Ma…

Ma…

Perhaps the most influential concept in my life.

The source of my origin… the force that directs my existence… everything that I am is her… everything that I try not to be is her…

She engulfs me, sometimes to the point of suffocation; and yet without her I would probably scatter into a million pieces and get lost in the ether.

As an infant I depended on her, as a teen I detested her, or so I would have had the world believe, marriage and a baby gave me a new perspective on her, and by the time my own brat hit his adolescence, I had the utmost respect for her. Of course, a large part of my mothering philosophy involved reflecting on what not to do, but still, at the end of my own journey and after reflecting upon my own mistakes, I realized that she had done the best that she knew how to, and could, given her own circumstances, and that she was a victim of her own past.

The intense lines on her face taught me to lay down my own baggage gently. Her bitterness taught me faith, to believe that life would in fact unfold as it was scripted to, and that while riding the rapids it was best to let go of fear and just enjoy the jostles and splashes. And if once in a way you get thrown over, then, hey, ma did teach you to swim.

Until finally, life came full circle.

She depends on me, I guide her, advise her, reprimand her, support her. At the end of each day I reflect upon my mistakes, go down on my knees asking for forgiveness and patience, as I am sure she probably did when she herself was a young mother learning from her own mistakes.

Ma…

The source of my origin… the force that directs my existence… everything that I am is her…

In response to Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt “ma”

Annie’s

I watch him watch me from the corner of my eyes.
He thinks I don’t see the subtle shake of his head, the disappointment in his eyes.

She’s cleaning those shells again,’ he whispers. Probably complaining to Dr. D!
Bless the good doctor. If it wasn’t for her, they would have tried to take these away too. She’s good people. She understands a mother’s responsibilities. When Annie comes back, she’s going to ask for her shells. They may say that she’s never coming back. But I know better. She never goes anywhere without her shells.

Oh Lordy, I missed a spot.


In response to Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneer’s challenge based on a photo prompt submitted by Sandra Crook

Because…

Lord have mercy.
This was going to be one of those conversations.

You have to drink the milk, Simon.

I think the word you’re looking for is should drink the milk.

OK wise guy. You should drink the milk.

Needn’t.

Should. Milk is a whole food. It’s good for you.

Hmm, says here that A whole food, is a natural food that has not been processed or has been refined as little as possible. This milk is pasteurized. Not a whole food.

I meant that it’s a complete food. And don’t start reading out that definition.

Well, if its so complete then why did they have to enrich it with Probiotic and Vitamin D, E and K2, drones his machine-imitation voice.

I’m trapped in a maelstrom of irritation, frustration, pride. I see the twinkle in his eye. He thinks that he’s won the argument.
I play the trump card.

Then will you please drink it cause it would make mommy really really happy?

The twinkle dims a little.


In response to the 185th Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, based on a photo contributed by Yinglan.

Don’t call… Even a text would do…

Call me when you reach.

Those were my explicit instructions to him as I dropped him off at the airport. Of course I know my kid well enough to know that he would never call. For some reason he hates phone calls. (Perhaps that reason is me. Can hating phone calls be hereditary?)

What I did expect were a few WhatsApp messages.

It’s the first time that he’s left the country alone. Well traveling with a bunch of strangers escorted by some professor who I don’t know, is still classified as travelling alone in my book of parenting. Expecting a few updates is not too unreasonable, right?

Wrong.

Here is what I get…

Day 1: I’m here. The wifi sucks.

Day 2: Still alive.

Night 3: All in good time.

The last being in response to my barrage of messages (3 actually) asking how his day went.

He’s coming back on Day 8. By then I would have probably exited WhatsApp just to keep my phone safe.

I’m tempted to play the sentiment card and ask questions like – What if Manado is hit by an earthquake or a tsunami? How will I know of your welfare? But I shan’t. Knowing him, the response would probably be – Don’t worry, you will hear about it on the news. He can be very infuriating that way.

His father worries too. But he has a silver lining he hangs on to at moments like this. ‘You know he gets his attitude from you‘ he annoyingly provokes. I don’t understand the man. After twenty three years of marriage who doesn’t learn that it is unwise to prod a simmering lioness!

In response to Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt – call.

Moments

In life there is no ever after, and happily needn’t start with a fairy-tale. Twenty years of marriage had taught me that.

Ours wasn’t love at first sight. He wasn’t a romantic sweep-a-girl-off-her-feet type of guy. But he was honest, hard working, and more importantly, he gave me respect and space, a courtesy rarely extended to women of my generation.

When that mutual respect transformed into friendship and love, I cannot say.

We did not discuss things like feelings, or mark milestones with expensive gestures or elaborate adventures. As I packed away his things, I realised that while we may not have had any grand moments, we had enjoyed many happy ones.
In the brief time that we had together, we had created many beautiful memories.

