Happy Mother’s Day, only two days late. This story is fiction and any resemblance to real life is coincidence. This story is not about me, especially since the narrator is female.
I was a terrible kid when I was young. My mother was half-way to sainthood, in that she was as patient as Job and I almost sent her to an early grave.
It wasn’t really that I was bad, I was just . . . creative. Which is why the police brought me home after I chased my friends down the road with a hammer. I tried to explain hammer tag to my parents, but they just grounded me. I didn’t want to be grounded, so I threw all my bedding and clothes out the window. I was planning on running away and wanted a soft place to land when I jumped out my window. My parents never understood the logic behind what I did; they just sighed, put the clothes in the laundry, and then grounded me longer.
It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized how much of a pain I had been to my poor parents.
“I’m sorry for how difficult I was when I was a kid,” I told my mother once, over tea soon after I got pregnant with my first baby.
“Oh, we got through it,” she said with a smile. Then she stopped and leaned in. “I hope you have one just like you.”
“Mom, that’s mean of you,” I said, trying to laugh it off. She just kept smiling and stirred her tea, a look of vengeful triumph in her eyes.
My husband and I soon moved to Papua New Guinea to work with a NGO. We came back once every two years or so and although we spoke on Skype, my mother didn’t really get to know my two girls very well until we moved back again, when my oldest daughter Alice was six and my youngest Emily was four.
“So, how are the girls?” she would ask sometimes in our long-distance chats. “Quite a handful, I’m sure.”
“They’re fine,” I said, but I could tell by her close examination that she was looking for stress lines on my face.
* * *
“I’m sure you girls get into trouble all the time, right?” my mother asked. We were back in the States and sitting around the kitchen table with the girls. They looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Well, would you like a snack?” she asked, undeterred. “I have pixy sticks, and Coke to drink.”
“Do you have any carrot sticks?” Alice asked.
“Maybe an apple?” Emily added. My mother pursed her lips and got the snacks.
The next day I caught her trying to teach her granddaughters hammer tag. “This is too dangerous,” Emily said just before I intervened. I shooed them away and they went and sat in the sandbox and pretended they were highway engineers about to build a new bypass.
“I know what you’re doing,” I said. “You’re trying to make they behave badly to get back at me.”
“Are these really your kids?” she asked. “It’s not fair. I had to put up with you and you get two perfect angels.”
“Maybe it’s Trevor’s genes?” I said, referring to my husband.
“No, I’ve talked to his mother and he was a hellion when he was young too,” she said. “It’s just not fair.”
“You just got to accept it. The world isn’t fair.”
“I guess not.”
“Just promise me one thing.”
I leaned in. “Don’t try to teach them hammer tag again.”
She was about to accept, then crossed her arms. “How are you going to know?”
“They’ll tell on you,” I said.
She nodded sadly. “You’re probably right.”