"Oh, I just love beagles," she cooed. "What happened to her?"
From the other side of the room my husband explained about the accident. The woman chatted directly with me for about five minutes about beagles and their propensity to run into the street. I tried to look responsive while my husband supplied the appropriate comments. I felt like part of some Gong Show ventriloquist act, but she didn't even seem to notice I hadn't said a word.
When she left the room my husband said to me, "You look like someone in the Yiddish theater. You make these oversize facial expressions to show that you're reacting to every line." I wasn't sure if this was an insult or a compliment. It was probably best that I couldn't ask. The original tech came back to tell us the vet was in surgery, and we needed to leave Sasha for a couple of hours.
Because my husband was late, as we got to the car I mimed offering to drive him to work.
"You want to drive home?" he asked. I shook my head no, pretending to turn a car wheel and pointing to him.
"You want me to drive?" he asked. I repeated my gestures.
"I'm driving you crazy?" he asked, adding, "You're driving me crazy!"
After that, I did my best to avoid people. I had to go to the grocery store, but I couldn't face it. What if I ran into someone? How would I handle the prepared food counter? And what would I do when faced with that dreadful dilemma: paper or plastic? I stayed home and for dinner defrosted freezer-burned vegetable patties and microwaved yellowed kale. My husband, realizing things could get ugly once I started talking again, declared the meal, "Superb."
That night, when I kissed my daughter goodnight, she started crying about something that happened during the day. I lay down on the bed and talked to her. When we were done she promised she wouldn't tell anyone.
The following morning the curse was lifted. I asked my daughter what she liked best about my silence.
"The best part was that you didn't yell at me in the morning," she said. There it was, the motherhood moment of revelation of a million women's magazine stories. I already had the headline: The Gift That Silence Gave Me. I decided not to get into a Dershowitz-like exchange with her, explaining that one person's "yelling" is another person's "firm encouragement."