Mom walked into the living room to find Reagan sprawled out on the couch. “I need help carrying in the groceries.”
Reagan picked up the remote and cranked the volume.
“These groceries are for your party. The least you can do is get up and help me.” Mom tapped her foot but when her daughter continued to ignore her, she took a deep breath and headed out to the car and carried in the bags herself.
Just as she put the last item into the cupboard, Reagan sauntered in. “Did you get everything?”
Slamming the pantry door, Mom turned around and faced her daughter. “If you had helped me take care of things, you’d know if I got everything.”
“I was watching TV. I hope you didn’t mess it up. I only turn thirteen once.” She rolled her eyes and then stomped out.
Mom hurried to the privacy of her room and flopped on the bed. She reached over and grabbed the photograph of her husband. “Michael, oh, I need you. I’m not doing a very good job on my own.”
Mom closed her eyes and visualized Reagan’s eighth birthday—the last one before her father died. The family had gone to the store to pick out Reagan’s favorite foods. When they came to the produce aisle, the little girl squealed and picked up some broccoli.
The lady next to them turned to Mom. “She sounds like my daughter when she sees the candy.”
Mom felt the blood rush to her cheeks. “She’s always liked vegetables more than sweets.”
The lady chuckled. “Well, you have a beautiful daughter.”
The family traversed the aisles putting all of Reagan’s favorite foods into the cart. Reagan giggled as she stood on tippy-toes to help load the groceries into the trunk.
On the drive home, they passed people standing in line at a local food bank. Reagan pointed her finger at a group of people huddled together in the rain. “Daddy, what are they waiting for?”
He looked in the rearview mirror. “They don’t have the money to buy groceries, so they come to the food bank to get some help.”
Reagan scowled. “But Daddy, it’s pouring out and there are little kids getting drenched.”
“Yeah, baby, not everyone is as blessed as you are. Times have been hard and people can’t find jobs so they rely on the charity of others.”
Reagan leaned forward and grabbed Daddy’s arm. “Stop! Let’s give them our groceries. Then they won’t have to stand in the rain.”
Daddy pulled the car over. “Honey, those groceries are for your birthday. If we donate them then there won’t be any food for your party.”
“Mommy can make sandwiches for my party. Jesus wouldn’t want me to be selfish. You tell me that all of the time. Please, can we give them our food? That would be the best present ever.”
Mom attempted to shake the memories from her mind and then looked around the dreary room. What had happened to that generous little girl? She choked back a sob and looked at the picture. “Oh Michael, I’ve been so foolish. After you died, Reagan was crushed. I slowly ended up giving in to her. You were always the softie and I was the disciplinarian, but afterwards...I felt sorry for her. I indulged her every whim. It’s time I get tough again. I hope it’s not too late.”
Hopping off the bed, Mom wiped the tears off her face. She stood tall and marched into Reagan’s room. “We need to talk."
Reagan started to turn her back, but then she looked into Mom’s eyes. Instead she scooted over and patted the side of the bed. “What’s up?” Her voice trembled a bit and her eyes glistened with unshed tears.
Mom sat down and took a deep breath. “I was just thinking about your last birthday before your dad died. Do you remember it?”
Looking down, Reagan swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah, I can close my eyes and see Daddy getting everything out of the trunk and taking it inside. He was dripping wet. Just as he got back to the car, someone drove by and splattered mud all over him. You and I laughed; then Daddy shook his head and got us wet too. I miss him so much.”
Reagan lifted her head and smiled. “Maybe we should make a trip to the food bank and donate the groceries you just bought? I think Daddy would like that.”
“Me too, honey, me too.”
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