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Arna chopped the lettuce for the dinner salad and tossed it into a large porcelain bowl. She was thinking about her youngest son, Andy, and his fall from the swing set at the park three days before. He had had four stitches in his right knee, but by this morning he was as loud and cheerful as always.
What a good kid. Despite all the arguments and minor crises, I'm lucky to have had such good kids, Arna thought. She then became aware of a low humming sound coming from upstairs. What was that? The noise had been present for some time now, but she'd only been vaguely aware of it. A familiar sound...the stereo! Ariel had gone out and left her stereo on again.
Darn that girl. Will she ever learn to be responsible? How many times have I told her that stereo was expensive, and it will wear out if she leaves it on all the time, Arna thought as she dried her hands on a dishtowel and started upstairs.
As Arna walked down the narrow hall leading to her daughter's room, she noticed that the door was open.
That's surprising, that door is always closed. She must have been in a hurry when she left. During the past two years, Arna had seen her daughter only as a blurred rush of activity,always hurrying in or out. In what seemed a short time, Ariel had become a young woman, and soon she would be leaving for college, living on her own, someday getting married. Arna preferred not to think of those things now.
She stepped into Ariel's room and waded through the vast piles of dirty clothes, junk mail, books, papers, and magazines. She will find the time to clean up this room tonight, Arna thought crossly. Arna disliked entering her daughter's room, because being there seemed to put her in a bad mood. There was always something lying around that shouldn't be there, something incriminating. Last week Arna had found a failed test lying there on Ariel's desk; last month she had found a six-pack of beer. The failed test had caused a minor argument, but Arna hadn't mentioned the beer because she had felt guilty, as if she had been snooping in her daughter's room. It seemed that Ariel anticipated Arna's visits to her room, and left things (that Arna did not want to see) in plain view, just to spite her. Arna knew this wasn't true, that her daughter was simply careless, yet the notion stayed in the back of her mind. Arna turned off the stereo as she had done so many times before. She noted that the stereo needed to be dusted. So did the rest of this room, for that matter.
Arna recognized the new bulletin board she'd bought for Ariel hanging over her desk. She saw that there were already a number of things pinned there , concert ticket stubs, a couple of cards from friends, a cartoon animal that Ariel had drawn, a list of phone numbers, a picture of a long-haired, arrogant-looking rock star, and some photographs of Ariel with her friends. Arna sat down at Ariel's desk and studied one photograph of Ariel and Tony, her boyfriend.
Arna had never been fond of Tony. On the few instances when she had talked to him, she had found him jocular and immature. Arna didn't have a bad opinion of Tony, but she wasn't sure what Ariel saw in him. The photo showed the couple in front of an immense water slide at the amusement park they had visited the previous summer. The sun shone brightly in the background, and the two wore broad grins and wet swimsuits. For just one minute Arna felt that she could feel what Ariel had felt on that day: the hot sun, the smell of popcorn and fried dough, the laughter of her friends all around her... Arna could remember many of the things she had done as a teenager, but she could only occasionally recall exactly what that age had felt like: going to parties, shopping, being forced to go on family trips .... Some day Ariel would look at this photo and not be able to remember what it felt like either.
There was one photo on the board which didn't show Ariel with her friends. It was a photo of a mother and daughter sitting next to each other in a large snow-covered field. Together they were making a pile of snowballs. The daughter was about eight years old, with curly blond ringlets poking out from her pink snow cap. The daughter wore a pink snowsuit; the mother wore a white one. It took Arna a second to realize that this was a photograph of Ariel and herself. After some thought, Arna remembered the day it had been taken: she and John had taken the kids to Vermont to see the mountains. Arna was flattered that Ariel had kept this picture up, and suddenly memories of the past sprang to mind. She thought of Ariel as a baby and the night she had been born. Arna was surprised to find herself realizing she really missed having a baby around the house. An image of a one-year-old Ariel in a white playsuit, playing with her wooden blocks came to Arna's mind...
"Hey! Whatcha doing in my room? Scared you, didn't I?"
Arna jumped at the sound of Ariel's voice. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn't heard Ariel enter the house, or come upstairs. "You really scared me!"
"Serves you right for being in my room. What are you doing?" Ariel seemed amused, rather than angry.
"Oh, honey, I came up here to turn off your stereo, which you left on again, by the way."
"Don't Aoops' me, Remember next time... but I saw this picture of us and it brought back so many memories. Honey, give me a hug!"
"Mmoom, don't get mushy on me, please!"
Despite Ariel's pleas, her mother got up and hugged her. Ariel wore a disgusted expression, but unwillingly returned her mother's hug.
"Mom, go make yourself useful. Fix me some dinner, okay?"
Ariel closed the door behind her mother. She took off her jacket, dumped it on the floor, and flopped down on her bed. She closed her eyes and relaxed as she thought, I really do love Mom.n