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Once and Again...Once Again

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Written by Sue Kaliski

edited by Angela Stockton

One school morning, Lily pulls a box down from a closet shelf and, in the kitchen, looks through some outfits from "Grace's baby clothes - 1 Year." As she reminisces, the phone rings and Zoe enters. When neither of them can locate the phone, Zoe wonders why the ring is louder when the call is really important.

As Lily fixes her daughter's breakfast bagel, Zoe examines the contents of the box. "What's that?" Zoe points to a stain; "Puke," Lily answers. Dropping the dress in revulsion, Zoe then lifts out an antique doll. "I remember her!" she gushes over Grandma Barbara's doll, Martha. Having been preoccupied with plans for Barbara’s visit, Lily suddenly remembers that Zoe’s birthday is coming and asks what kind of party she wants. Zoe replies that she wants something simple, with family only.

Judy enters through the back door and hugs Zoe, who hears Jake's car horn beep outside and leaves for school. Alone with Lily, Judy picks up the baby dress and, pointing, asks, "What's that?" "Puke," Lily repeats. Lily's various piles of clothes include a "Maddie pile," though she is saving Judy plenty of items. "If I don't rot by then," Judy states ruefully.

Informing Judy of their mother's 1:15 p.m. arrival time, Lily asks Judy to swing by so they can pick up Zoe and then visit the baby at BookLovers. "Your ex-husband's baby," Judy observes. She predicts that Barbara will think she's the baby's grandmother, saying that she’s been strange on the phone lately. "She calls you? She never calls me," Lily says in dismay. Judy further predicts that Mom will deliver "those disgusting rye crackers she steals from the flight attendant." Lily admonishes her sister, who asks why Lily is in denial. "It's nicer that way," Lily answers flippantly.

That afternoon, when Barbara arrives at Lily and Rick’s house and is met by Grace, she can't believe how much Grace has grown. When Jessie and Katie approach her, she doesn't recognize Jessie. After Lily reminds her that Jessie is Rick's daughter and that Barbara met her at the wedding, Barbara tries to cover her mistake by saying to Jessie, "You're all grown up too!"

When Judy arrives, Barbara pulls rye crackers from her purse and hands them to her younger daughter, who exchanges a knowing smile with Lily. Judy presents her mother with a copy of Gift from the Sea by Anne Lindbergh, to which Barbara says plaintively, "That poor little Lindbergh baby," then asks when she'll get to see "my brand-new grandchild." Lily outlines the plan to visit BookLovers, but Barbara dismays Lily by asking, "Shouldn't she be here?"

In front of school, Lily beeps for Zoe, who approaches the SUV to greet her grandmother. Barbara ducks Zoe's kiss, explaining, "I may have picked up something on the plane." After climbing in back with Judy, Zoe asks, "Grandma, will you be here for my birthday?" Barbara says she wouldn't miss it for the world, then adds, "Sweetie, I thought we decided on 'Bea.' 'Grandma' makes me sound like some old lady." In the back seat, Zoe and Judy exchange glances, then Judy catches Lily's eye in the rear-view mirror.

At BookLovers, Tiffany holds Maddie on her lap, Barbara in a chair to her right. Zoe asks to hold her sister, but Barbara worries that this will spread germs to the baby. Tiffany says reassuringly, "I let everyone hold her, even the UPS guy." As Jake comes up to greet his ex-mother-in-law, Tiffany adds that the baby sleeps next to her in bed: "It's like baby Valium." This picture worries Barbara, who fears suffocation. Lily enters with a bag of baby clothes, and she and Judy coo over the baby.

[In an interview, Barbara says, "When I was pregnant, they didn't have all those books like they have today, describing everything, letting you know what to expect. But we got by with a hope and a prayer, and a lick and a promise!"]

"You didn't breast-feed?" Tiffany asks while nursing Maddie. Barbara says that nobody did, then asks Tiffany if it hurts. "It's a good hurt," Tiffany attests with a smile. "Nothing in my life made sense until I had her." Barbara assures Tiffany that she will be a good mother.

