More Than Enough - A Day in the Life of a Mother

Submitted into Contest #20 in response to: Write a story about a day in the life of a mother.... view prompt

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Sunshine began to light up the narrow windows of the cramped, aged apartment. Dust motes drifted lazily between the beams of light, nowhere to go and nothing to do except add to the ever-growing list of chores as they settled on every surface in fine layers.

Sadie had been up for hours by this time, not that she’d really even slept at all. A teething, fussy baby and a toddler with the flu meant she could kiss sweet sleep goodbye for the foreseeable future. The smell of coffee brewing was the only thing keeping her sanity at this moment, as she’d finally been given a few minutes of quiet when both of the babes drifted off. At last - no one was crying, no one was vomiting, and the apartment was blessedly silent.

She pulled her favourite mug from the shelf, conveniently also the size of a small barrel, and poured the contents of nearly the entire carafe into her cup with a sigh. She could feel the exhaustion pushing a well of tears closer and closer to the surface. It wouldn’t take much to put her over the edge, but there wasn’t time this morning for a good cry. So, she took another deep breath and chased it down with a gulp of the fresh, hot brew.

With a shake of her head, she cleared the cobwebs and flipped the faucet of the sink on. The water slowly began to heat, steam rising into the quiet, the only sound that of the water filling the sink. She added a drop of soap, watching carefully the level of the fragrant liquid and mentally calculating how long it would be before she would need to purchase a refill. These days, every nickel and dime seemed to be worth less and less. Nothing seemed to go as far as it should, and the month always seemed to outrun the money, no matter how careful she was.

Once the dishes were washed and she’d gulped down the rest of her coffee, grinds and all, she opened the refrigerator and stared at the meagre contents. There was a ziplock bag with a couple of slices of bologna, three brown eggs, and a stale half loaf of bread. She had a sneaking suspicion that the bologna was most likely past expiration, but she wasn’t willing to toss it into the trash. With a prayer, she diced up the bologna and threw it into the frying pan with the three eggs and scrambled it all together. It wasn’t much, but she portioned it out between two plates and hoped for the best, hearing the sound of her toddler stirring again.

They sat down together, Lena nursing contentedly and Janie picking at the eggs and stale toast, the rickety table and chairs scratching against the old linoleum flooring. It was time for the apartment to be updated, she knew, but there were a lot of things that needed some work. The building was tolerable, even if the neighbourhood was not ideal, and the rent was the best in the city. If she had to make some trade-ins to make her few dollars go a little further, then that was what she would do.

The timer on the counter went off just then, reminding her that it was time to make the weekly trip to pick up her groceries. It used to bother her, standing in line at the food bank, ashamed of the judgement she was sure others were silently doling out, but now it was just part of the week’s routine. Thankfully, she had today off of work. The trip into the food bank took up most of the day; including the hour and a half bus ride each way and the time she spent in line waiting for her items, it wasn’t a pleasure trip.

Days that she had to work as well as make it in for her groceries were far and away her least favourite days of the month. After a long day cleaning at the local Super8 Motel, where she worked as a maid, the last thing she wanted to do was go into downtown. Thankfully, Mrs. Bernstein down the hall was willing to babysit the girls for whatever Sadie could manage to pay her that week. Most of the time she found her small payment slipped back under her door the next morning, but Mrs. Bernstein never said a thing about it.

She was an angel, that elderly Jewish woman a few doors down. Her accent was thick and difficult to understand, and she constantly smelled like mothballs and fish, but she loved the girls and showered affection on them every chance she could. And today, when Sadie was completely drained and the girls were so under the weather, it was a godsend to be able to leave them with a trusted friend.

It helped, too, not to have to answer all of Janie’s questions about why they were at the food bank instead of the grocery store, like the neighbour’s kids down the hall. Janie didn’t remember the earlier days, when their family had been whole. She was too young to remember the days when Mommy didn’t have to go to work for twelve hours a day and the fridge was always full. She couldn’t remember the Christmases and Easters they used to spend with family and friends, opening presents they didn’t need and gorging on more food than they knew what to do with, just because they could. Only Sadie remembered those days when they had been on the other side of the cafeteria-style glass, serving the hot meals to the needy rather than receiving them, as she now found herself doing more often than she liked.

