Having a Mother

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2015

The sky glittered above, a blue canvas sprinkled with glittering stars

The sky glittered above, a blue canvas sprinkled with glittering stars

Tears filled my eyes as I stared back at my mother. I turned and fled out the door, not caring that it was the middle of the night. The yard was filled with deep shadows, and leaves crackled beneath my feet as I ran over the open expanse of tufty grass and into the forest beyond.

I somehow found my way to the shed, sagging wearily in its sheltering copse. Despite its bad condition, it had a fresh new lock on the tightly sealed doors, like a sheet of fresh paint over rotten wood. But I didn’t want to get into the shed: I wanted to get onto it.

I grabbed the branch just above my head, well worn from years of use. Hauling myself up onto the familiar knot in the tree, I sidestepped onto the bottom half of the roof of the shed and then scrambled up onto the very top, shingles sliding underneath my soft hands.

Brushing aside dry leaves and twigs, I sat down, legs dangling over the edge, and looked up. The sky glittered above, a blue canvas sprinkled with glittering stars. The thin sliver of a moon cast pale moonbeams onto the quiet nighttime forest, dappling the ground with silver puddles of moonlight.

My breath puffed out in a white cloud; it was cold, but I didn’t mind. Crossing my arms, my gaze shifted downward, and I gazed out over the rest of the forest, tall, green-needled pines stretching up higher than I cared to look. The tears escaped my dark brown eyes, and I felt them slide silently down my cheeks.

I hugged my knees to my chest and gritted my teeth, my face contorting in pain. More tears flooded out, and my lower lip quivered. I let my long brown hair fall into my face; it tickled my cheek and brought back memories of when my mother’s hair would just brush my face as she bent down to embrace me.

We had had yet another fight. I knew friction between my mom and me was to be expected as I grew up, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this, was it?

I closed my eyes and pulled my knees in closer. My mother was an important figure in my life. She stood six feet tall, solid and muscular like a female football player, with short, curly brown hair and brown eyes. When she smiled, it felt like she could light up the whole world, but when she was angry, even the bravest cowered before her. And recently, we had begun fighting horrifically. It usually happened late at night, after dinner, when we would start discussing school and soccer and other such things.

Today had been about my lack of physical fitness. To give her credit, I wasn’t the fittest eighth-grader there ever was, but in my defense the past few years had been a struggle. I had broken both ankles, dislocated and broken my shoulder, broken my femur, popped my knee out of place, broken my index finger, injured my wrist, and had a bone contusion on the back of my femur, all within the last four years. Despite multiple sessions of physical therapy, I was having great difficulty returning to my previous physical state. Slap eighth-grade tests, quizzes, and homework on top of that, and I didn’t exactly have the time or energy to work out, either.

None of that mattered to my mother. She wanted me fit, and she wanted me to attend a run-a-mile-a-day fitness program at my school, which I was definitely not up to in my current physical state. It had led to a yelling match on both sides, with my dad’s eyes nervously flitting back and forth between us like a bystander watching a tennis match. Eventually, my mother, as always, in her higher mindset and household superiority, had beaten me down to nearly nothing, and I had fled the scene before greater damage could be done.

Now, sobbing silently in the still winter air, head throbbing from my tears, I wished bitterly for anything that could make my mother love me. Deep down, I knew that she did, but right now my heart was broken by her harsh words, and I wanted something, anything, to hold onto—including a dream of her never yelling at me again.

I longed for the comfort and solitude of writing, although I had nothing to write on or with. So, in my head, I asked myself: What would my book character (currently named Aspen Simber) do in this situation?

I turned the question over and over in my mind, inspecting it and testing it. I had tried to make Aspen realistic, so she would cry, of course, like I was. Then, maybe, she would push through it and tell herself that words don’t last forever and that her mother really did love her. I tried to do as she did, but the pain was like a knife: whenever I tried to pull it out, more pain flooded through me.

So what, then? What did I do? I couldn’t stay on this rooftop until the pain went away; it would linger with me for many days, and only time could heal the rift. I needed a solution for the now, not the tomorrow.

Make a list in your head, Morgan, I thought. This was a helpful way of reminding myself of everything good that I knew to be true about my mother.

Number one, my mind continued, your mother really does love you.

More tears escaped, but they weren’t as agonizing.

Number two, you really aren’t very fit. She just wants to help.

I could think of no more after that (though I racked my brains in searching), and my teeth were chattering. Reluctantly, I climbed down from my perch to return to the warmth of the house.

Suddenly a thought came to me. There were girls like me in the world who didn’t have a mother. Who would give up everything to have one, no matter how big or scary, no matter how many fights she would get into. They wanted nothing more—not fashion or technology or even riches, just a mother to love and care for them. My heart pounded.

I had a mother. No matter how big or scary, no matter how many fights I got into with her, I had a mother, and she was usually kind and loving and caring. The thought put a small smile on my cold lips. I loved her, and I knew she loved me. She really did, despite all of our disagreements.

I pushed my hair out of my face and found with a start the tears it had been filled with were frozen.

Huh. I guess it was pretty cold. Smiling for real, I ran back to the house, ready to face my mother once more.

Morgan Biagioni, 13 Roswell, Georgia

Morgan Biagioni, 13
Roswell, Georgia

Claire Litsey, 12 Northlake, Texas

Claire Litsey, 12
Northlake, Texas

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