Watching off to the side, Lily is startled by a voice which says, "Would you look at those gams?" She turns and sees the specter of her father, Phil. "She is still one gorgeous broad," Phil says admiringly, his eyes on Barbara. "And this place!" he exclaims. "First it's a restaurant, now it's a bookstore--" "Things change, Daddy, " Lily says softly. "She doesn't change, though," he says, nodding toward his wife. "I look at her and see the girl I married. Are you two getting along?"

Looking away, Lily answers evasively, "Something…I don't know." Phil attributes the tension to nerves, summarizing, "Everyone down here has to lighten up a little bit!" Lily persists, "Don't you think Mom seems a little bit out of it?" Barbara's voice interrupts, "Lily! I'm talking to you!" Barbara rises to leave, saying that the baby needs to nap, and "Matter of fact, I could use one, too." Lily agrees, casting a regretful look over her shoulder.

That evening, Rick enters the kitchen with Thai food and distributes cartons around the table. When Eli arrives home, Judy prompts, "Mom, you remember Eli," and Barbara says, "Oh, hello!" She tells Lily she hopes there's nothing too spicy, and when Eli approaches the table, Barbara looks up at him blankly and asks, "Who are you?" An awkward silence fills the room before Eli smiles and answers, "I'm still trying to figure that out, actually." Barbara laughs merrily, but Judy looks at Lily, who flashes her a look of concern across the table. Forcing a smile, Lily says, "Oh, Mom."

The sisters talk by phone the next morning. "She's losing it," Judy worries. "Do you think it's Alzheimer's?" "No," Lily insists, "and neither do you!" Instead, she calls it a "senior moment" and admits that she can't even find her own telephone, thus the use of her cell-phone. When Barbara enters the kitchen, Lily says "Hi, Mom!" into the phone for Judy's benefit. "I'm so sorry I can't be there to help you with her," Judy says. "Me too!" Lily responds cheerily before hanging up.

Barbara complains that she didn't sleep a wink. Indulgently, Lily offers her some coffee. "I don't drink coffee, you know that!" Barbara answers irritably. Pausing a moment in surprise, Lily proceeds to slice bagels. Her mother notices all the food spread about, and Lily reminds her, "We're a very big family now, and I love it!" "Just don't forget your own children," Barbara cautions. "Resentments can build up, believe me!" [In a black and white moment, Lily says ironically, "I believe you, Mom. Trust me."]

Zoe stops by the counter, greeting "Grandma Bea" and taking a bagel. "Aren't you gonna toast that?" Barbara suggests. "Bagels taste better toasted!" Zoe politely declines. [Addressing the camera, Lily asks, "Ever want to know how you were raised? Just watch your mother with your own children."]

Rick enters the kitchen, startling Barbara and kissing Lily, who is wondering what they will do today. Her mother suggests they go shopping, adding, "Isn't someone around here gonna have a birthday?" She assumes there's a party for which to prepare. Zoe, beginning to feel put upon, states that she's not having a party. Horrified, Barbara appeals to Lily, who hedges while Rick steps out to get the paper. When Zoe remains resolute, her grandmother lobbies her mother, saying, "This is the age they have to feel comfortable with themselves if they're going to be popular." "I don't want to be popular, I want to be invisible!" Zoe exclaims.

Lily attempts mediation, assuring her mother that Zoe has some good friends. "Everybody loves a good party!" Barbara insists, undeterred. "Except me!" Zoe retorts. Lily, head throbbing, suggests Zoe invite Annika and Riley, and Barbara happily proposes that they have the party at BookLovers. "Let's just the two of us go shopping for party favors!" Barbara invites Zoe triumphantly. She exits and Zoe directs her ire at her mother, snapping, "Thanks a lot." Lily softly pleads, "Can't we just," but as Zoe stalks out, Lily asks the empty kitchen, "humor her?"

In the bathroom a short time later, Lily applies makeup while confessing to Rick her betrayal of Zoe. "Why'd you do it?" he asks from the shower. "Because I knew it would make my mother happy," Lily admits. "Why do I always end up in the 'happy' business?"

Rick replies, "It's called being a good daughter." Lily guiltily continues, "I don't have a relationship with her; I'm forcing Zoe to have one." Facing a dripping Rick, Lily wonders, "Who remembers their twelfth birthday, anyway?" Rick does. "Ah, Gina Bradley," he fondly recalls, towel in hand. "She let me feel her up on my twelfth birthday!" Making a face, Lily retorts, "I really needed to know that!" and flings her hand-towel at him as she leaves. "It was her present to me!" Rick calls after her.

