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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: I'm Being Good, Mama
By Jan Ackerson


I weep nearly all the way home.

Jim tries to comfort me, but it is construction season in Michigan, and the highway demands his full attention. I gather sadness around me like a shawl, remembering the doctor’s words.

It’s amazing that you were able to conceive even once, Mrs. Lewis. It’s unlikely to happen again, and frankly, it’s inadvisable for you to try another high-risk pregnancy. Go home and hug little Maggie, and be thankful for her.

I stifle a cry of anguish. The doctor had tossed out thankful as if discussing a holiday turkey. Of course I am thankful for Maggie; she has been our shining star for six years. Now is appears that she is a miracle as well. Still, we have prayed for years for a second child, and it appears now that Maggie will not have her little brother or sister.

We enter the town limits; I examine my reflection in the sun visor’s mirror and apply fresh makeup. My mother has been watching Maggie for three days while Jim and I take this fruitless journey, and she will fret if she sees my reddened eyes.

Once home, I scoop Maggie into my arms and carry on a veiled conversation with Jim and my mother. I do not wish to upset Maggie, and I’m not sure how much she understands. Already she has once overheard Jim and me in a baby-quest conversation—we had stopped when she crawled into Jim’s lap and placed her thumb in her mouth.

My mother offers to stay one more day, but I am feeling smothered by sympathy, and I beg her to leave. Her home is only a two hour drive from here, and she can be there well before dark. We hug, and she leaves with her sorrow for me imperfectly masked.

Jim retreats into a book, but I feel the need for sunshine and cool air. I sit on the back porch with a glass of iced tea, while Maggie plays at the borders of the garden. She sings a tuneless melody and touches the squash blossoms one by one, glancing over her shoulder at me as if to say I’m being good, mama. I have often cautioned her to stay out of the garden, and she is eager to prove her obedience. The sunlight creates a halo in Maggie’s hair.

A bumblebee hums in the distance. I close my eyes, just for a moment…

…and then there is no bumblebee, no Maggie singing. I look around; the ice has melted in my glass. There is a trail of muddy footprints from the garden to the house. When I stand to find Maggie and chastise her, I catch a glimpse of the garden, and I gasp.

Nearly every plant has been destroyed. Torn leaves and blossoms are strewn everywhere, and immature vegetables, ripped from their stalks, lie trampled in the soil.

This is not like Maggie, this wanton destruction. I follow the muddy prints into her bedroom, where I find her sobbing on the bed, grimy hands clutching her Veggie Tales bedspread.

“Maggie?” I gather her into my lap. “Sweetie pie, what did you do?”

She hiccups once, her head buried in my shoulder. “I was just trying to help.”

“Did you want something to eat from the garden? Were you trying to get a snack?” I had dozed through dinner. A twinge of guilt momentarily electrifies my heart.

Another gulp. “Grandma told me about the cabbage leaves so I tried to find one.” Maggie’s hair smells of leaves and dirt.

“To find what, honey bunny?”

“I heard you and papa say about getting a new baby and you were sad and papa was sad so I asked grandma where to get a new baby and she said under a cabbage leaf.” Maggie looks up into my eyes. “I didn’t know what was a cabbage so I looked under all the leafs. Are you mad, mama?”

Surely this is the most precious child ever born. She is enough. Heavenly Father, she is enough. “No, sweetie. Mama’s not mad.”

“But I did finded a baby though.” Maggie’s eyes are grave as she indicates a shoebox on the floor. I lift the lid, and there I see a tiny green frog and a handful of grass. It blinks at the sudden light, and takes one tentative hop.

Maggie reaches out with a dimpled finger, and touches the frog with the lightest possible touch. “Oh, mama,” she whispers. “Look.”

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This article has been read 1821 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ruth Neilson09/14/06
oh wow, the innocence of a child...it made me smile...and I had promised not to respond to any stories until after class...

Thank you, I needed to be reminded that there is still innocence in this world...
Lynda Schultz 09/14/06
I have tears in my eyes - what a beautiful story. Thank you.
Kevin Kindrick09/14/06
Is it possible to smile and cry at the same time? I'm not sure, but I think I'm about to find out. Children have always had a special place in my heart, and this story touches that place.
Thank you for sharing this heart-warming, and heart-rending piece.

God bless,

Jen Davis09/14/06
What a lovely story. This tugged at my heart but left me smiling. Beautifully written: "I gather sadness around me like a shawl." I liked how you showed the passage of time with the ice melting in her glass. The ending was a really nice touch. Great work!
Val Clark09/15/06
Kept me interested throughout and loved the ending - yup, she found a baby alright!
Teri Wilson09/15/06
This is wonderful, touching and sweet. Loved the ending.
Joanne Sher 09/15/06
What a sweet, sweet story of innocence and healing! You did an amazing job of characterization here, and of displaying our wonderful God through these characters. Loved it!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/18/06
In the 4th paragraph is an "is" instead of and "it"; not anything shaking if in Beginners, but in Masters? Just kidding. Loved your wonderful story of childish innocense. Nicely written story, also. Good Job.
Donna Powers 09/18/06
Just wonderful! So touching and heartwarming. This is absolutely lovely, and it really touched my heart.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/19/06
This was beautiful. It worked wonderfully in present tense - made it even more touching, if that's possible, but I was right there with Mom and felt her pain as well as her love for Maggie. Truly a masterful entry.
Jan Ross09/19/06
Oh Jan ... how precious! I rarely cry, but there are tears in my eyes. Such a beautifully told story. Excellent, but then I would expect nothing less from you! :)
Beth Muehlhausen09/19/06
Magnificent! Loved references to "veiled conversation" and "imperfectly masked sorrow" as well as your disclosure of the "baby!" This proves, once again, that childlikeness is a virtue. :-)
Ann Grover09/19/06
Wonderful... tears and smiles. The only improvement would be to capitalize Papa, Mama, Grandma in Maggie's paragraph, as they used as 'names.' Other than that, endearing, a gentle reminder of the innocence of childhood... that what God gives "is enough..."
Venice Kichura09/19/06
This is precious & masterfully written (as always!)
Brenda Craig09/19/06
I was enraptured through out
the whole story and when Maggie mentioned the cabbage leaf, I was undone by the beauty and grace of a child. What a tender story full of redeeming love, not to mention the wonderful descriptive language. Simply beautiful!!!!!!!!!
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/19/06
You made me cry. What a beautiful story. I'm going to send a link of this story to a friend in the same boat as your MC.
Cheryl Harrison09/20/06
This is beautiful. Really hits home with me. My daughter was recently diagnosed with a condition that keeps her from getting pregnant. The doctors say there are ways to get around it, but it has been an emotional road.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/20/06
I enjoyed this very much. The apt title drew me in, and I was delighted by the beautiful, innocent child.
Melanie Kerr 09/20/06
A wonderful and creative use of the topic word. That tugged at the heart strings!
Suzanne R09/21/06
This was just beautiful. So touching....... WELL DONE. Wish I could say some more constructive comment - but in my humble opinion, it is quite perfect.
Karen Treharne09/23/06
A good entry, Jan. I always enjoy your stories and this is certainly a blessing to read. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.