Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
It was one of those days when I was feeling like an inadequate mother. My husband and I always have a full house with our four children, their friends, my mother, our dog Sophie and a little boy that I take care during the day so I can stay home with our youngest daughter. The house is never empty and there is always food to be made, laundry to be done, diapers to be changed, cleaning–you get the picture.
Well, this day, nothing was easy. My hair was in a pony tail on top of my head. I had no makeup on and was wearing a big floppy shirt and shorts. My youngest daughter Helen, age two, and the little boy I was caring for Liam, age one, were fighting over my attention. My oldest daughter Shannon, age twenty-four, came home from work, dumped her stuff all over the kitchen table, kicked her shoes on the floor and was telling me about the things going on at work as if she did not see the two toddlers screaming inside each of my ears. My oldest son Sean, age twenty, was walking around the house playing his guitar. The music was nice but his room was a mess, and he needed to find a job during the summer college break. I guess he was done looking for the day. My youngest son Christopher, age eighteen, came into the kitchen in his underwear after being in bed all day and asked me what there was to eat. While keeping the refrigerator door open for what seemed like a half hour and after I listed several choices, he made a face that spoke to me as, “You fail,” and said “No thanks.”
Then my other half Tim came home wanting dinner, which was surprisingly underway. He fled quickly from this scene saying something about watering his tomato plants.
Ah. Then my mother, Nana Sue, who has an apartment over our garage, walked in to this circus as if she didn’t notice that multiple people were talking to me at once and asked if I needed paper plates. Mom supplied the paper plates, cups and paper towels in our house. When I replied, “No,” she said, “I’ll check anyway.” So in the middle of all of this fun she slowly made her way to the kitchen cabinets. I didn’t say anything because, after all, this was a top priority.
After this, the party moved onto dinner and then cleanup. I realized that Christopher had a doctor’s appointment in ten minutes. I called for Chris, scooped up Helen and we were off.
Driving for me is a time of reflection. I love to listen to music, think about life, and it’s awesome that my two year old is strapped in a car seat. But today was different. I felt insecure about my abilities as a woman to manage my family. I didn’t even turn on the radio.
Christopher is one of those kids who acts like a punk trying not to show his truly sensitive soul. He wears his light brown hair with long bangs to insure that his big deep dark hazel eyes don’t get noticed. When he chooses to have eye contact with someone he will tilt his head forward with his eyes looking up as if is he was hiding and decided to peek out to see what was going on. He is very honest and forthcoming about his ambivalent feelings for others and his opinions on certain subjects, but rarely will share his positive, happy thoughts on anything. If he feels compelled to share a positive message he must put a sarcastic or cynical spin on it somehow. But Christopher is also one of the most genuine loving individuals I ever met. He will always stick up for what he thinks is right and for deserving people who can‘t stick up for themselves. What you see is what you get with Christopher. In this world today that is a gift.
As I pulled out of the driveway, I noticed that we had a mountain of garbage for pick up the next day. We always have so much garage that several people have asked why and it’s embarassing. Sometimes they ask, “Did you clean out your basement or something?” I always say, “Yes.”
To make light conversation in between singing the ABC song with Helen, I told Christopher the comments by others about our mountain of garbage. Knowing that we have dirty diapers, Nana Sue’s paper plates and seven people living in this house, I still asked the question out loud, “Why do we have so much garbage?”
Christopher had an annoyed look on his face with the eye roll, and I expected him to say, “I don’t care.” However, what I got was this: “We have so much garbage because you have a family with kids who are happy to be home. And have friends over. A close family that likes to be home. What’s wrong with that?”
I pulled into the parking lot and tried not to burst with too much enthusiasm for fear of scaring this beautiful creature away. I just replied the way he would want me to, “Nothing.” Then, I said calmly, “That was nice.”
Rarely does Chris look me directly in the eyes, but he did at that moment. His eyes said to me, “What’s wrong with you? Why did I even have to tell you that?”
He got out of the car. I called to him, “I love you. Pick you up in an hour.”
Walking away he called back to me, “Love you too.”
As I drove away, I turned on the radio. I could not get the smile off of my face.