shopping for new dresses. When she came home — Dad was at work — she asked if I’d like to see what she bought, clutching my hand and taking me to her bedroom. She had never done this before. Totally out of character, at least from her old ways.

She closed the door, pushed me into one of the bedroom’s two stuffed chairs. Pressed the button on her CD player in a cabinet beside her bed. It was habit. She loved music in her bedroom. And there were surround-sound speakers all over the room.

She lay the clothes on her bed, slowly unzipped the green dress she was wearing. Just as slowly lifting it over her head, facing me in her beige-colored bra and panties. She had on thigh-high stockings. I had no idea she even owned any. I acted nonchalant, as if we did this all the time. She did too. I concentrated on the outfits she put on and took off. Tried not to look at her body.

But I was stunned that she was letting me see her in her underwear. More stunned that I found it so arousing. We didn’t talk. Just listened. The music was “Bolero,” Maurice Ravel’s erotic orchestral piece. Both of us making eye contact occasionally, as the orchestra’s heavily sexual rhythms began slowly building. Between gazes, her look was elsewhere. She seemed to go inside herself.

Of course, I had seen my mom in her one-piece black swimsuit many times. It wasn’t really much different, I kept telling myself. But it was. Standing in front of me in her panties and stockings, it seemed as if she was naked. She was trim, yet soft, her hips with a gradual, though distinctive, curve to them.

How could any man not grow weak at the sight of her lovely shoulders, so perfectly toned, draping her body. Her arms long, slender, graceful. Her fingers elegant. Her slight smile that never showed her teeth, instead expressing itself with seductive lips, a little pouty and curving modestly upward. Could any man resist those lips? I had never noticed before.

Time and again she raised her arms straight up, high overhead, as a ballerina would in what they call the 5th position, slipping on one dress after another, her body swaying just slightly to the music as the dress made its way down her arms. Then over her bra, to her waist, then to her panties, which were semi-sheer, letting me faintly see her dark pubic hair. I could easily make out the curve of her mons pubis pushing the fabric of her panties out a little as the dress slowly dropped down over it.

First it was a jersey drape dress, two shades of gray with sequins. Then a backless, sequined chiffon gown. Finally a striking aqua satin cross-front dress that accentuated those delicious shoulders

She would take off the dresses in reverse, lifting her arms high overhead to pull them off, my eyes mesmerized by her body continuing its gentle swaying to the clarinets and bassoons of “Bolero’s” intoxicating rus escort melody. The music repeating itself over and over, each time with different instruments as it worked its way toward a climax.

She would bend over the bed, to pick up a different dress, her small breasts, heavy and hanging down, much of them visible even with a bra on. Her legs slender and straight, like a ballerina’s. When she turned her back to me, I was confronted with the curved outlines of her buttocks and the dark, mystifying crevice between them, faintly visible through the sheer material.

Each time she lifted a dress off, she would lay it on the bed, stand up straight, one hand at each side of her waist. I watched as she would caress down the sides of her hips slowly, then slide her hands back up to her waist. Her hands then moved in a diagonal direction, down and over her abdomen, feeling her skin and the silky material of her panties. Then, hands and fingers slid down to the outer edges of her mons, one hand on each side. Still feeling herself. From there, farther down to the top of her thighs. Now moving in back of her thighs, back up, over her hips, stopping to caress them a bit, one hand on each hip, squeezing them a little. Then up and around to her waist. All in slow motion.

She was smoothing herself. A woman in touch with her own body and its sensuality. It was breathtaking.

She was looking not at me, but far away, as if I wasn’t there. My mother was in her own world, by herself. She had forgotten I was watching. Or maybe she was so comfortable with me that she felt she could be herself. Or was it possible that she was just inviting me in to her bedroom to watch? I couldn’t imagine that.

She was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I found myself in the throes of a full-blown erection, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Every muscle in me was constraining to keep me from ejaculating in my pants. I was about to lose control. I could feel myself leaking. This had never happened to me before.

I never imagined I could be so moved by the body of a woman.

As I watched Mom, I thought about Jennifer, Angela and Crystal, who, one after the other, I had dated and slept with extensively on campus. And there had been one or two other one-nighters. In a millisecond, I realized these were girls. Standing before me was a woman.

And this woman, my own mother, was for the very first time letting me into part of her life I had never been allowed to see: her own sexuality.

She modeled a slinky, black cocktail dress meant for the wedding’s after-party. I loved the tightness of it at her waist, her hips, her thighs. It showed off her figure. I told her so. Though it still covered everything, it exuded passion. She looked sensual, yet vulnerable. As the repetition of “Bolero” became more and more hypnotic, she began sashaying around the bedroom, swinging her hips, even gyrating a little. Some really slutty moves in time with the music. She was making fun of herself, and would do this only for me. Never in front of anyone else. Never. She had no idea how erotic it really was. I told her she was “beautiful.” She came up to me, stroked my cheek with her hand.

Then Mom looked at me, did her intense eye contact.

She’s done it with me all her life, but only at special moments. When we’re talking one to one, close together, an intimate conversation. As I speak, she will look longingly into one of my eyes as if she’s studying its colors and patterns. This goes on for many seconds. Then slowly she shifts to the other eye, with the same intense focus. Then to my mouth. As if she’s committing the lines of my lips to memory. Her message is clear: at this moment I’m the only person in the world that matters to her. For me, the rest of the world fades. I sense she’s looking into my soul. She wants to know my deepest, darkest thoughts. Drives me crazy. Maybe she does that with other men. I like to think it’s only with me.

And this time, for the first time ever, she moved her face in closer. Then closer still. Inches apart. I could smell her skin. Her lipstick. Feel the heat of her face. She kissed me on the lips. Gently. Kind of innocent, but then maybe not.

We found reasons to kiss like that every day thereafter.

There was, no doubt, a renewed closeness between us, an intimacy. We began hugging a lot, long hugs, which evolved into long embraces, faces close together. To each other we talked in low tones, as if the rest of the world wasn’t invited to listen. At night, we sat side by side on the sofa to watch old movies. She would rest her head on my shoulder, slip her hand under my tee-shirt and rub my chest — as she had done when I was little. I massaged her neck. She would put a hand on my thigh, lightly rubbing through my jeans, me doing the same to her, caressing her leg through silk pajamas. My hand would travel from her knee up to within an inch of her sex. I would gently squeeze her thigh. I told myself this wasn’t about sex. It was about intimacy. Regaining the closeness we had years earlier.

Of course, none of this occurred if my father was around. In his presence, it was just a peck on the cheek now and again. Our intimacy was displayed during those summer days when he was at work, or nights after he went to bed.

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