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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)

TITLE: What If...?
By Temple Miller


Wedding Day

The dreaded day had arrived – Saturday, Labor Day weekend – our daughter’s wedding. My husband John struggled through the doors of the church. He juggled Sarah’s makeup case and huge wedding dress bag. He dropped his burdens off in the vestibule.

I kept mine as I slipped away to the chapel. I needed to pray and collect myself before the ritual pre-ceremony, ceremony. You know, when everyone is supposed to laugh and cry with joy while taking snapshots of the bride’s preparations.

I sat down, reflecting on how we got into this miserable situation. If only Sarah hadn’t been so rebellious. If only she hadn’t chosen to marry a creep. If only my sister had really kidnapped her last night.

Six Months Earlier

Our communication with Sarah consisted of arguments. No matter what our view, Sarah always took the opposite. She fought against any rule, restraint, or even common sense. We fought for her soul.

We battled over her new boyfriend. Dean had major emotional problems and several addictions. We tried to point out the dangers, especially the documented ones. Sarah denied what she could and ignored the rest.

Two months later, they were engaged.

I tried to illustrate for her our perspective. “It’s like watching you walk onto the rails of a train track and sitting down between them. A train is barreling towards you. We’re pleading for you to get off the tracks, but you’re ignoring us. Disaster is closing in, and we can’t stop the horror.”

“Oh Mom, Stop being so melodramatic.” Then she announced, “We’re having the wedding on Labor Day weekend.”

“In three months? Sarah, we can’t plan a wedding that fast. And many of our friends go to the lakes that weekend to close their cabins. Won’t you even consider a different weekend?”

“No, Mom. We don’t care who is out of town. We’re having the wedding when we want, so just shut-up about it.”

We endured argumentative arm-twisting over every wedding detail. The costs, and the arguments, soared. Eventually, we opened a checking account in Sarah’s name and deposited the amount we could afford to spend.

“It’s easier to let them fight it out,” John said.

“Yeah, and then, maybe they’ll break up,” I replied.

While we prayed for God to interrupt the upcoming nuptials, our relationship with Sarah deteriorated. I ached to connect with her, to bless her. So I attempted a peace offering; a gift of love to Sarah in a form I hoped she’d accept. I told her I would write something for her wedding. Her eyes brightened.

I began writing by remembering her birth.

My first child,
what a love you are.
Such delight you bring
into our world…

Tears began splotching the paper.

...inside my breast
are memories sweet
a treasure chest
I’ll always keep

of midnight cuddles
in grandma’s chair
you, sucking your thumb
and twirling my hair…

Why didn’t God just derail the wedding, preventing the nightmare Sarah was welcoming with arms open and a smile?

with lullabies
and bedtime wiggles
nursery rhymes
and happy giggles…

I grieved. The wedding marched on.

…your first a’s and b’s
ponytails and skinned knees…

Then I crashed.

A week before the wedding, I told Sarah I couldn’t finish the reading. She shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter.” No argument?

Wedding Day

In the chapel, I pondered Sarah’s nonchalance. Too soon, I exchanged my refuge for the dressing
room’s pre-ceremony ritual. Film captured all the fake happiness.

Then, it was time. The music began. The best man seated me down front. Lyrics scattered through my mind.

…if ever you need
my arms to hold you
or want to cry
on Daddy’s shoulder…

Sarah billowed down the aisle on John’s arm. My eyes met his. Our pain united. Rather than joy, sorrow trickled from our eyes.

...Just remember
you will always be:

My first child
what a love you are.
Such delight…

Three years passed. Three years of Dean’s affairs, his ugly narcissism, and systematic emotional demolition of Sarah. Until today, when Sarah struggled through our door, juggling a suitcase and a newborn. We welcomed her with arms open and a smile.

In bed, I pondered the recovery Sarah faced. If only she had listened and changed her mind three years ago. If only…

Dear God! I jerked up. What if I had peeled my own protective shell and completed Sarah’s gift? What if I’d read her the lyrics beforehand? Would that have made a difference? Oh God, what if…?