Barbara and Zoe browse at an accessory store at the mall, Barbara marveling at all the great ideas for party favors. All of these, Zoe states, were "made in China, which invaded Tibet and killed thousands of monks." After a moment, Zoe says she would like to look in another corner of the small store. Barbara sternly reminds her not to wander off and says, "I'll meet you at that counter in three minutes."

[In an interview, Barbara speaks, "Oh, I had big plans. You might not know it to look at me now, but I was going to have a career in fashion!"] Zoe turns to examine another display. Barbara's gaze drifts toward the door, and she follows the gaze out of the store. ["I was gonna live in Paris and work for Coco Chanel," Barbara remembers, "or maybe become a buyer in New York."]

Out in the mall, Barbara flips through a rack of scarves while, in the store, a boa-wrapped Zoe looks over and notices her grandmother gone. [Barbara continues, "But that year my father lost everything--his business--it didn't matter what I wanted. I couldn't even afford college. But then I met Phil, and he became my life."] Barbara looks up in confusion before moving to the down escalator. Zoe searches the immediate area before asking a clerk if she can borrow the store telephone. Dialing home, she tells her mom that she doesn't see her grandmother anywhere.

Lily hurries to meet Zoe at the store. "How could you lose her?" Lily accuses her. "Excuse me, she lost me!" Zoe retorts. During their search, Zoe spots Grandma on the first level. When they reunite, Lily questions her mother, who blithely states that it was Zoe who wandered off. Despite a strenuous denial from Zoe, Lily lectures her, "Didn't I tell you to stay together?" Smiling serenely, Barbara tells them not to make a big fuss about it. Lily abruptly turns to leave, followed by her mother and, shaking off the disbelief, her daughter.

That night, Rick wakes to the sound of Lily talking in her sleep. He shakes her gently, and, waking, she says, "Oh, God, I was back at the old house and I wanted to see her so badly," referring to her mother. Rick gathers Lily into his arms and she continues, "I wanted to tell her something important, and ran all the way back home to tell her, but she wasn't there." In her dream she opened every door and looked in every room, but she wasn't there.

In the late night quiet of the kitchen, Lily separates an Oreo and eats the creamy half. "You used to eat the other half first," Phil says behind her. "I'm so glad you're here," Lily tells him, "even though you're not, really." "Oh, I am if you need me," her dad assures her. Tears standing in her eyes, Lily tells him that a lot has been going on. Phil agrees, stating that he had never realized how everything was connected. "Do you know we are actually made of stardust?" he marvels. Lily, emotion spilling over, laments that something is wrong with Barbara and if he were there, he'd see it and know what to do.

Phil isn't so sure. "I might love her so much I'd try not to see it right away," he tells Lily. Desperately, she asks how to talk to her mother and get her to admit she needs help. "Who likes to admit that?" Phil replies, concluding that Barbara wants to do everything herself. "Daddy, you can't be dead and in denial," Lily chides him. Laughing softly, Phil says, "You'll see, Lilibet. You'll know what to do." "How?" Lily pleads. Phil moves over to admire a cabinet door, and is gone. Lily remains, still searching.

At an elegant restaurant, Lily, Judy, and Barbara sip tea. Small talk comes with difficulty, Lily finally saying that she and Judy have something to talk to their mom about. "Oh I just love conversations that start like this," Barbara says sardonically. Gently, Lily asks if she has been forgetting things lately, appointments perhaps. "No. Absolutely not," Barbara states firmly. Judy assures her that forgetfulness happens to everyone. "I've forgotten to get married," she chuckles self-deprecatingly.

Barbara accuses them of thinking she's incompetent. "We're worried about you, Mom!" Lily asserts, asking, "Have you seen a doctor lately?" Insisting that she has checkups, Barbara accuses them of ganging up on her. Lily recounts how frightening it was when her mom wandered off, to which Barbara replies testily that she's managed very well on her own. Pressing, Lily recommends her own doctor, but Barbara has had enough. "When you were a child, I used to call you my little 'drama queen,'" she says, and changes the subject by turning to Judy and asking about BookLovers. Lily can only smile in frustration.

