“Mom?” Sara asks, all five years of her. She is raising her voice a little because the printer is going again, she’s watching the printer again, and you at 45 are slightly hard of hearing.
“Yes baby,” you murmur, your ears easily tuned back to the Sara Station. You look behind you to see Sara pulling a Bill-the-Cat on top of the futon, as usual for the printer she’s never liked. After her pretend-gagging routine—when the sour, frigid stares from her to the printer are complete—she looks at you with the weariest of eyes and asks, “Why do you run that thing when you know I hate it, and why do I hate it?”
You love her so much in that moment. You know you’re the lucky one to have such innocent questions turned to you; you wish you had more grace about you to answer them correctly. Instead, you laugh out loud and congratulate Sara for being the first person to make you do that today. “You are a honey-pie,” you say, rubbing behind her ears as you pick up the papers you need to read.
And she knows it.
“Mother,” Lucy meeps. She is Sara’s sister from another dad.
“Yes, my sweet,” you say, kneeling down to peck Lucy’s big black head like a tick-tock water thermometer. It’s afternoon now and you are back from work so you can work more from home.
“Why am I so persecuted around here?” Lucy meepishes. “It was not me who left poop in the front hallway this weekend. I get blamed for stuff I don’t do, then they call me fat.” Lucy laments you with her eyes. “And you’re supposed to be in charge.”
“Ayeee,” you whisper, drawing the word out like the dagger you’re pulling from your chest. But it’s Lucy who matters. You put on your Four Paws grooming glove and pet Lucy from head to toe, neck to tail, especially behind the ears. She is the only one who likes the glove, outside of you.
“I don’t like it when you touch my belly, Ma,” Lucy says, showing her belly.
It can be hard to know what to do sometimes.
Head butt. Deep purr. Ten-pound body slam. It’s your baby in the morning, your two-year-old: Leo. He likes to walk all over you and demand everything. But you like it, and you know he can’t help himself.
“You’re such a sweet boy,” you say. What does he say back?
“Mama, I only feel comfortable taking ninety seconds out of the day to show you how I feel.”
As if you didn’t know.
Having been taught that endings are hard, and that you take a great risk by ending a story with one line, you basically hesitate at every period. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the last line, but you don’t get out the door smiling without one.