Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: PICNIC - deadline 7-12-12 @ 9:59 AM NY Time (07/05/12)
TITLE: Tuna on Rye
By PamFord Davis
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The view of the playground both attracted and troubled me. With pleasure, I watched young children with their attentive mothers. They were oblivious to my direct gaze. I removed cellophane from my tuna on rye, chewed as kids chattered. Preschoolers laughed and moved from swing sets to monkey bars. Others checked out the seesaw, slide, or sand box. Oh, how I envied these mothers, able to spend leisurely noon hours with their tykes. Josh had taken his first steps in daycare. He called his teacher Mama, and I felt hopelessly entangled in the duel-role of both mother and father.
I had taken for granted Jim’s place as head of the home, and the six-figure income he provided. He had a secure job at Microsoft, and felt it his civic duty to enlist in the National Guard. I rationalized his weekends of training, as time out with the guys. One evening he returned home, wearing his usual camouflage, yet, unable to hide his anxiety. How could he break the news? The next time he’d be going out with the guys, it would be no picnic. They’d be leaving for Afghanistan. The memory of his parting, to this day, still sends a chill down my tensed neck and shoulders. Soggy tuna, more like salmon swimming upstream, lodged in my throat… I’d met Jim’s plane, when he returned the following year. Draped in black of a widow, I touched his flag draped coffin.
Folds of Old Glory waved in the center of the park, as I swallowed the last of diet coke, and rose to leave. I noticed a neatly folded newspaper, at the end of my bench; leaning closer, I saw a help-wanted ad circled in red. They hooked me from the get-go: “Data Entry-Work from Home-Flexible Hours.” The street address matched the building where I worked; the suite listed-one floor below our office. Getting off work at 4:30, I could freshen up, and stop by their office before five. Hopes soaring, I briskly walked back to work. Placing a call to Josh’s daycare center, I explained an interview, might delay me in picking him up.
Looking up to the clock repeatedly, all afternoon, I resembled a fidgety night watchman. Pulling a Snickers bar from my purse, I rationalized; it would keep me from overeating at dinner. I had to silence the grumbling in my stomach. Was it hunger, or merely butterflies?
After work, I hustled to the Data Entry services… In a span of a few short weeks, I had clinched the job. Saying farewell to my office cubicle, I thought working from home would be a breeze. By the end of my first month, as mommy with a home office, reality set in. Mingling motherhood and mathematical data processing was no picnic! While I diligently tried to concentrate on columns of numbers, Josh demanded my undivided attention.
I fussed and fumed. He now had my quantity time, but quality time vanished. We were at odds about meals, naps and allotment of time for television and video games. I began to murmur, and contemplated returning to the rat race rut. Just in the nick-of-time, a friend invited me to join other frazzled mothers, in weekly support group brunches. I learned to give Christ first place in my life. With snippets of scriptures posted throughout my computer space, I focused more on Him. I came to recognize Josh’s interruptions as opportunities, not obstacles. Failing to notice it was past lunchtime, I heard Josh’s clogs clicking on the ceramic tile den floor. Turning away from my computer, I gasped, seeing he’d smeared jelly across his face. “Mommy, I’m hungry!” Ready to scold, I laughed instead. “Let’s go to McDonalds!” Twirling, he asked if he could eat in their playground. “First, let’s wash that face. Then we can have a picnic!”
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