That night, Zoe enters the kitchen to ask if she can have some ice cream. When Lily agrees, Barbara tells her that Zoe eats too much junk food. "Why do you keep talking about her like she's not even here?" Lily asks. Barbara denies this, but Zoe confirms, "Yes, you do."

"Don't you dare use that tone of voice with me, young lady," Barbara reproves. Zoe, her patience exhausted, snaps, "I'll use any tone I want, any time I want to. I don't even know why you come here when all you do is criticize people." Quickly, Lily scolds her daughter and sends her to her room. Barbara, in a huff, professes not to know what's come over the granddaughter who used to be so sweet. Lily glances at Judy, who has just arrived.

A short while later, the sisters research Alzheimer's on Lily's computer. They read first about the physiological nature of the disease, i. e., "tangles that can form in certain regions of the brain," then about the symptoms, "which can include cognitive loss, verbal aggression, agitation, wandering." This all sounds painfully familiar, and to Judy, very discouraging.

Lily says this is just a fancy name for getting old, "so we can put people away and not feel bad about it." "What's the alternative?" Judy asks her sister. "Are you gonna want to take care of her?" Before Lily can answer, Judy admits that she's thought about this and isn't sure she could do it.

In her bed, Barbara picks up a notebook and writes. "We have our little secrets, don't we?" she asks Martha, who is perched on the bedside table. She smiles a moment at her old doll, then leans back and shuts her eyes.

Lily calls softly from the door, "Mom? Are you awake?" As Barbara sits up, Lily tells her that Zoe didn't mean what she said. "I know that," her mother says, adding that she and Zoe get along in their own way. "You haven't seen her in a while," Lily comments. "She's grown up so much."

Taking a deep breath, Barbara says, "Lily, it's hard. You have no idea how hard it is." Lily, sensing a moment of need, sits on the bed and asks, "You mean since Daddy died?" Looking toward Martha, Barbara says that she had a doll like that when she was a little girl. "Mom," Lily says, "That is your doll."

"It is?" Barbara asks. "What's it doing here?" Summoning patience, Lily reminds Barbara, "You gave her to me." "Of course I did," Barbara says, adding surprise at Martha's good condition since Lily was always so rough on her things. Lily quietly responds, "I've grown up, too."

In an attempt to delve further, Lily tells her mother that she sometimes feels they don't even know each other. "That's silly," Barbara scoffs. Lily advances delicately, saying she wonders what her mother was like as a girl, "what kind of mischief you got into, what you dreamed of." She wonders what it was like for her mother when she was pregnant, if she was afraid of giving birth, and what else she wanted in her life.

"Lily," her mother stops her, "I can't do whatever it is you want me to do right now. I can't be your best friend, I had your father for that." Continuing, she says, "I'm not like you. I don't want to talk about every little feeling, analyze it to death." "Do you think I do?" Lily interrupts, hurt. Still, Lily wants to know why her mother never talks about her feelings. "Why is it so damn difficult for you?" she implores.

"Because my life is mine," Barbara declares. "It's not for anyone else to examine and to judge." Thwarted once again, Lily backs off. "I think you must be tired, you ought to go to bed," Barbara says, ending the interlude. Lily nods and moves to the door in weary resignation. "What time is this party tomorrow?" Barbara asks briskly. Hearing 7:00 p.m., she tells Lily they should leave at 6:45 p.m. Mother and daughter exchange good-nights.

The next morning, Rick works under the hood of Lily's SUV. Barbara visits with him, observing pleasantly, "Jake's good with cars, too." Rick, with an oil smudge on his right cheek, looks up and says tersely, "That's great." "Lily tells me that you two get along," Barbara continues. "Well, Jake's a good guy," Rick affirms, intent on his fan-belt replacement. Barbara remarks that it's odd the way exes mingle these days. Coquettishly, she asks Rick if he's coming in to breakfast, saying she hates to think of him outside alone. "I kind of like it, actually," Rick parries. "You men!" Barbara chuckles, and leaves.