Like this silly old snow globe that he gave me for our first Christmas…

“Show me that,” my mother-in-law requested from her wheel-chair. “You still have this! Your father-in-law, bless his heart, gave this to me for our first Christmas.”

I held on to the globe tenderly. My beloved had been a romantic after all.


In response to the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of December 17th 2017, based on a photo credited to A Mixed Bag 2013

One very long road

I’m chagrined at the way at the way he’s dumped his clothes in two heaps – clothes and undergarments. The precarious book pile threatens to topple with the first draft. Only the laptop occupies a place of pride.

But he’s beaming with unbridled joy. A man in his man-cave.

As I rest my head on his shoulder, he wraps his arms around me. “Come on mom, It’s hardly far. Just one straight road.”

Yes.
One very long road.
One road that’s taken away my baby and left behind a man. One road that’s changed life as I know it.


In response to Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers‘ photo prompt

The break

The thing with small towns – everybody knows everybody’s business.

I had ridden to the next town just to buy a pregnancy test kit. For seven stressful days and seven sleepless nights, I had kept the results to myself, almost as if I were an unwed mother. Eventually I made myself a promise. This was my decision, my responsibility. My baby would always have a family. There was no going back.

When he heard he was becoming a father, he was proud enough to buy the entire pub a round and pleased enough to permit me to work. The baby had to be provided for, and honestly, I was more than willing.

Smart, friendly, helpful, my princess was perfect. When she looked at me, like I was the most important person in the world, I determined that she was not going to waste her life like me. It didn’t matter if my back ached or my eyes burnt, her hug could cure everything.

Time passed like the bling of an eye and soon it was time for her to go to college. Tuition was expensive, but I had been saving up ever since she won first prize in middle school.

It was when I logged in to pay that I discovered I was down to minimum balance. It had to be a mistake. Definitely a mistake! I rushed to the bank. I had signed no cheque. I had withdrawn no money. And that’s when I realised the rumors had been true. He had debts, great big gambling debts.

Nothing moved him, not her tears, not my pleas. He just left for the pub like it was just another day.

I meant to follow him to continue pleading. I never realised that I had accelerated until I rammed into the tree.

The coroner came for him. The cops came for me. No questions were asked.

That’s the thing with small towns – everybody knows everybody’s business.

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Written for Michelle’s Photo-Fiction #90 challenge

The Parenting Game

You’re being silly!

Maybe!
But moms are allowed to be silly.
It’s the first time that my baby has been away from home and that too for three whole days. He’s gone with his school and there are teachers, but still…

He’s ten. High time you cut the umbilical cord.

I understand. At least my logical mind does. But a mother’s heart is beyond logic and reasoning. A million scenarios have plagued my mind. What if he gets hurt? Is he eating properly? He’s going to start his shower and then realise he has forgotten to take a towel!

So I arrive at the school, well before the bus is due, and what do you know, I’m not the only over-anxious parent waiting.

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Inspired by Bikurgurl’s 100 Word Wednesday, Week 20 photo prompt

Do you think they will come?

Waiting is easier for me. I read the papers and enjoy the peace. After years out at sea, the solid earth calms me. My concept of time is very different. To her a day is a long time, a week a very long time. She comes up with a million different ‘do you think…’ and expects me to respond to every one. I try to indulge her but oftentimes it’s draining.

Guilt makes me patient. I never encouraged her to take time out to live for herself. To the contrary, it was my belief that with one parent away, the children deserved the undivided focus of the other. So she did. She gave them her everything. They grew into beautiful smart confident adults.
Then they went on to live their lives.

She was left purposeless, aimless, spending the week obsessively tending to house, and the weekend obsessively waiting for them.

I watch her straighten the chairs again.

Waiting on my own is simple. Waiting with her is exhausting.


In Response to Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, 114th Challenge
Photo Prompt by Yarnspinner

That one moment

I’m seated directly under the whirling fan, but I might as well have been out in the sun or waiting under some lamppost. I tilt my head from side to side loosening the knots in my neck. Had I stayed up all night, I would have been no more exhausted. At any rate by morning my bed sheets had been such a tangled mess that I had to literally extricate myself from its clasp.
I stare at my cellphone, my brain constantly searching for any signs of a message or a call, for any sign from him, like a phone seeking a signal when moving through a mountain pass. My stomach clenches uneasily and I find that I am hugging myself so tightly that my nails are pinching into my skin. Years of hard work and running around, sleepless nights, and it all boiled down to this one moment, the one crucial moment when dreams could either beget wings or fall like a stack of tumbling dominos.

A loud ring shatters the silence and I grab the phone with trembling hands. The unlock pattern goes wrong and for one brief horrifying second I can’t recall the password. And then I remember.

“Hello mom. Mom? Can you hear me? I got in, mom. I’ve been selected.”

In response to The Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of 7th May 2017.
Thanks to the photo prompt by A Mixed Bag 2012.