Mother Bother & Baby Booties

Submitted into Contest #145 in response to: Write a story where a particular piece of clothing appears three times.... view prompt

4 comments

Contemporary Drama Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

[content warning: death]

Sarah sat in a powder blue wingchair that matched the color of the walls, bouncing the one-month-old Noah on her knee, looking into his scrunched red face. The lamp on the nightstand spilled soft light onto the block-color carpet, and illuminated the white cloth clouds swaying above the crib. She gently fought Noah’s squirming legs and pulled the knitted booties from his feet, revealing pink splotches on his wriggling toes. She tugged the booties off and tossed them onto the floor. A wave of warmth pushed behind her face, but she exaggerated her smile. A tremble threatened her voice as she shushed him.

“Everything’s alright, everything’s going to be okay.” Sarah spoke this lie to herself often.

She spoke this to herself at the baby shower, watching the doorway as her mother came into view. Sarah’s husband had encouraged the invitation, though the two hadn’t spoken in years. He said that Sarah needed some semblance of a relationship with her mother, or she’d regret it—she would feel better if she could forgive and move on. Maybe her mother knew how she had messed up, and wouldn’t admit it—maybe a grandchild could be her way of apologizing. She could care for this child in a way that she couldn't care for her own, he said. Sarah still didn’t want to invite her. Her mother didn’t deserve a chance at redemption, and it wasn’t fair that she had to be the one to provide the opportunity for it. Her mother couldn't come into this child's life and then disappear.

But her arrival at the shower made a sort of promise. It stated that she was here, that she would be here, that she was going to make an effort. The part of Sarah that didn’t distrust this resented the fact that her mother was making an effort—she’s capable of it, but had decided not to for her. Past wrongdoing and resentment went unacknowledged, suppressed into a stiff hello. Friends sat around Sarah’s living room, which was decorated with streamers and balloons, dots of blue against the white walls and light gray settee. Dyed napkins were fanned out on the coffee table, amongst the potluck casseroles and vegetable trays. Her mother brought a store-bought sheet cake, atop it a blank rectangle that was supposed to have something written out in icing. A bare effort, but at least she brought something. It made Sarah nervous for the little gift bag that she carried. It would contain something revealing their relationship to the other guests, revealing how she had only come to the shower to perpetuate her self-believed persona of a good mother, revealing that she didn't truly care.

Sarah sat in the circle of her friends and opened their gifts. A sling, a bottle warmer, and diapers—lots of diapers. Her husband even wrapped the stroller that they had picked out and placed it like a secret in the pile. She laughed when she opened it, it was sweet. She left her mother’s gift second to last. If she put it off long enough, maybe it would disappear. But she knew that it wouldn’t disappear, and wanted some buffer to the disappointing endnote. She tried to not make a face while grabbing for it, smoothly moving her hesitant hands to the single piece of crumpled tissue paper spilling out of the top of the bag. 3 baby booties. Obviously handmade. One was pink and wobbly, every row seeming to lose or add a stitch—it was missing a second for the pair. She must have given up on her failed project. And a second pair, off-white, much neater than the ones before it, with soft fuzz standing out from the stitches to nearly double the booties' size. Though they were still too small to imagine fitting onto any person’s feet.

#

Sarah hadn’t heard anything from her mother for two months after the shower. The baby was a day late, wouldn’t she have known that? Sarah sat at the dining room table while she and her husband prepared dinner, trying to distract herself with conversation, as to not jump at every pinch and ache. She was peeling potatoes while her husband was sautéing veggies, the smell of bell peppers overpowering everything else in the popping pan.

Time seemed to be passing slowly because of the stress she was under, he reassured her, but it had only been two months. Maybe Sarah could call her? She could make a decision right now, no longer having to carry the worry of how, if at all, her mother would be involved in the baby’s life.