Lily then joins Rick, her pent-up frustrations evident to him as she sputters, "She's so like--" Amused, he reminds her that Barbara will be gone in two days. "I talk to her and I feel numb," Lily babbles. Realizing that an outlet stands before her, she looks up at Rick and declares, "I need to make love to you." In amazement, he asks, "Now?" "Now!" Lily echoes, grabbing Rick and kissing him fiercely. She pulls him into the back seat of the SUV, Rick laughing, "This is crazy!" Hovering over him and unzipping her jacket, Lily smiles and says, "I know!" Rick pulls her down on top of him.

As the SUV rocks rhythmically, Lily hears a car pull into the driveway. "What's that?" she whispers in fear. Rick peers out and replies, "It's Judy." Lily hastily peeks and ducks back down as Judy passes en route to the front door.

Shutting the door behind her, Judy calls, "Hellooo! Anybody?" Zoe comes downstairs and Judy greets her, "Happy Birthday, Button!" "What's so happy about it?" Zoe asks sourly, heading to the kitchen. Judy stands in the foyer, surprised.

Spent, and reclining in the back seat with Lily, Rick gasps, "Wow, maybe your mom should visit more often!" Lily laughs into his shoulder, but tears quickly follow and she sobs softly. Startled, he asks, "Lil, what's wrong? What is it?" "I don't know if I can do this," she weeps. "I try to talk to her, but she just shuts me down! How can someone give birth to you, change your diaper, and be your mother, and have it all be about her? She doesn't even see me!"

Trying to comfort his wife, Rick points out that it's not too late because Barbara is there, but Lily continues, "I never really had a mother, not really. Not the one I wanted. Now I'm losing her!" she whispers through her tears. "I don't know, Lil," Rick whispers back, "I wish I could help." Gazing at him, Lily strokes his face and says that he does.

Judy slices coffeecake in the kitchen, and Lily enters, zipping up her jacket. "Judy, I didn't know you were here!" she says in feigned surprise. "Why do you have grease on your face?" Judy asks. Just then, Rick enters, saying, "Hi, Judy, I didn't know you were here." Seeing the grease on his face, Judy begins to comprehend. "Oh, I was working on Lily's car," Rick smiles, kissing Lily, who dissolves in laughter. As Rick leaves, Judy ribs her sister, "In the car? I'm telling Mom!"

Zoe enters, asking if she can have a Popsicle. Lily allows this and Zoe pulls a surprise out of the freezer along with the Popsicles--the missing telephone. "How'd it get in there?" Lily asks in disbelief. She and Judy giggle as they agree that they're both "losing it." Judy confides that she had a conversation with their father the previous night, which Lily is glad to hear because Judy wouldn't think she was "nuts" for talking to Phil regularly. "I think it runs in the family," Judy concludes. Lily shares how Barbara didn't recognize Martha as her old doll the previous night, and can't believe that they've arrived at this point. "It's like life is five seconds long!" Lily remarks.

When Barbara enters the kitchen and Lily offers breakfast, her mom replies, "Coffeecake or Popsicles?" When Judy asks what time the party is that night, Barbara doesn't understand until Lily reminds her about Zoe's party. "Oh, of course! I think I forgot to buy her a present," Barbara says. To cover her lapse, she claims to have a present in mind and pulls Judy toward the door to accompany her.

Jake greets everyone at the festively decorated BookLovers that evening. Zoe, looking disinterested, enters last with Lily. The evening is warm and inviting, however, and Zoe is smiling by the time she blows out the candles on her cake.

Barbara rises to say a few words. To Judy she says, "Your dad would be so proud of all you've accomplished here. And Lily," Barbara addresses her eldest, "with your radio show and your wonderful, enormous family, I don't know how you do it." Moving close to Zoe, she continues, "But most of all, this is my granddaughter's day.

"Zoe," she says to the birthday girl, "I know you didn't want to have this party, and maybe I shouldn't have insisted on it. But I just knew that everybody in this family wanted a chance to celebrate what an extraordinary girl you are. You've got a real spark--you're smart, you're funny, you're not afraid of anybody, not even your bossy old grandma." Zoe laughs. "Matter of fact," Barbara continues, smiling, "you remind me just a little bit of me. And so, I'm going to give you something that was once mine," she lifts Martha out of a box. "Now, the dress is new, but she's really an old-fashioned girl at heart," Barbara explains as she presents the doll to her granddaughter. Zoe is thrilled and touched, and appreciative murmurs float about the table. "I hope she'll be as good a friend to you as she was to me. Happy Birthday, Zoe," Barbara wishes.

