It was coolest on Mondays because that was when you had to leave for school again.
I watched my daughter as she bounded up the steps of the school bus, the pompon of her red hat bobbed up and down as she moved down the bus. Then, it would suddenly dip and disappear and suddenly her face was pressed against the third last window of the bus, her stubby fingers would wiggle frantically. Her nose always made an oil stain on the glass. I laughed as I waved back. Although she was now in middle school, I often became teary-eyed as I watched the bus leave. I told my daughter to buy something healthy for lunch, but I knew that she often didn't.
Mary watched as her mother’s figure slowly disappeared in the distance. There was always a moment of emptiness and longing before her friend engaged her in a conversation about something interesting that they will be doing in class today. On Mondays, Mary and her friend always got fries at lunch. Sometimes Mary felt guilty because her mother always told her to get something healthy, but the only healthy things offered at her school were peas and brussels sprouts. She hated brussels sprouts. Still, sometimes she would get them so that when she returned home after school she could tell her mother she ate healthily.
I was fearful this Tuesday, but I tried to push back these feelings.
We arrived at my daughter's friend's house close to 8 p.m. The party wasn't supposed to start until an hour later, but it seemed as though the house was already crowded. Loud, drunken laughter floated from the windows that were left ajar. I could see the outline of the figures as they moved around. I felt my palms sweating where they rested on the steering wheel. They were still sweating when my daughter finally disappeared into the house and mingled with the outlines until I could no longer tell who was who or where she was. That night, I did not sleep.
Mary weaved through the crowd at her friend's house party and tried her best not to bump into any drunken strangers. Her mother told her to call when she wanted to be picked up but knowing her friend, Mary knew it would be difficult to leave anytime before midnight, especially since it was her friend's birthday. At least it was spring break and no one had to worry about school the next day. She poured herself a drink from one of the unopened bottles laid out on a nearby table and went to find her friend. Mary's drink was jostled numerous times as strangers bumped into her carelessly. When she finally found her friend, her cup was empty and her friend was passed out on the floor. Mary lifted her friend and with the help of one of the few sober party-goers left, she brought her friend to her bedroom where she had to first kick out a half-naked couple. That night, she did not go home.
It was wet and dreary on Wednesday as I drove my daughter to her university dorm.
She insisted on staying on the university's campus although our home was only an hour's train ride away. She argued that she wanted to experience independence and wanted to focus on her studies without family disruptions. I tried to persuade her otherwise but it seemed that once she made up her mind, no one could change it.
When we arrived at the university, I helped my daughter unload her items and moved the boxes up to her dorm room on the third floor. It was an older building so there were no elevators. By the time we moved all her items, we were both drenched in sweat as we sat on her bed to catch our breaths. When I left, I tried my best to hold back tears as I left the parking lot of the dorm. I saw her waving in the rearview mirror. There was no glass separating us now and there was no bus that took her away from me each day. This time, I was the one driving away with my daughter's figure disappearing in the background.
Mary waved goodbye to her mother and headed for her new dorm room when her mother's car disappeared into the passing traffic and was no longer recognizable amongst the sea of cars. She took a shower and began unpacking her things. When she went to sleep, it was a peaceful slumber while she dreamt about her upcoming classes and the friends that she would make. Unfortunately, her friend from high school decided to go to a different university and Mary wasn't too familiar with anyone else from her school that planned on attending the same university. By the end of the first term, she was ready to quit, but she knew she couldn't. She had convinced her mother that she would be fine and that this experience would help her develop independence. Quitting was no longer a choice.
Mary called her mother a week later, but she hung up before her mother picked up and left a message saying that she had called by accident.
It was on a Thursday when I received a call from my daughter.
She began the call by speaking casually about her classes and the friends she had made, but I knew there was something else that she wanted to say. I prompted her about it and there was a pause. She then began to tell me about this boy she met in her psychology class. From her description, I wasn't too sure if he suited her. My daughter said that he was planning on becoming a lawyer and that they seemed to get along well after she went on a few dates with him. She sounded a little infatuated in my opinion, but I tried not to voice these thoughts and reminded her that she should still prioritize her studies. She didn't seem to like the way I responded and the rest of our conversation was rather dry and short. When she hung up, I received a message with a photo attachment. The boy with my daughter had a hat on backwards with his arm wrapped far too tightly around her waist. His smile seemed smug but I tried my best to not judge before I had the chance to meet the boy.
