“Hey Mom, could you help me for a sec?” I hear my daughter call. Leaving the table I am setting, I round the corner to the kitchen.
“Sure,” I answer.
“Sure,” I hear a simultaneous echo from inside the door.
Megan stands beside “her”. They are bent over the kitchen sink together. I hear them laugh. A knife pierces my heart.
They don’t see me as they banter back and forth, like mother and daughter do. Megan bumps shoulders with her new mother-in-law, pushing her with a laugh, “No Mom, that’s not how I do it. This is how my mom taught me.”
‘That’s me! I’m your mom! Not her!’ my mind screams possessively. I turn back to the dining room, hugging the plates I’m holding tight to my chest. Leaning against the wall, I drop my head back with a thud, breathing deeply like I’d just run a race. A race? Against her? Is Megan a prize I have to win back? I feel so tired.
Pushing away from the wall with a sigh, I shake my head in an effort to settle my jumbled thoughts. It doesn’t work. My hair ends up a mess and I almost drop the plates. I set them on the table one by one in robotic precision. Megan likes things in perfect order.
I jump when she comes up behind me and reaches out to move one plate a fraction of an inch closer to the edge of the table. Our blue eyes meet, sparkling with common memories of her following me around the house as I cleaned, moving things ever so slightly when they weren’t quite how she thought they should be.
I shake my head, smiling at her. She shakes hers with a touch of self deprecation, “I know. My OCD kicking in.” We laugh out loud. She reaches out to smooth my hair, then pulls me into a hug. “You look like you’ve been out in the wind, Mom.” I lean my head against her shoulder hugging her close, tears pricking but not falling.
“Hey,” dropping her voice slightly she says quietly, “I need you to make the gravy. Josh’s mom doesn’t do it right but I don’t want to tell her, so just come into the kitchen after a while and ask if there’s anything you can do, OK? Then I’ll ask you to make the gravy,” she smiles. I laugh, loving the feeling of being co-conspirators.
“OK, go. I’ll be there in a couple minutes,” I agree, giving her a shove toward the kitchen. I finish setting the table quickly, leaving the glasses anywhere they land above the plate. Good enough, we’re just going to move them anyway. I go over to the kitchen to offer my help, but stop at the door for a minute, watching them together again, my mind begging, “Please don’t call her Mom.”
“Hi Mom,” I hear behind me. She looks up from the stove just as I turn toward the voice. Josh stands behind me, a big smile of greeting on his handsome face, his arms open for a hug. How strange to hear “Mom” in that deep male voice.
A son! I have a son in the family now. I glance in the kitchen just in time to recognize that moment of pain passing over her face and the sparkle in her eye that she blinks away. Our eyes meet each others then and a special camaraderie is born that moment. In-laws, family, bound together by these kids, still hers and mine, but the circle has broadened to include “ours”.
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