It was a small blessing, knowing that Janie couldn’t remember what she was missing out on. This was normal to her, and every Saturday evening as Sadie tucked them into bed and kissed their sweet faces, she was just thankful to have gotten one week closer to feeling a little more normal, too.

Once the girls were dropped off with Mrs. Bernstein, Sadie trooped out to the bus stop, holding her worn parka hood closer to her face. The wind was bitterly cold on this sunny February morning in Alberta, but she welcomed the sharpness that blew the nostalgia from her thoughts. She found herself thinking about him a lot lately, especially during these long trips into the city, wondering how things had changed so much.

They were so in love once, but after those early months of newlywed bliss, a side of him came out that she could never have imagined was hiding behind the polished exterior. She thought he hung the moon, sun, and stars. That is, until the drinking started. And then he lost his position at a well-known accounting firm in the city. Those three years after they were married and they started their family, as he drifted from job to job, she kept hope that things would get better. He would find work and stop spending his evenings at the bar, he wouldn’t come home drunk anymore, he would be the man she believed he was when she said, ‘I do’.

But day after day, week after week, month after month, nothing changed except to get steadily worse.

That night, he staggered into the house, tripping over packed boxes stacked in the halls. Their dream house had been re-possessed by the bank since they hadn’t made a mortgage payment in months, and they were moving to a smaller rental place outside of the city. It wasn’t ideal, but Sadie did her best to stay upbeat. He kicked the offending box before stumbling into the kitchen where she was coaxing a fussy Janie to finish the last of the pureed carrots. She was out of breath, as usual, her swollen belly itchy and sore as Lena kicked and rolled inside.

That was the night when it all finally came crashing down. Infuriated, at everything and nothing, he began to yell. Unable to calm him down, his tirade set Janie to crying at the top of her little lungs, and Sadie found herself backed up against a wall as her husband towered over her. His breath reeked of whiskey and she tried not to breathe as she stared at him, terrified.

Suddenly, with a speed she didn’t know he had, he brought his hand up and then crashing back down against her tear-stained cheek. Her ears ringing, mind reeling in shock, her head whipped back against the wall and bounced off like her daughter’s favourite rubber ball. Again, he brought his open palm down on her face, this time striking her other cheek. Using both hands, he shoved her back by her shoulders when she tried to move away, her arms instinctively encircling her belly. Then, distracted by her movement, he glared at her. He glared at her with a hatred and an anger she had never seen before.

It seemed, in that moment, as if the world had gone completely mute. As she waited to see what he would do next, she stood as still as she could, her mind racing. Finally, he seemed to deflate somewhat, his shoulders slumping as he stepped away from her. He turned and stalked back out the way he had come, slamming the door so hard behind him that the glass panes shook, and one even cracked down the middle.

Sadie walked to the door after a minute, still dazed at what had happened, and watched their rental Kia disappear down the street, speeding wildly. She stood there as the world around her started to return to normal. She could feel the baby kicking frantically, as if she were afraid, and Janie was crying inconsolably in her high chair. The jar of carrots was shattered on the floor, orange puree spattered on the ceramic tiles, though she couldn’t remember how that had happened.

As Sadie rescued Janie from her high chair and comforted the frightened toddler, her heart began to splinter into small pieces as her thoughts raced. She could still feel the pain of his hand across her cheek, the paralyzing fear as she waited for something worse, the terrified cries of her little girl looking on. And she realized in the aftermath that she could not stay in this toxic place and endanger her children’s lives.

She always thought she would be the kind of person to fight for her marriage, but it was glaringly obvious that there was no marriage left to fight for. So, she packed a suitcase for herself, and one of baby things, grabbed her purse and cell phone, and called a cab. In what felt like just a split second, she was watching her home disappear behind her as the car drove to the women’s shelter not far from their home.

He had tried to call after that night, several times, so she purchased a new phone and after a few days, moved her girls to a city a few hours away. With only a handful of dollars in her pocket and two small suitcases, they started over. A new city, a new apartment, a new life. Now, she hadn’t heard from her husband in months, and she liked it that way. It was just Sadie and her girls, against the world.

As the bus slid to a stop at the warehouse that the food bank used to distribute their goods to the needy in their city, Sadie put her thoughts back neatly into the box where she kept them, far at the back of her mind. One foot in front of the other, she disembarked and walked quickly down the street and around the corner, breathing a sigh of relief as she entered the warmth of the large building.

