That’s weird. How did this get here? I remember this day-Mom and little Richie on Easter, I think. Maybe Mother’s Day. No, Easter. No, Christmas. It says it right there. Right, Richie was born in October. Remember. Oh, Mom- I’ll see you soon. I missed you. Am I bleeding? I’m bleeding. How did this get here? Under the recliner of all places- all these years. I wonder what else is lost in this thing? I promise, God, if I make it through this, I’ll clean under every piece of furniture I own. Every couch I’ve ever lied on. Laid on. Lied on. Laid upon. Whatever. Fuck this hurts. I’ll exercise. Eat better. I promise. Just get me through this. God? I can’t feel my left arm. Relax. Concentrate. The picture. That was a happy day. Mom and Dad there to meet Richie. For the first time. I can see Rachel in that dress, the yellow one, how beautiful. Why did I fuck it up? I was so lucky. I had everything. I ruined it. I wasted it. I did. God, she was a beautiful mother. Maybe when I moved- it fell through the cushions. I don’t want to die like this. Not now. Not here. Not like this. Focus- the picture-Mom and little Richie. Richie. Mom. Richard. Phone. I can’t reach my phone. Call Richard. Call. It’s a Polaroid- it’s just like that- like a goddam backwards Polaroid. Of all things. I love you Richie…Mommie?
Story by Mckenna Snyder
Christmas Day you held me for the first time. Mom told me the story whenever I was flipping through old photo albums. Every time she’d catch me. Every time she’d stop at this one. You became more than a cherished memory. You were my nursery rhyme, my bedtime story.
Mom said you were fresh out of your hospital stay. You were in and out of clinics for so long. It was a routine like getting out of bed is a routine. Making coffee. Eating breakfast. Going to the store. Dialysis appointment. Some days you had to go outside your routine. You were eating dinner when your arm started to hurt, watching TV when you had trouble breathing. Mom screamed each time thinking this was it.
She told me how you didn’t want her to keep worrying, to keep driving all the time. Ice makes the roads so perilous that time of year. You didn’t want your daughter to spend her days in the hospital, which had become a second home. She was pregnant with me then. She’d be spending plenty of time here soon enough.
Mom told me about the day she gave birth to me. How you came into the room, IV walker and all to get a glimpse of me. She cried recalling how you two cried while I was crying. You kept nodding, whispering “okay, okay.” Mom didn’t know why until 3 months later, when the doctors finally gave the okay to discharge you, on Christmas of all days. Mom said it was the best gift of all. Getting to spend Christmas at home.
I never got to meet you, yet I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. As I take care of mom, driving her to and from appointments, I know what she went through, and, as I sit by her side, I know what you went through. I know the feeling as I wander this place, as I hold her hand and her grip loosens a little each time. A feeling, not a place, that will outlast the pain of saying goodbye: a home.
Story by Adrian Manuel
“Look up at the camera,” my heart smiled as I gently reminded my mother for the third time to take her eyes off the baby for a few seconds, just long enough for a quick picture. “Oh, he’s looking at the camera too! Take it now.” I bounced on my heels behind my husband as he quickly snapped the shot. His rough fingers gripped the edge of the polaroid as it slipped from the camera, its blurred blotches staring up at us. Impatient, he started to fan it out, coxing the image into realization.
“This is a good one.” I said, satisfied.
“How do you know? I can’t make anything out yet.”
“I just do.”
And of course, I was right. My mother had never disappointed a camera. Even in old age, her smile was the brightest in the room, and she always knew how to make a moment. However, she was always her most radiant with my father, Ron. Ron brought out the best in her. Ida Gilace had always been a bit of a wallflower, and stubborn at that. At family gatherings, she tended to stay in the outskirts no matter how much we prodded her to join in, but Ron always knew what to say to get her to flourish and let loose. My entire life, they were the perfect duo and what I looked for in all my relationships. They were what led me to my Steve.
“This is the happiest I’ve seen your mother in a while.” Steve whispered to me as he handed me the photo, and I smiled as he gave my shoulder a comforting squeeze.
“Yeah,” I nodded, and bit down on my grin as I felt tears beginning to bubble. “I’m so glad she came.”
But Steve knew what I really meant. “I’m so glad she got to meet Isaac.”
Ever since Ron passed the day before my son was born, my mother had been avoiding the family. We all understood. They had been together for so long they had become their own entity, and now it was incomplete. But then I sent her Isaac’s photo…
“There must be something of his grandpa in him that makes her smile like that.”
Story by Mckenna Snyder
Lillace is 89 now, but she was 24 when she held her first child. His name was Henry. Much less was certain then. It was the heart of the Great Depression and it was not the optimal time to have a child, but there he sat in her arms. She clutched little Henry with such tenderness and love and she could not imagine how she could possibly have such love for anything else in the world.
Little did she know that not too far in the future she would be holding three more of her own children. She would hold Charles, Heather, and Adam. With each child, her heart grew more and more for it needed to have enough love to care for them all equally. She raised them, alongside her husband, who was also named Henry, who worked hard in the factory all day, nearly every day, in order to ensure that they could survive. He was a hard man, but a loving man, and no one would ever question his love for his family.
Though her husband Henry has passed three years ago, she only smiles when she thinks of him. Lillace knows that he would hate to see her mournful even over his death.
Since her four children, Lillace has held eleven grandchildren, and this boy will be her forth great grandchild. Her heart now takes up practically her entire body in order to have enough love for all of them.
Despite her arms growing brittle and weak, they are well trained in supporting a child that is new to the world. They clutch this newest arrival, Isaac, with the same tenderness as she did with Henry, her first child. This time, though, there is something new. There is a new tension in her arms and more of reluctance to hand him back to his parents. She knows her age and of her mortality and Lillace wonders how many more times she will hold young Isaac and if there will be any more new arrivals placed into her arms.
Story by Patrick O’Connell