When I was little, I didn't understand why my grandmother would breathe through her teeth as she handed me the phone for Mom's calls. She would transform herself into a wild guard dog, her shoulders set low and strong, willing hackles to rise from her back.
The longest stretch Mom and I had together was the nine months she carried me. When I left her, I entered the world asphyxiated and a deep shade of purple because of the habits she couldn’t kick. She held me for a few seconds and then passed me along to my grandmother - my father's mother - Mom was too tired to hold such a fussy baby.
My grandmother said that she fell in love with me that day. She knew that I was really her boy.
They made some valiant efforts, my parents did. All despite my grandmother's opinions and gratuitous use of the word "whore." For a handful of weeks we lived at a friend's place. For a few days with my grandmother. For the better part of a month we evaded security cameras in Legget Outlet Store and slept by mannequins sporting the latest in lounge wear.
But eventually, my father couldn't try anymore. The divorce became final. He needlessly prepared a case for a custody battle to which Mom did not appear. He asked my grandmother to take me in while he found a better job.
Mom didn't show up for much after that. Nothing special, anyway. Not birthdays, not Mother's day, not Christmas day. She'd show up occasionally on normal days...like Tuesdays. She'd call while I was napping and rip me from the schedule that my grandmother prepared for me.
My adoration of Mom couldn't be contained.
Once we walked downtown and sat by the old fountain. She got twitchy and couldn’t help but fidget with her hands and curl my hair behind my ear. Whenever she didn't know what to say, and the silence got to her she'd ask me:
“Where'd you get your red hair, young man?”
I reached up and twisted her own red locks around my finger.
Whenever she left, I’d watch her from the window. She'd get in her car, light a cigarette and lean her head back into the seat. Smoke funneled from her nostrils like a dragon. After that moment of peace she'd flick the key, start the car and be gone within seconds. She never saw me wave my arms and she didn't catch the kisses I blew.
As I grew older, Mom’s visits grew more seldom, and my anticipation of them waned.
“Where'd you get your red hair, young man?”
“Genetics happen, okay?” I swatted her bony hand away.
Towards the end of high school, her overtures did nothing but grate against my sense of justice. The next time the phone bore her voice was two days after graduation. I asked her not to call me anymore. I wanted consistency, even if it meant permanent absence--the only commitment she might be capable of.
She was infuriated. She regretted my birth. She threw the fifth commandment in my face. She hung up before she heard me say I still loved her.
But for the first time, she was where I asked her to be.
I met a girl, graduated college, and made a deliberate trip to a white chapel in Vegas, all within the span of this new severe silence between my mother and me.
Every so often my Love asks if I think it's time to open a new dialogue. She asks me sweetly, but she always chews her lip.
I know my mother still keeps track of me. My grandmother told me she called the other night after hearing of my recent introduction into fatherhood.
“She wanted to know if he has red hair.”
“Yes,” I said, “and it’s from me.”
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I don't want to heap a ton of superlatives here. Nothing like, stunning! or breathtaking writing! or even, emotionally engrossing! So, I'll simply extend a welcome to you, into the wonderful world of Faithwriters, and say, Italic Text Well done--I will be reading your stuff.
I don't want to heap a ton of superlatives here. Nothing like, stunning! or breathtaking writing! or even, emotionally engrossing! So, I'll simply extend a welcome to you, into the wonderful world of Faithwriters, and say, Well done--I will be reading your stuff.
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This emotion-packed story is excellently written. You've shown us into this boy/man's heart by showing instead of telling. The red-haired detail thoughout is used very effectively at the conclusion.
WOW! I think FaithWriters has a wonderful new voice. You need to check out the weekly challenge; I think you'd love it there. Looking forward to reading more like this. The kicker is outstanding, as is the authentic voice. Welcome!
One thing I really like: your use of random details to add dimension to your story …"Not birthdays, not Mother's day, not Christmas day. She'd show up occasionally on normal days...like Tuesdays." You've packed a lot of emotion in your story …and you draw a lot of emotion from your reader. I also like the red hair that carried through your story, like it did from one generation to the next. Super story, super writing here!
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