Just the other day, I found my daughter putting miniature marshmallows on uncooked spaghetti noodles and roasting them over a candle. Inventive, creative … I would say so. When I asked what made her do that, she said “the poor are creative”. All I could do was laugh.
But it stirred up a few characters in my already crowded mind. After watching my daughter, little Emma was born in my thoughts and soon found her way to paper.
Though being a single mom is by far the toughest of all things I’ve done, I find moments of hope in each day … reminding me that no matter how things may seem to me, my children are happy and well … and that is all that counts.
Below are the first few (unedited) paragraphs to “For Emma’s Sake.” I welcome your comments and your own experiences of raising children in tough economic times.
~ For Emma’s Sake ~
Shelby’s stomach churned with an easiness painful enough to rob her of last night’s microwaved television dinner. She dazed out the small kitchen window over-looking the apartment’s green dumpsters. Countless sleepless nights had brought her to this moment.
She sucked in a long deep breath, forcing her lungs against her ribs. After a moment, she exhaled. With as much pretense of excitement as she could manage, she said “Hurry, Hun. Breakfast is ready.”
Shelby twirled the spoonful of soft brown sugar around in perfect circles through Emma’s piping hot oatmeal. “You don’t want to be late,” she assured Emma. With a pat of butter and a tablespoon of milk to smother the steam, their breakfast of champions was ready. Still no Emma.
“Emma.” Shelby buried the curled knuckles of her fingers in the palm of her hands and rested a fist on each hip. In her best maternal fire-burning glare, she stared down the tip of her nose.
The resentful six year-old refused to meet her mother’s glare. Emma pressed her pointed chin against her chest and tucked her top lip deep into her quivering bottom lip. Her tearful eyes scrunched together until several lines hovered above her nose.
“No. I don’t want to,” she insisted. She shook her head left, then right, tossing her pig tails from front to back. “No.”
“Now young lady.” Shelby spoke with a quiet but firm voice. Their one room apartment left little need for anything beyond that.
Water stained circles covered most of the ceiling in their living room turned bedroom. The soiled shag carpet carried obvious stains from many generations removed. The close quarters encouraged snuggling, movie nights, and pajama parties for no more than the two of them. It also meant a tone just beyond a whisper was sufficient for any conversation between the mother-daughter team. Even this one.