I was worried about my mother. She had not called to tell me she had made it home, and I could only make local calls on the phone by my bed. Or I could make collect calls, which would mean that whoever answered in my childhood home would be asked if they would accept the charges; that is how it was done. An operator would say: “Will you accept the charges of Lucy Barton?” One time only had I called them like this, it was when I was pregnant with my second child and I had had some sort of altercation with William, I have no memory about what. But I missed my mother, I missed my father, I suddenly missed the stark tree in the cornfield of my youth, I missed this all so deeply and terribly that I pushed the stroller with little Chrissie in it to a telephone booth by Washington Square Park and I called my parents’ home. My mother answered, and the operator said that Lucy Barton was on the line calling from New York, would my mother accept the charges? and my mother said, “No. You tell that girl she has money now to spend, and she can spend it on her own.” I hung up before the operator had to repeat this to me. And so that night in the hospital I did not call my parents to see if my mother had gotten home. But William called them from our apartment in the Village, because I asked him to. And he said yes, she had arrived safely back at her home.
“Did she say anything else?” I asked. I was terribly sad. I was as sad, really, as a sad child, and children can be very sad.
“Oh, Button,” my husband said. “Button. No.”