Submitted into Contest #48 in response to: Write about someone who has a superpower.... view prompt




Writing prompt #48

Write about someone who has a superpower.

I Hug   clcronan2020

When the nurse finally handed the baby to me, I felt my heart grow. The love overwhelmed me. I looked up into Adam’s eyes to see if he felt it too. He did. He was teary eyed. He met my gaze and we let out a collective gasp. We did it. She was finally here. She was tiny, and beautiful, and she was crying. It was a raspy little noise that sounded like it was difficult to make. The nurse indicated I should try to nurse by gesturing to my engorged breast. Adam and I smiled together again, because all our months of study and research, and classes, seemed to jump through a wormhole into our new reality. We were 

counting on the little bundle of joy to be the answer to what was wrong with our marriage. We weren’t sure we were ready to be parents, but now that we finally got to meet tiny little Gladys, I felt hopeful. Her button nose, her big eyes, her wide mouth, and that barely visible pinch at the top of each ear gave her the appearance of an elf. She could not have been more precious.

The next 12 months were torture. Glady wouldn’t latch on to my nipple long enough to eat well, she refused bottles, she cried constantly, We were in the doctor’s office so often that I lost my job, and Adam started spending more and more time at his office. I was even more short tempered than before parenthood and Adam was not putting in any effort to nurturing anything or anyone.

When my great Aunt Gladys finally met her namesake, she was quick to find fault. “Why isn’t Adam here? She’s too small. Why doesn’t she look like either of you - or like anyone else in our family? When does she stop crying? Where is the rest of her chin? You look awful, are you eating?”

And just when the colic finally started to drop back, the ear infections started. I started keeping a log of all her appointments, all the professional opinions, all the missed milestones. On one visit, her cardiologist said we couldn’t put off surgery any longer. Her growth, though slow, was putting too much pressure on her malformed aorta, and at a minimum, Glady needed two stints.

One month after that, the cardiologist said Adam needed to accompany me to Glays’ follow-up. It was beyond my coping ability to wait for that appointment. We both knew there was more to this than two stints.

“Williams Syndrome. What’s that? Can it be cured? What else will happen? Learning disabilities? Like what exactly?” Adams voice raised with every question he asked. I sat silently. Dumbfounded. I had been functioning on sleep deprivation for over a year now and it felt like it just overcame me all at once. The doctor noticed before Adam did, and he suggested we go get some rest. He handed us an envelope with some specialists listings, a web site called williams-syndrome.org, and a couple of informational brochures for caring for her heart condition and her high calcium levels, and a dietician to contact to help with Gladys’ “failure to thrive.” 

I didn’t speak on the drive home. I don’t think I even blinked. Adam kept hitting the steering wheel and yelling, “Fuck!”

I don’t remember when it was he finally left us. His extended days at his office meant I never really saw him anyway. I suppose it might have bothered me more if we hadn’t been fighting for the past four years. I always seemed to be sullen, short-tempered, and suspicious. Over time, I guess I just forgot how to love, and forgot if there had ever been a time I didn’t feel that way.

It was around this same time that I finally admitted to myself that I had been falling out of love with the most precious thing that had ever happened to me; my baby. But, much to my great relief, as our life settled down a bit, I was slowly fell back in love with her again. For almost 2 years, she had cried, vomited, had an ear infection, a surgery, another early intervention appointment with physical therapy, speech therapy, cognitive development therapy, and she was constantly catching a cold. I hadn’t had a chance to relax and enjoy her company. To bond.

For her second birthday, after the small gathering of friends and family finished singing “Happy Birthday” to her, Glady lit up in the biggest grin we had ever seen. It’s all anybody talked about for the rest of the day. And that was when I finally made the connection that music made Glady happy. And music became a third family member for us.

Her general health did not change very much, but her personality did. She seemed to get happier each day. And she hummed and whistled (sort of,) all the time. She made me smile every time she smiled. She charmed people everywhere we went. Her elfish looks, her giant head of red curls, her arms reaching out to them, and her tiny command, “I hug!” elicited the same sound from nearly everyone. It was bitter-sweet, “aw-ohhh!” That sounded like they all ached for that brightness, for that open-heartedness, for that love.

