Mother's Day in Three Acts


The clouds were surging and the light was fast disappearing.

‘Spoke to Mum yesterday. Mothers’ Day lunch at mine this year. Come at 12 xx’


I felt the thunder in my ears before I’d even read the entire text. She had promised three days ago that we could go out for lunch; I booked her favourite cafe, she’d patted my hand and said she appreciated it -


‘Would be nice if you could just bring a salad xx’


The rain had started, hard against my cheeks, before I made the call.


“Why is Gina organising lunch?” There was no place for pleasantries as the youngest daughter. “I’ve booked. You told me O’Ryan’s was your favourite.”


There was a moment when I thought I’d spotted the sun - a clearance - that she’d share my indignation at the sister who always took over everything.


“She feels it’s impersonal.”


“And what do you feel?”


She couldn’t sit on the fence during a storm. The wind would knock her clean off.


“I think it’s best if we do it at home.” Just like that, a gust with strength.


“Fine. I’ll have you all here, then. I’ll cook.”


“Gina’s organised, love. You’ve got a lot on, let her do it.”


We were in the eye, I could sense it, the quiet was unnerving and her voice was barely above a whisper. “And, Jemma? Leave the wine at home, this time. A salad’s enough.”


I felt the second surge engulf me all at once.


********************************************************************************************


The woman behind the stall wrapped my daisies in brown paper and deftly tied twine around their stems. Plain. No festivities with daisies.

‘I hope your mum enjoys them!’ She beamed as she wiped the water from her hands on a denim apron and accepted my cash.


I could have corrected her, like I corrected the woman two stalls up, where I bought my goats’ milk hand crème. But I was tired. This day wore me out every year, and it wasn’t even ten, yet. It seemed that, when I tried to revise their narratives about this happy, inclusive occasion, I spoilt their market day. Wasn’t I the one who should have taken issue with my dead mother being bandied around and held against me?

“Oh, you must miss her.”

“I didn’t really know her.”

“That must have been hard.”

“I didn’t know any different.”

“Do you have children of your own now? That must have been so difficult, without your mother!”

“No, I don’t.”

“Ah.”

And then, the knowing looks. I couldn’t possibly be in control of my own choices, of course my life has been dictated by one tragic event that happened before I could form words enough to express grief.


The brown paper had pulped in my hand, soaked through by the daisy stems. My eyes had glazed over, stuck with the women at stalls past; now passing delicately baked goods and handmade jewellery, I registered nothing.


It wouldn’t matter how I arranged my flowers, now, even in my favourite vase, Bridget Bardot’s silhouetted face. I would only scowl at them.


I passed the patchwork Market Day banner, flapping in the gentle May breeze. The thump was satisfying as the bunch landed at the bottom of the plastic bin.


********************************************************************************************


Hearing scrambling before your eyes are even open snaps an elastic band inside of you and you launch towards the sound involuntarily.

When I’d reached the kitchenette, all the chairs were pushed together and my four-year-old daughter sat impossibly in the middle, quietly drawing on the linoleum floor.


“Hala, where’s your paper?” I slapped around in piles of bills before I found something one-sided to slip under the chairs towards her.


“Ada?” I called, hearing scuttling and heaving in intervals, now.


My six-year-old trailed out of their shared bedroom hauling both of their blankets behind her. I put my foot on them to halt her and she whined at me about need to cover Hala to finish the cubby. I removed my foot without even a reminder that she would have to clean it all up when she got back from Grandma Harris’ tonight. I knew my Mother’s Day spent alone would be less painful to bear if I busied myself cleaning the apartment. For a moment I considered suggesting she bring the entire contents of her bedroom out.


Getting the girls ready to visit my ex-mother-in-law so that she could bask in their company on all the important holidays of the year was the hardest part of the separation arrangement to stomach. I would make a routine of it; dress them in their nicest outfits and help them pretend to be ballerinas, spinning in between every item of clothing layered upon them. She probably thought all the finery was for her.


I set out two pairs of frilly socks, red tights, navy corduroy skirts and button up duffel coats, all in various states of threadbare, moth-eaten, outgrown and stretched. I extricated Hala from the piles of blankets and chairs and allowed Ada to brush the tangles out of her own hair.


Then, they stood before me, solemn in their singlets and tiny underpants. They waited for my nod before they thrust their arms above their head, arched their feet and their petite toes carried them all the way around in a circle that led right back to me.


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