What Would Your Mother Say?
Put your shoes on.
They were already on but I didn’t say anything. Just looked down at my feet in their brown Darth Vader stride rites in a motion of compliance. She wasn’t looking so she didn’t notice, her giant straw purse was already on her arm, the other one shouldering open the battered screen door to hold it for me as I shuffled through. She reached back to grab the knob, pull it shut, and double check it, one, two, three times just to be sure, her keys jangling in her other hand all the while.
Put your shoes on.
My children pour themselves into the kitchen in the vein of mice after lights out, smoothly and from all directions as they head for the stack of shoes, shoving each other out of the way to find their own in the tangle of flip flops and small pink boots and light ups with police cars on them. I stand at the door, impatient, blindly calling out orders and untrue threats. “Guys, seriously, I am not even joking. I am getting in the car and leaving and I don’t care if you’re in it or not.” I scroll through my phone distractedly, check the time on my watch, glance at the trashcan to make sure there’s nothing for the dog to grab while we’re gone. I’m not sure why but they take me seriously, scrambling over each other pushing, blaming then falling out the door that I pull closed behind us.
I love you, sweetie. You have a really good day.
I kiss the tops of heads in the order I have come to know them: “You have play practice this evening and your phone, right?”
“Make sure you don’t leave your jacket outside today, okay? And don’t worry about your spelling test.”
“Mommy will see you at lunch. Have fun with your friends this morning.”
They nod and they wave and they run off into their days, quick hugs and then quiet.
I stand in the doorway with my thumb in my mouth and she smooths down my hair. Yellow cinderblock walls with crayon pictures of houses and trees, cutouts of jungle animals, she turns to leave. When I can no longer see her on the sidewalk outside the door I run to the window and watch as she gives one last look back and blows a quick kiss in the direction of the window. She can’t really see me but assumes that I’m there, does it just in case. She climbs into the brown Datsun, backs out into the parking lot, drives off into the cold morning to work. I suck on my thumb and I wait. At some point I know I go off to play with friends, with toys, but in my remembering I am always at the window. I love you, sweetie. You have a really good day.