Tag Archives: childhood

A Mother’s Love


They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr


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Rusty Tanton via Flickr

Rusty Tanton via Flickr

The turtle’s smashed shell and shriveled carcass stayed there for several days, a cloud of flies swarming above it and a dark circle staining the pavement underneath. Lamenting the terrapin’s slow pace and ultimate demise, Kelly stood on the shoulder of the road and stared down at the small chelonian cadaver. Why didn’t someone – the car’s driver, anyone – move it from the street?

Vance walked by her house en route to one of his sporadic fishing trips, saw her leaning slump-shouldered over the remains, and asked what was the matter. The girl looked up from her reverie, her eyes glassy in a deep well of tears. “It’s just so sad,” she replied. Perhaps her heart was too soft.

He felt bad for her, but not bad enough to touch the shards of shell and slimy mess himself, and said, “Well, why don’t you ask your father to move it out of the road?”

She was aghast. “My father? My father is the king of procrastination, and it would be forever before he did it. If he’d even do it.” Looking back down at the bloody mess, she added, “Besides, he’d have to stop watching Smokey and the Bandit for the hundredth time, and that’s not going to happen. That’s why I won’t ask him.”

Maybe his dad would heed a request like that. Her father? Forget it.

The two knew each other from school, but Vance lived on the other side of the railroad tracks from Kelly’s neighborhood and crossed that invisible socioeconomic line on his trek to the small lake where he fished. It would be several years before the pair knew what that figurative divide really meant.

In the meanwhile, they talked a few other times over the summer when he passed by her yard. He gave Kelly a Speidel Ident bracelet, sans engraving, which stoked her cheeks to blush and her brother to endlessly tease her. It was the first gift a boy ever gave Kelly.

School returned in the fall and they went their separate ways, as kids do when they get older, but without any formal dissolution of their childish girlfriend/boyfriend status. No acrimonious breakup or friendship eulogy.

Much like the poor turtle … just gone.

Circumstances pull people apart. They ran in separate crowds, had different friends. All those small town kids knew each other, but Vance went on to play sports and be voted class president, while Kelly did little else besides homework and work a part-time job. She bought her own car and school clothes. She dated lots of older boys but didn’t fall into the trap of early motherhood like so many other girls from her side of town.

Kelly went on to college well after her peers, supporting herself to make it happen. She had credentials to hang on the walls for her efforts, much like Vance and other classmates of similar privilege had accomplished long before she did. She didn’t begrudge them.

Everyone met back at home when they saw each other at class reunion time and exchanged pleasantries. Vance always said hello to Kelly but didn’t say much more. She wanted to catch up with him, ask about his kids and his great job, but she didn’t bother. He and his old buddies busied themselves with one another and each other’s wives.

Besides, she didn’t want to mess his hands with a dead animal such as that.

Instead, she’d just smile inside thinking of him carrying a fishing pole when he walked by her house. She wondered whatever happened to the little gold I.D. bracelet. Her heart softened when she thought of those things.

*This post was prompted by Stephanie’s line, “my father is the king,” as highlighted at http://www.studio30plus.com.



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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Brian J Matis via Flickr

Brian J Matis via Flickr

With only three or four channels and each other to fight with in a three-bedroom house with four children, it took very little to entertain us. Especially when Mother tried her best to shoo away four energy-draining parasites. Kids can be forced to consume only so many hours of The Muppet Show and HeeHaw.

Otherwise, outside we went — roaming the neighborhood on bikes, scaling a boulder-strewn hill that led down from the railroad tracks to a “stream” (in actuality, probably a sewer), walking the flea-bitten dog around the block, or cleaning up the yard in punishment for myriad transgressions. Picking at each other was chief among those wrongdoings. Mom would say, “Get outside and do something.” Gathering fallen sticks or blown garbage was much better than sitting back-to-back with a sparring sibling.

My younger brother and I were forever in search of something to do, especially in the summertime when the heat kept the street’s tar bubbled up to squish under our bare feet. Otherwise, we stomped dirt in the back lot into big clouds. We’d look down at the filth patterns lining our heels as sweat from our soaked foreheads dripped onto the dust like the trickle of a shower.

The lot was where intrigued neighbor kids came to touch a horse for the first time or feed one some grass. We’d watch our ornery Shetland pony and blind Appaloosa stallion from across the fence, warned within an inch of our lives to keep others out lest they get hurt and their parents sue us. Ours was a vaguely inhospitable and paranoid home life. I dared not tell when the mean kid hit the horse’s rump with a rock and blew into its sightless face, which made the huge beast strain backward and bare its teeth. That girl might’ve acted tough but was pretty scared that day.

My brother and I hung out together if other kids were grounded or too busy, maybe at a family dinner table unfamiliar to us. We played on a rust-wrecked swing set in the back yard and made up games where we chased each other under a clothesline askew from an errant horse that ran scared and got snagged by its neck. We climbed trees, up high where I’d once hid safely over the head of an unsuspecting sister dead set on revenge.

Ann Blair via Flickr

Ann Blair via Flickr

Other kids went to the park. We went to the horse lot.

In a time before livestock was restricted in city limits, our dad kept a few horses in the lot with its sparse stalls behind our house. That’s where he trimmed horse hooves and threw the excess to the dog, put shoes on certain ones for parades, and where we witnessed many foals be born. We also played there for lack of anywhere else.

The allure was long lost on our older sisters who had other interests by then, but we still jumped on an invitation for something more to do. Especially a chance to watch our dad in action. He’d announce he was burning feed sacks and elicit our quick arrival in the bare paddock, shimmying over its makeshift fencing and past the water trough to join him in the center where he broke some to ride.

My brother warranted his approval, him being a boy and all, whereas I was left wanting at the periphery. So it was a big deal to get a minute of my dad’s sparse time.

Clad in work-weary Wranglers and Dingo boots as dusty as our feet, he leaned over to light the feed sacks with his shiny silver Zippo. The MFA logo was quickly consumed as flames licked through the paper and string closures. The fire burned fast, and the cinders floated up into the darkening night sky if a breeze blew. Their crispy black borders sizzled, and we’d run to stomp them out before any dry grass sparked.

I’d tilt my head back to watch the shapes twirl overhead, spinning in a temporary state of fugue, until they landed softly in the carpet of dust and were snuffed out. The excitement burned through quickly, too, as fast as my dad’s short-lived awareness of our hanging on his every move. That momentary deference lilted with the paper cinders. I’d watch him turn and walk away, his denim-shirted back to us, and saw only the sweat-stained tan suede of his cowboy hat and his bowed legs taking him in the opposite direction.

Back to his own adult business.

Left to the childhood task of entertaining ourselves.

*This post was prompted by OVER at Studio 30+. s30p


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