Gladys’ life continued much the same throughout her childhood. She could have been the poster child for the Williams Syndrome Association. Her inability to discern good people from bad people kept me in a state of high-alert, in case she might drift away with any of the strangers she went around hugging. Her constant health issues meant we were very good friends with the hospital personnel, her physical therapists, her intellectual intervention specialist, her speech therapist, and then her dental specialist, and her teachers. But that smile she flashed so easily won them all over and I just basked in the glow of it all. 

Every night, as I tucked her in, we’d reach our arms out to each other and say, “I hug!” And give each other a big noisy bear hug. I would always tiptoe back in before I went to bed, just to see her sleeping with her smile still on her face.

The mailman started delivering at the door instead of the mailbox, the baggers at the grocery store always abandoned their stations to coo over her, the lady at the bakery started making cookies small enough for Gladys’ hands, her dance teacher gave her private lessons for the price of class lessons, her swimming teacher did the same.

The years rolled by so fast that I felt cheated. I wanted to stay in this charmed childhood forever. She loved everyone, and everyone loved her. 

Then at 9 years old, she got her period. Her comprehension issues made it so that confusion and new situations and the sight of blood sent her into a crying fit that triggered her asthma, then a depression that kicked the whole world out from under me. I would have followed her straight into that abyss, but the more overpowering feeling was that Gladys needed me, and I would not let her down.

With a new specialist, new medications, new vocabulary words, we slowly regained our footing. Her smile returned.

She grew to be a young woman of tremendous charm. All my years of coaching her about “stranger danger” had barely any effect at all. I panicked when she started to notice boys. She was too gullible and eager-to-please, and I dreamed about becoming a 24hour chaperone. But I suppose, even mothers with different kinds of daughters than mine share fears like that, and have dreams like that.

With her teenage freedoms, when dining out or at a friends house, she started eating forbidden foods like ice cream, and mac and cheese, smoothies, pizza, mozzarella sticks, and other calcium nightmares. The calcium collected in her kidneys to the point she was only getting 60 percent function. Her thyroid went way out of balance, her asthma was acting up more often, and cardiology wanted to book another surgery.

Her rebelliousness and her ability to twist even gruesome news around meant I always heard, “Don’t worry, mum, we always come out ok, right?” as she went out the door.

In an effort to stay distracted, I filled my social calendar with all the amazing friends I’d met because of her smile. And I worried. And I missed her. I think she missed me too because on her return she’d always greet me with her arms open and say, “I hug!”

She met someone, and fell in love. I met someone, and fell in love. Aging was agreeing with us both. Glady entering her adult years with a companion, me finding someone with whom to enter senior citizenry.

I gave a toast at her wedding. “To the happy couple, to all of us gathered here to congratulate them, I say, Happiness Always. 

As you all know, Gladys is my hero. Gladys is a superhero. If we invited everyone who loves her to join us today, we’d be having this reception at Woodstock. She came into my life as an angel disguised as an elf. She challenged me to reach past all the limitations I thought I had. She showed me how to feel joy in the face of everything. Everything. I was a slow learner. She was very patient. She is solely responsible for growing my heart big enough to hold all of you in it. Part of making room for growth was casting off all the negative beliefs I had built my identity on: anger, resentment, guardedness, jealousy, spite. They had to go, and Gladys showed me every day, how wonderful life is when you remember to enjoy it. She saved me. And that was a job that only a superhero could do. 

“I hug!” I said, and turned toward her for a bear hug. And with the spontaneous love Glady always inspired, the whole gathering was up on their feet, their arms outstretched toward one, then toward another, as the room filled with each voice repeating,

“I hug!”

July 03, 2020 01:37

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16:14 Jul 17, 2020

Very sweet story, especially the ending. Something that I'm working on within this word count that I think could be beneficial for you too is how to be more active with the voice...for instance using dialogue and fewer passive verbs.


Cynthia Cronan
18:07 Jul 17, 2020

Rebecca - Thank you for the suggestion. I appreciate the critique. - Cynthia


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R.T. Donlon
23:27 Jul 10, 2020

Very heartwarming. I like the way you took the writing prompt in a different direction!


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