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What is your maiden name?

“What is your maiden name?”

A question we women are often asked. The two of us sat in the living room with the sun light streaming through the many windows, dust motes floating in the air as the Hunter fan gently whirred overhead. She is seated in the beige suede armchair and I on the love seat across from her. Megan, our sleek black cat, quietly sauntered in and stretched out on the hardwood floor in front of us.

We had been discussing the curtains. Airy green sheers interspersed with a heavier fabric of soft beige, muted purples and greens. I had made them a few years back. I learned to sew as a child starting with outfits for my Barbies and moving on to clothing for myself. Many a delightful evening was spent at the local Joanne Fabric store seated in a hard-wooden chair at a long table piled with huge books of patterns. I had flipped through the pages with drawings of elegant women in pretty party dresses, smart looking skirts and oh so stylish bell bottom pants. Fabrics and threads, buttons and zippers, the possibilities were endless. Sewing was a useful, cost effective but mostly serenely rewarding task for both of us.

She held her delicate cup of steaming Red Rose tea tightly in her age spotted and wrinkled hands, somewhat nervously. Afraid it might slip, and she would spill the tea or let go of the cup and have it crash to the floor. When I brought the cup with cream and sweetener to her she noticed all the bubbles floating on the top. According to the Irish legend of her youth, those bubbles meant money coming her way. “Look at all the money floating. I must buy a lottery ticket for sure.”

I drank my mug of hot black coffee and mulled over the question. How do I answer? My maiden name is Bayes. I’m your daughter Sheila. Or, do I ignore the question all together, change the subject, talk about the weather, ask how she is feeling, is her tea OK? Maybe talk about sewing some more.

In the end I answer honestly and with a hint of tears in my eyes. “Bayes, Sheila Bayes.” My mom cocks her head. Then with what can only be described as a fit of giggles, she waggles her finger at me. “I have a daughter named Sheila, but it is not you.”


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