“You are my daughter first. Then you are a sister to your older brother. One day you will be a wife, and if you are lucky then you will be a mother yourself….” Those words are etched into her memory. She had been standing in the garden right outside her kitchen window over twenty years ago. She watched as her mother fussed over the prized rose bushes; the rose bushes she was never allowed to touch. Every morning as she sipped her coffee looking through the same kitchen window of her childhood, she was reminded of those words. The rose bushes told her in a condescending way that she was a daughter, a sister, a wife and now a new mother.
But the rose bushes haven’t been tended to in quite some time. The yard was in pitiful shape. The grass was out of control, the unkempt garden needed weeding, and there were leaves everywhere. The neglect was obvious. She could just feel the disapproving glare of her mother. She could hear the tssk, tssk, tssk sound her mother would make. Those were her rosebushes out there. They should never look that way. The driveway was pleasantly empty though. There wasn’t even a freshly stained spot on the asphalt from an idling vehicle. It was the only clean area in front of the house but, it was just as off putting as the yard for a completely different reason. The inside of the house mirrored the outside. There was a light layer of dust on all the kitchen cabinets. A few of the cabinet doors had loose or missing knobs. There was a persistent stagnant odor that seeped into everything or maybe seeped out of everything is more accurate. The little laundry that was clean needed to be folded. The dishes in the sink needed to be washed. The list goes on. The little things really started piling up after her husband had left her two weeks ago. He had gotten in his truck for work one morning and just never came home. The fact that he had packed a suitcase before leaving that morning had not even registered as alarming with her at the time. She had so much more on her mind. Their baby had just been born last month after all.
The last two months had been hard on her, and it showed. She had lost weight looking almost skeletal. As she sat sipping her coffee, her bloodshot eyes stared blankly at baby bottles that were soaking on the grimy countertops. She knew she should get started. She knew she should at least fix herself something to eat, but there wasn’t a lot in the pantry and even less in the fridge. So, she closed her eyes and enjoyed the last dregs of her coffee before she started her day. Luckily, the baby had been peaceful so far this morning. “Maybe I’ll just sit her quietly so I do not disturb the baby,” she thought reasonably. Moments later there was a wailing from the nursery and the young mother started. She scrambled to fix a bottle and go comfort the baby. If he got himself all worked up, it would be hours before he was peaceful again.
Early in the afternoon, with the baby content, there was an unexpected knock at her front door. The mother had been staring out the window again, and it took her a moment to understand what that strange knocking sound meant. The pastor from the local Baptist church was at the door with a brown bag in one hand and an old black bound Bible in the other. As she opened the door, the smell of fried chicken made her mouth salivate. They sat at the kitchen table after exchanging pleasantries and soon finished the gas station meal.
“I haven’t seen you in a pew lately young lady,” said the pastor quietly. “I know this is a tough time for a young mother.”
“I have been trying to manage the best I can pastor,” she replied sheepishly. “But I haven’t been getting a whole lot of sleep.” She kept glancing down the hall hoping they were being quiet enough not to disturb the baby. He was normally fairly content during the afternoons. The nights were a different story.
“If there is anything the church or I can do….”
“Oh no, y’all have been so good to my family already. I’ll manage.”
After she ushered the pastor out the of the front door as quietly as possible, she settled into her grungy couch. The baby was still content in the nursery and her full stomach was weighing her down. Hours later she is startled awake by sounds of the baby wailing. “How could she be so careless,” she admonished herself. She did not have time for a nap, let alone one that lasted hours and now the baby was screaming and nothing would be able to settle him for hours. Her heart starts to race as she quickly rises from the couch headed towards the nursery. She notices there is no sunlight coming in from the living room windows as she makes it to the hallway. She had slept longer than she thought. As she reaches her hand towards the doorknob of the nursery door, there is silence. The baby had settled back down only bellowing out long enough to ensure the mother’s heart was pounding. She sat back on the couch, but she knew there would be no more sleep this night.
She thinks about the rose bushes outside. They sure do need a good trimming. Her mother would be so disappointed with their state. Maybe tomorrow morning if the baby is settled, she could spend a couple of hours getting the garden and the rose bushes looking fresh. She could even cut a dozen of the nicest roses and make a bouquet. Maybe if she left them on her baby’s grave marker, he would let her get a full night’s sleep. It was worth a shot.