"Thanks, Bea," Zoe smiles at her grandmother. "I promise I'll take really good care of her." Sitting together at the opposite end of the table, Lily and Judy look behind them to see Phil sitting at the bar. He raises his glass to salute them.

Lily sits on Zoe's bed later that evening, both of them admiring Martha's new threads. When Lily moves to leave, her daughter asks, "Mom? Were you and Grandma closer when you were little?" Lily says they were. "Then, what happened?" Zoe asks. Lily offers, "I guess Grandma just loves babies so much, somehow it's hard for her to accept that we grow up into big girls."

[In an interview, Lily asks the camera, "What are Zoe and Grace gonna say about me when I get older? Are they gonna roll their eyes every time I call?"]

"Is it hard for you that I'm growing up?" Zoe asks. "Absolutely," Lily answers, stroking her daughter's hair. "Even though I can't help it?" Zoe clarifies. "Change is hard for parents sometimes," Lily attests. "Then, maybe you shouldn't be so mad at Grandma Bea," Zoe says softly. "She's changing, too, by getting old. She can't help it, either." Lily looks deeply into Zoe's eyes and nods.

From Zoe's room, Lily goes to Barbara's, where her mother is packing for her flight the next afternoon. "You don't have to leave tomorrow," Lily tells her, but Barbara insists, "You must be anxious to get back to your regular life." Shutting the door and approaching the bed, Lily tells her that Zoe loves the doll. Barbara is pleased and predicts that she and Zoe will be fine, because grandmothers are different than mothers. Lily nods, as Barbara goes into the bathroom in search of her toothbrush.

Rain and thunder are heard. Lifting a robe off the bed, Lily notices a notebook resting beneath. Casting a look toward the bathroom, Lily picks up the notebook and reads where it falls open: "Lily - Gives advice on radio station, Grace - 17, Zoe - 12, Rick - Architect, Jessie - 15, Eli - 19?." Lily looks up from her mother's notations, alarm in her eyes. She hastily shuts the book just before Barbara returns.

"Nice sound," Barbara says of the storm. "I was just Zoe's age when my mother died, did you know that?" she asks. Lily nods and her mother adds, "After that, everything changed." Walking to the window, she comments, "You always liked the rain." Lily joins her, saying, "I can remember waking up in the middle of a storm when I was little. I was so scared. And you took me out on the porch just so I could hear it and smell it, and after a while I loved it. Do you remember that?" Lily asks, reaching out to caress her mother's shoulder. "Of course I do," Barbara says, brushing her daughter's hand away and whispering, "Not now, Lily."

With a palpable ache in her voice, Lily reveals that she's always felt like she did something to make her mother angry with her but never knew what it was. Looking at her daughter, and in similar pain, Barbara tearfully says, "It was never you, it was just, it was life! Life did something to me."

After a moment, Lily walks to her mother and says, "Look at those hands," as she raises Barbara's left hand. "What have you been doing, scrubbing floors?" Laughing, Barbara concedes that they look awful. Lily seats her on the edge of the bed and orders, "Come on, hand over your hand!" Barbara complies by offering her right hand, to which Lily applies some lotion.

"Mom," Lily proceeds gently, "I want you to think about living here with us." Barbara, dumbfounded, tells her not to be silly, reiterating that she would never be a burden to Lily. "Mom, stop it! You don't get to make this decision!" To her mother's further protests, Lily raises her voice again. "I don't know how to make this any clearer! I want to take care of you! Will you or will you not let me take care of you?" she entreats, eyes glistening.

Barbara, stunned and quiet, confesses, "Lily, I forget things, I do know that. We'd just end up driving each other crazy." "Okay, so maybe it's not perfect," Lily concurs, "but I'll remember for you, Mom. And by taking care of you, I'll be taking care of me. And you'll drive me crazy. " Barbara tenderly returns her daughter's smile, saying "God knows you'll drive me crazy if I keep saying no." They laugh through their tears, and Lily begins to file her mom's nails.

The End

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