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You're sitting in the passenger's seat of a late 60's or maybe early 70's white Toyota; it's Friday afternoon, the seats are blue and this is your mother's car, you and your mother are going out to your grandmother's house, out past town. It's fifteen miles or so to your grandmother's house, out past town in what used to be the country, and you are eight or nine or twelve years old, when fifteen miles might just as well be fifteen hundred.

On the back seat, there are two laundry baskets filled with towels and fitted sheets and socks; it's Friday afternoon, late fall, or early winter, with shadows growing long in deep yellow, green and mauve. You and your mother are making the weekly trip to your grandmother's house, to pass the time you read Mad magazine out loud.  You add a funny voice in here or there and even though you half-suspect she's just indulging you, when your mother laughs, everything comes full circle, the world becomes complete.

You say “to pass the time”, but these are the shy, little gifts you bring, the pages of a magazine, a funny voice you added, here, or there; when you were five, or maybe six years old, your mother read you Kipling's “Just So Stories”, and Housman's “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff”—she read you Housman's “Terence”, with laughter in her voice. She read you Poe, read you poems of ancient mariners and stately pleasure domes, she read a poem about a gentleman from sole to crown, who put a bullet through his head—

your mother read "Dulce et Decorum Est" to you, a poem about the Great War, as it's called, a hellish portrait of half-dead, dying soldiers, and mustard-gas attacks.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, it is sweet and right to die for one's country; you think in selfish, little hieroglyphs when you are five or maybe six years old, and what your mother reads to you, isn't what's instructive.

So on a Friday afternoon when you're riding out past town, with shadows growing long and fifteen miles or so to go, you will say, “to pass the time” because there's nothing sweet and right enough, to say. 

Now you bring this shy, little gift of broken, halting words, hoping she knows what you mean—when your mother laughs, everything comes full circle.

The world becomes complete.

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