WordPress, The Daily Post – DP Challenge (Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger!) January 6, 2014
When I was a girl of about ten, my mother sent me to spend a summer by the ocean. She packed my fondest Mary-Janie baby doll that has never left my side and two pieces of my Sunday best outfits for church and special gatherings. We picked out an organdie party red flared skirt with a silk flower trimming just above the ruffles and its matching jacket trimmings on both side pockets. For my second outfit, we chose my sailor dress in mustard yellow and a blue close-fitted cap-like hat.
On the last evening before I had to leave, there was still one thing I had to do. It took a long time for my mind to agree with itself because I was not sure Mom would allow it. When I finally decided, there was little courage left in me. Memory fails me now; I cannot remember if I practiced my words. I did, however, planned out when I should pop the question!
After supper, I waited until Mom took her place by the rocking chair next to the fireplace and paid close attention to time it just right. Before she picked up her basket of sewing things, I took a deep breath and steadied my voice. “Mommy, it would mean so much if I could take our picture with me,” I paused because my voice came out squeaky and shaky, “for when I think of home?” My heart pounded hard against my chest.
As soon as the words left my lips, I was sorry. I would have Grandma, but Mom would be here all by herself. Mom would need it more. She looked up from her basket as she turned to face me. Her eyes were sad and her pink lips of were pursed thinly. She turned her eyes to look at the picture as it perched above the fireplace mantle.
In the picture, we were a complete family. Mom hummed as she cooked and cleaned. Tommy and I made up games and told new stories. Each night at the supper table, Father said grace and always thanked God for the bounty for which we received. On Sundays, we walked to church to ask God for His blessings and protection for the week. We were happy.
Then the brokenness came, not all at once, but little by little. Mrs. Flynn said all good things end, and God could mend a broken heart. I thought God should leave things alone to save us all the trouble. Mom said to leave God out of it.
Mom did not answer. The silence between us stretched on for a time, punctuated by the occasional crackle and hiss of the fire. That night, I went to bed with Mary-Janie and promptly fell asleep as soon as Mom planted her kisses on my forehead and cheeks. We both said our “I love you” to each other like we promised when there was only the two of us left.
When I opened my eyes, it was morning and my stomach welcomed the delicious smell of breakfast. I put on my sailor dress, socks and my oxford shoes and set my dark grey cardigan by my travel bag. As I neared the kitchen, Mom was at the breakfast table sipping her coffee. She looked bright and beautiful in her forest green dress, the flapper kind the women wore those days. She had on her sand colour cloche hat with the wide brim and black ankle strap-button shoes with sequins over the strap. She smiled and waved me over to the table where I sat to have my breakfast.
The walk to the train station did not take long. We did not speak on the way but Mom held my hand and it felt so good. I watched people, looked up at the sky now and then, and admired the beauty of the morning. Could Mrs. Flynn be right; if things had to end, they had to start too?
We walked up to the ticket booth where Mom requested a one-way child’s fare to Peggy’s Cove that was set to leave the station in a half hour. Then, she asked for a one-way fare to Vancouver for an adult that was set to leave an hour later. After taking both tickets, Mom and I made our way through the small crowd and sat on the last bench in a row of benches along the outside wall of the station, so that we faced the train tracks and would see the incoming train.
Mom was still holding my hand when she turned to face me. I watched as she reached into her purse with her other hand and brought the picture out. Before I could protest, she placed the picture in my hand. Holding both my hands and the picture, Mom raised them to meet her warm, soft cheeks. I saw tears well up in her eyes and felt my throat tighten.
“Saoirse, I want you to remember always that I love you very much. You are right; it is a good idea to keep this picture with you. I am only a thought away.”
She placed her hand behind my head and brought me into her chest in a gentle embrace. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed tightly. I felt safe in her arms and wanted to remain there.
The floorboards rumbled beneath my feet, trembling more vigorously as it got louder. I felt a blast of wind and dust from the force of the arriving train as I lift up my head. “Where are you going, Mom?”
…to be continued