American Contemporary

A Mother’s Sighs

By Gemma Matterface

As I mark off my daughter’s height on the door frame I do a double take, she can't have grown that much in a month?! I checked again. ‘Its official’ I say, ‘you’re taller than your father’ ‘Yesssss’ Lucy hisses, she spins around to check her height. ‘I knew it!, I can't wait to tell him later’ She walks off, picking her phone up off the counter. ‘He’s not going to be happy!’ I say ‘hmm’ is the response, not even looking up, I have lost her to the digital world once again. She pulls up the hood on her hoodie and slumps down on the sofa, never breaking eye contact with the screen. Smirking at some inside joke or meme. 

I sigh. Looking at the door, she's grown another whole inch, I mark her height in a sharpie and write her name. Her sister is still a couple of inches taller and her brother has at least a foot until he catches up. If he ever does. He tends to take after his father. I look down the door frame, all the years of marking their height has made it look messy and discolored. We’ve painted around it the last few times we’ve refreshed the woodwork but I can’t bring myself to erase this piece of history. The marks at the bottom are so faded now you can barely make them out. I run my fingers over them, wistful. Oh how I wish they were still this little. When they were gleeful and cute, sticky and easy. When Mama’s hug could fix everything, When you knew exactly what their day contained and they told you everything. 

Children growing up is such a bittersweet thing. You long for them to be independent, self-reliant and to have time to yourselves but when it actually happens, you wonder where they’ve gone. It’s a slight feeling of grief, you’ve lost a little part of yourself and now you don’t know what to do.

That day I was subbing at my older daughter's high school. Sometimes when I sub the days can be hectic and I'm on my feet running all day and actually teaching, and some days I do nothing but take attendance and sit in the room while they work. This was one of those days, so I decided to do some research for her and run some numbers. She has been very stressed thinking about her college options and just doesn't know what to do. I thought if I presented her with some facts and real numbers it would relieve some of the pressure. So I picked the brains of the twelfth graders in my class and did a ton of research pricing out in state, out of state and international schools. We have dual citizenship so that is also an option for her. I spent several hours collecting information and was excited to share it with her when I got home. ‘Rose can I show you this stuff I found out today?’ I said sitting next to her on the sofa. She huffed and looked at me ‘Mom, do you mind if we do it later?’ she said ‘I am really tired from the day, I feel like my brain is just fried right now’ ‘Oh’ I said ‘Ok, totally get it, I'm tired too, we can go over it another time’ I got up and put my folder back in my bag. ‘How was school today?’ I said, turning around, I noticed that she wasnt of the sofa anymore and I heard a distant ‘hmm?’ and the sound of her bedroom door shutting upstairs. I sighed.

Taking my son to school the next morning we are having our usual battle. He doesn't want to wear a jacket ‘I don't get cold Mom! He protests. I glance at my car display, It's making that little ding-ing noise indicating there is ice on the road. ‘Dude, LOOK at the temperature, it is literally freezing!’ I do understand where he is coming from, the school is warm and he doesn't have recess until the afternoon when the North Carolinian weather can swing up 40 degrees in the course of a few hrs, it probably will be warm later. What he doesn't know however is that there is a surprise pep rally straight after drop off. The parents are gathering to cheer on the third graders for their first year of exams. I have a huge banner hidden in the trunk ‘Do-Nut stress, just do your best!’ with a donut for the O.

We pull forward in the carpool line and Jack starts grabbing his stuff. I tilt my head down and give him ‘the look’ over the top of my glasses. The teacher opens the door, I say “take your coat with you young man, I’d like you to wear it please’ Jack takes is grumpily, The teacher gives me a wink ‘Don't worry Mama I will make sure he is wearing it if we go outside’ These people are saints.

I drive around the school and park up by the field. There's no point in going home before the rally. It starts in 30 mins. It seems that I have spent a large chunk of my life over the last few years waiting in cars. Waiting for things to start or finish. Art club, Yearbook club, Cheerleading, Choir, Environmental club, Taekwondo, gymnastics. These things never seem to be long enough or close enough to leave and come back so I camp out in my car. I swore when we got this new car that we wouldn't eat in it or let it get messy, but it looks like we live out of it. Snacks, water bottles, empty Starbucks cups, tissues, masks, sweaters, shoes. It is a mess. 

I have gotten better at waiting though. Audio books are my go to, unless I’m sleepy, then they lull me to sleep. Crosswords and trivia help. Sometimes I crochet like an old lady, but mostly I Facetime with my family in the UK. The time difference works in my favor. 

Not today though, I notice that the other parents are heading to the field early, so I jump out and grab my sign. It's cold out, so we’re all bundled up, our breath misting in the air. One of the Moms has bought pom poms for everyone to shake. The staff come out and start blasting music, it's a merry atmosphere. I chatted with a few other parents. I feel a little out of it with Will's class. We are so wrapped up with the college prep and requirements for our oldest daughter I haven't been too involved with his class this year. With my work schedule being so unpredictable it's been a while since I attended anything.

As the classes start to come out and the parents start cheering them on you can see the excitement on the children's faces. It is so cute watching them see their parents and their faces lighting up. I look for Will in the crowd. I can’t see him anywhere. Class after class passes by and still no sign. Then finally the last class came out and I recognized some of the kids. I spot a familiar jacket, the last kid in the last line there he is. He doesn’t see me for the longest time. Then just as his class walks directly in front of me he spots me, he starts to wave, then stops himself and puts his hand in his pocket, using some serious self restraint, he nods at me, his face going red. I can feel the embarrassment rolling off of him. What the hell?! This isn’t my little boy! He is usually the first to wave and shout my name. I can't believe it! 

I holler and shout as he walks past, waving my sign, I might be embarrassing but I'm not going to stop! We listen to the Principle and watch the cheer squad perform. Then soon enough it's over and time for them to head back in. I go over to him in his class line and give him a kiss! HA! Poor child! ‘Was that a nice surprise?’ I say, ‘hmm’ he says. Before turning and talking to his friends. I sighed.

I watched him walk back into school and make my way home, I am off today and spend the rest of my day picking clothes up off their floors doing laundry, general cleaning and having one-sided conversations with the dogs. I picked the kids up from school later and it was an uneventful afternoon. Feeling a little dejected and bereft that evening I camp out on the sofa eating chocolate and watching crappy TV. Will wandered in. He came up to me, ‘Mama’ he said, I looked up at him ‘I was really happy that you came to school today’ .‘You were?!’ I said surprised. ‘I thought I was embarrassing you?’ ‘No’ he said. ‘I was really happy you were there’ and he climbed into my lap and gave me the hardest hug, breathing me in. I sighed. 

Word Count: 1527

March 28, 2022 14:08

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