She grabbed a paper towel from the roll on the table to wipe the starch from her hands, slowly wringing each finger, picking under her nails. She called her mother, and as expected, the line continued ringing. The automated voice prompted her to leave a message, and urged her to hurl her phone at the wall, to watch it shatter out in a million shards. Instead, she threw her phone onto the table from an inch away, taking satisfaction in the loud thump. Sarah sat looking at her mother’s name on the screen. She was busy, had somewhere to be, had some imaginary thing to do. Something that was more important.

#

A week later, she got a call from her sister. Their mother was in hospice. An infection she couldn’t fight off. Sarah should come visit.

Sarah was emotionally and physically exhausted, drowning in the undercurrent of the most joy and excitement that was possible to experience. Why was it her responsibility to resolve things, to remind herself of what she had already lost, grieved, and moved on from? Seeing her at the baby shower had been like seeing a ghost, a haunting reminder of what was lost. It had already been lost. And Noah was a week old, she couldn’t leave him—not for someone who had left her. It made Sarah wonder even harder how that was even possible. Had her mother not experienced this?

It was a one-day trip, she could manage that. One day. She spoke to her husband, who agreed that she’d regret it if she didn’t go. It was only one day, and he could manage that alone. She changed her jeans, but wore the same shirt and cardigan that she’d already had on. Lazily pulling a hairbrush through her hair, she gave up on the tougher knots, and folded them into a bun. She pulled on her coat, and hollered an ‘I love you’ behind her as she walked out the door.

In the driver’s seat, Sarah sat in the noisy silence. What if she got into a car crash? What if she died and left behind Noah—her husband would be okay for a day, but not much longer than that. Even if she was only injured, she couldn’t spend time in the hospital right now. She buckled her seat belt. And what if she picked something up at the hospital, bringing it home to her newborn? His little system wasn’t ready to fight off serious illness—the pitiful coughs of his small voice rung between her ears. She sat, unmoving, grasping the ignition key. She sat there for as long as it would have taken to drive to the hospital, watching worst-case scenarios play out, until convincing herself that she didn’t need to go. To see her dying mother, who never loved her anyway. Who was unresponsive, her sister had said. So, it would only hurt Sarah to see her, and not mean anything to her mother. Sarah couldn’t even tell how this all made her feel, and wasn’t inclined to confront it face-to-face.

#

After soaking Noah’s feet in a lukewarm tub of dissolved oats, gently patting his feet dry, and rocking him to sleep, Sarah laid him back in his crib. She looked down at the booties tossed on the floor, unsure what to do with them. Noah couldn’t wear them. She drew in a deep breath, and a hot chill shivered out from her ribcage. She huffed, and tried again to fill herself with resolve. On the out-breath, Sarah swooped down and scooped the booties from the floor. The soft fuzz emanating from them scratched at her palms. Maybe she could donate them.

She walked out to the living room, put the booties in a Ziploc bag, and tossed them on the coffee table. She would deal with it tomorrow, for now, she needed sleep. Sarah looked over to the few boxes left out from the shower, piled in the corner of the room. From the small gift bag atop them, she plucked out the pitiful pink booty, and nestled it on a shelf between framed wedding pictures and a glass bowl of collected seashells, before going to wash the itch from her hands.

May 11, 2022 18:58

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4 comments

Thomas Auen
12:30 May 20, 2022

Hi Danny, Thank you for sharing this piece! It wrapped together themes of family discord, maternal attachment and protection, and of course the week’s theme. As I usually do with these posts for critique and inspiration, I would say continue to make use of descriptions. You implement a great deal of imagery, and I may suggest using additional figures of speech to add some complexity to your sentences and paragraphs. I felt the story flowed well, which can be difficult to do (at least I have difficulty with this each week). Keep that up ...

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Danny Grimes
23:31 May 20, 2022

Critique is more than welcome & yours is very appreciated! Thank you so much for your helpful and sweet comment!

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F.O. Morier
06:17 May 19, 2022

Wow! Beautiful and touching! Great work!

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Danny Grimes
23:29 May 20, 2022

Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for the lovely comment!

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