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This article has been read 787 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Faire Stewart01/10/08
You have captured the "heart" of a mother. The voice is so real. Excellent job.
James Clem 01/10/08
Wow - you really captured the ache of helplessness. The ending is powerful, but it is question without an answer. Perhaps it would have made a difference... and perhaps not. Probably not. I'm not criticizing the ending, just noting that sometimes we take on guilt we don't need. Good story.
Debbie Wistrom01/10/08
If only, what an anthem of our lives and wishes for our families. Keep writing. I feel for the mother.
darlene hight01/10/08
Excellent! The poem really captures the heart of the story.
Jan Ackerson 01/11/08
Oh, wow--the ending after the ending is the one that "got" me. Excellent writing!
Dee Yoder 01/14/08
Wonderful writing! I love the back and forth perspectives between the past, the present , and a peek into the future. Very touching.
jodie banner01/14/08
It made me think that sometimes the best reason to try is to dispel any guilt we may have in the future for not trying. Once the moment has past we will never know if it would have helped. Great example of the topic.
Betty Castleberry01/14/08
This needs a tissue warning. As a mom of a daughter, I can totally relate. The voice is authentic. Excellent job.
Ann Renae Hair01/14/08
Excellent writing. I feel the hurt from each character's life perspective...even the 'loser' boyfriend. You captured some painful reality in this piece. Well done.
Joanne Sher 01/14/08
Heartbreaking and extremely well-told story. I was engaged from beginning to end. Excellent.
LauraLee Shaw01/14/08
I love the way you structured the piece. Working it backwards gave it a special touch. Then intertwining the poem was the cherry on the top. Your ending made me cry. It was very powerful.
Catherine Pollock01/14/08
I agree that this is a very powerful piece - there were tears in my eyes when I finished. Good job!
Sheri Gordon01/14/08
This is really good. I like the untidy ending -- not knowing.

The only part that bothered me was the fact that she told her mother to "shut-up" about the wedding -- yet the parents continued to pay for it. (However, I am guilty of that same over-indulging as a parent.)

You captured the emotions perfectly. Very well written, and great job with the topic.
Janice Cartwright01/14/08
You get a+ for creativity here as well as connecting with your readers (esp. moms like me.) Like the above comment the only thing that bothered me was the disrespect from the teen but then this is real time in the desert of contemporary teens. Really good writing.
Holly Westefeld01/14/08
As a mom who has had stormy times with our daughter, and second-guessed myself as a parent, I could really identify with this story.
Laury Hubrich 01/14/08
Wow! This was very good and what a lesson to be learned from it! Thank you for sharing!
Marita Thelander 01/14/08
I'm anxious to see where this one places. Very good. Except...when a young adult is bent on doing "their own thing" you could "if only" yourself to insanity. I really like the style of writing you chose.
Sharlyn Guthrie01/14/08
Heartbreaking, but so real. Thanks for your honesty in writing this.
Linda Watson Owen01/14/08
Excellent, indeed! You nailed the heartbreak, the doubt, the voice of this mother. I hung on every word. Great job!
Catrina Bradley 01/15/08
I was totally caught up in this mother's emotions. Great writing. I'm not one to usually like unhappy endings, but I like the sudden shift at the end leaving us with a nagging wondering. Superb!
Patty Wysong01/15/08
Wow. You really conveyed the anguish. The last two lines were like a knife. (Great job!)
Sara Harricharan 01/16/08
The "What if?" Is so haunting at the end. I was with the mother, aching as she watched the whole 'nightmare' unfold. A sad, but true story for some young people today. Great job with this. I liked the poem in between it captured the innocence of earlier days between the mother and daughter. Good job! ^_^
Julie Ruspoli01/16/08
Oh WOW. This is amazing and that is not even the word to describe it. You have everything in here, great message, intriguing dialog, melodic poem and just everything. Did I say WOW!
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/16/08
Your story captivated me. It's sadly realistic.
Loren T. Lowery01/16/08
Bitter sweet, and tugs at all the right heart strings. You did a great job of displaying the emotions of a loving, caring mother and your title fits beautifully. Wonderful job!
Peter Stone01/16/08
That's an amazing article. The ending was spot on - that poem could have helped her see sense.
Wonderful job of weaving through the present and past. (I got a little lost on the second paragraph. Perhaps better to have said 'I kept my burdens...')
Beth LaBuff 01/16/08
You broke my heart. Amazing writing with this. Excellent message with a timeliness for today's youth. Thanks for writing and sharing this.
Maxx .01/16/08
this is really good and I love the open ended what if? Of course we all hope that hubby changes his ways and the marriage can be reunited and the child raised in a happy environment .... but life isn't always a neat tidy fiction. You brought the reality home. Well done!
Tim Pickl01/17/08
WOW! The 'What If' sword cuts both ways. Superb writing--I would say you could move up to Advanced next time!
James Dixon01/17/08
This is a masterful use of poetry AND prose. Well done.