Mary trailed behind her boyfriend like a lost puppy. Since he was much taller than she was, his strides were also much longer. She pleaded for him to slow down, but he only complained that she was too slow. Mary had to admit that she was far from content in this relationship, but she remembered that her mother wanted her to marry a capable man who could take care of her. Her boyfriend had said that he would take care of her for the rest of her life. Mary only realized her naivety two years into their relationship when she found out that he had been hiding the fact that he was failing all his courses and soon would be suspended from their university. But that was not what drove her to break up with him, it was more because he began treating her like a servant after their first anniversary. The night of Mary and her boyfriend's break up, she called her mother and expressed the entirety of her accumulated stress over the years living alone at the university and her blindness in the face of love. By the end of that year, Mary moved home and although she had to commute every day for her early morning classes the next school term, she felt relieved to be free of her homesickness and her loneliness.
My daughter got married on the sandy shore of a beach on a Friday.
I watched as my husband walk our daughter down the aisle towards her husband to be.
My daughter's husband was a kind and sweet boy who I knew would treat her well. She glowed in her wedding dress as she waited for her father and husband to meet her in front of the minister. I held my husband's hand as I watched my daughter and her husband say their vows. I cried when they kissed and again as I waved to the wedded pair leaving in a long black limousine. My daughter's hand disappeared behind the blackened window and I knew that she was not pressing her face against the glass.
Mary had trouble adjusting to her newlywed life although she and her husband lived together before their marriage. It seemed that many things needed to be done and never enough time. She wondered how her mother ever managed because she remembered her mother saying that although her father tried to help, he was too busy with work to help often, though, he did take time off work on Mary was born.
My daughter's first child was born at dawn on a Saturday.
Though we were in a hospital and could not see the sun as it rose, the little bundle of red shined more light on our lives than the sun ever could and although her cries would later terrorize the nights of my daughter and her husband, I knew that they would come to appreciate the moments that they had to rock her in the middle of the night because as a mother, I certainly missed those moments.
Mary's daughter's cries intruded her restless sleep for the third time that night. She contemplated sending her husband instead but after a few moments, she was finally able to drag herself out of bed. Her daughter's face was scrunched up in a way that hardly looked comfortable as she continued to wail. Mary could not help but wonder if this was what she looked like in her mother's eyes when she was a baby. As Mary rocked her daughter back to sleep, she felt at peace and although she was sleep-deprived, she felt energized by the small breaths that her daughter blew against her neck.
It is a calm Sunday morning.
I am reading a book while sitting in my lawn chair. My husband is beside me on an identical chair but he has a cooking magazine opened in front of him. I am about to flip the page of my book when I hear the ringtone of my cellphone go off.
"Could you pass me my phone?" I ask my husband.
He is closer to the table where we usually place our phones so we won't be distracted while we read. His hand slowly drops one side of the magazine which causes it to tilt to the left as he reaches for my phone and passes it in the same slow manner.
"Hello?" I answer.
“Hello, is this Mary? Mrs. Mary Moman?” a woman speaks quickly on the other end.
“Yes, this is she,” I reply.
“I think you should come to the hospital right now...” the nurse’s voice trails off.
I look at my husband to see that he is already looking intently in my direction with his phone in hand. His finger hovers above our daughter's name, poised to make the call.
The air is the coolest on Mondays because that’s when I had to leave you at the hospital.
Now, I no longer go to the hospital and I no longer work. I hear my doorbell ring and head for the front door. I know on the other side is my daughter and her newborn child because, on Mondays, she always drops her off for a date night with her husband. She and I are very alike, aren't we, mother?
"Jennie." I smile when I see her.
My daughter laughs as she hands me her baby girl. Her husband waves from behind her.
I look into the eyes of my granddaughter and smile. She returns the smile in a way that resembles the combination of both her mother and her father's. Every Monday, I vow to be here for my daughter and my granddaughter for as long as I can and as long as they need me, the same way my mother always had.
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Hello! :) I just wanted to say that this story is a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a mother's relationship with her daughter. Well done! :) I cried when the mother saw her daughter (at her daughter's wedding) and I don't normally cry while reading short stories. Can't wait to read what else you've written, and have a great weekend, Ruth
Hi Ruth, Thank you so much for your comment and I'm glad my story was able to touch you! I hope you do enjoy my other stories :) Ai