People bustled here and there, and she quickly found the shortest line, patiently waiting her turn. A young man stepped up to help her carry her bags back out to the bus stop, smiling genuinely at her. ‘Have a great day!’ he said, chipper as usual, heading back to the safety of the building. His name was Chris or Colin, something like that, and she knew his parents. Janie used to go to the daycare that his mother managed, back when life had been different, and she was glad to see that he was still doing well.

While he’d walked with her, he told her all about his big dreams. He was graduating high school this year and planned to take a year to travel before considering colleges. He was going to see the world, he said, before he thought about settling down. He had things he wanted to do while he was young and unattached. She nodded along, smiling at all the right times, and waving goodbye when it was time for him to head back. What she wouldn’t give to be back in that place, young and excited about the future, with everything to look forward to.

But as the bus pulled up again, and she thought about her little girls waiting for her and the dear friend who would pull her into her home for a cup of hot chocolate and a sugar cookie, she smiled. Maybe she didn’t have all the wonderful things to look forward to that her young friend did, but she had some precious treasures that filled her heart with joy, even when the nights seemed endless and the days took everything out of her.

She did have dreams, dreams for a better world for her little girls. Dreams about how they would work hard to make it better every day, even if just in their small corner. And as the bus trundled on, she imagined all of the wonderful things that were still to come - first steps, first word, first day of school, first best friend, first love. She imagined seeing them graduate high school, dropping them off at college that freshman year, and how beautiful they would be when the day came for them to walk down the aisle. Her heart filled with a warmth and hope as she thought about the first grandchild and all the joy that would come as they started their own families.

Before she realized the trip was over, the bus came to a halt at her stop and she collected her things. Bert, the usual driver, waved goodbye to her as she stepped off and headed for the front doors of her building. A couple of young teenage boys stood outside, talking animatedly about something she didn’t catch, and waved with a smile as she walked past.

‘Hey, miss Sadie, hang on!’ they said together, dropping into step beside her and taking the bags from her hands. They were Mrs. Bernstein’s nephews, or something like that, and she sent them out to watch for her whenever she had to make a trip to the food bank. Sadie wasn’t sure how she did it, but that elderly matriarch had those boys out every week, waiting on her. They trooped up the stairs together, a rag-tag bunch, and found themselves outside Mrs. Bernstein’s door before long.

The door swung open and the customary smell of hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies came wafting out to greet them. Sadie and the boys filed in, dropping the grocery bags by the door and taking off their coats and boots before they found a spot to sit down. Sadie had just taken her seat when Janie, hair askew and cookie dough stuck to her chin, came wandering out, rubbing her eyes.

The joy in those tired eyes, as her sweet girl spotted her Mommy and raced into the safety of her mother’s arms, was all that Sadie needed to revive her weary spirits. Mrs. Bernstein set the basinet with Lena fast asleep at the end of the sofa, and Sadie took in the room around her.

The apartment, like hers, was small and in need of repairs.

The furniture, like hers, was old and worn, likely from the thrift store, and none of it matched.

The people, like her, were overlooked by the world and sometimes trodden under foot. But, unlike her, they took each day on with grace and a smile, ready for anything, always cheerful.

Yes, these people were her people. They were an odd bunch, all sitting about munching on sugar cookies and sipping their watered down hot chocolate, and they really had very little to tie them together, looking from the outside, in. You would never have put them together if you were working off of the assumption that friends are people with common interests and from similar walks of life.

Sadie didn’t have much, she knew, and it wasn’t the life she would have imagined for herself or her girls, once upon a time. But on this average, ordinary day, surrounded by her beloved misfits, Sadie once again felt at home in a way that she hadn’t even felt in her marriage.

It wasn’t an easy life, being a single mother, always wondering if there would be enough - enough food, enough money, enough anything. But it was a life that had taught her so much more than she could have hoped to learn. It was a life full of real joy and overflowing with genuine love.

This was a life of more than enough.

December 16, 2019 20:20

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3 comments

Tori Routsong
05:58 Jan 07, 2020

This is heartbreakingly realistic! I love the blend between blood and found family.

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Sierra Kingen
22:59 Dec 25, 2019

I really liked the realness of the story. It was intriguing and In-depth. I do feel that it was very meticulous in every detail where I did get kind of lose every now and then. Overall, I really liked it. Good job!

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Kimberly Harness
04:34 Dec 27, 2019

Thank you for the pointers, I appreciate them!

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