-- Fall 2011
by Diana Feldstein
It is a nice, warm, sunny day in June. The living room is quiet and peaceful. There are walls covered with bookshelves and family photos are placed in tables. The walls are cream while the carpet is soft and white. There are two couches that rest in the room, both of which are off white and comfortable. There are nice big windows that go from the floor to the ceiling that let in a lot of light. I lay on a couch looking out one of the windows. There are trees surrounding the house, blocking the neighbor’s view inside. The yard is large and covered with green grass and flowers that I planted. I look over at my son to see what he is doing. John lies on the floor on his stomach, while playing with his toy cars. The box that the cars are usually in is tipped over on its side with all the cars spilled out onto the floor.
“Mom?” said John looking up at me.
“Can we go to the park tomorrow?” He looked at me with his sweet innocent smile.
I looked at the floor and then back at him. “Sure we can sweetheart,” I said. “But first you need to clean up the mess you’ve made.” He looked at the cars all over the floor then looked up at me and smiled. He stood up and started to pick up his cars. I watched him put them away. John has always been a good boy. Whenever you ask John to do something, he does it without making a tantrum. He doesn’t ask for five more minutes when you tell him you have to go home from the park or ask for another story when it’s bedtime. He was my sweet little boy. I wonder how he will behave around the baby when she comes.
I slowly moved toward my room after putting John to sleep. I turned out the lights in the house and made sure every thing was locked as my usual nightly routine. I walked down the long dark hallway to my room. I closed the door and changed into my old ripped t-shirt and sleeping pants. I climbed into bed and sat there for a little while and started to think about John.
John loves the park. He loves running around, sliding down slides and swinging on swings. He also likes to occasionally play on the monkey bars. John’s a very active boy as you could imagine. He’s always running around and smiling. It always warms my heart to see him happy. I wish I wasn’t the only one to see him this way. I turned off my dresser light and went to sleep.
I woke up to my alarm clock and got out of bed. I put on my black slippers and my purple robe and slowly and quietly walked to the kitchen to not disturb John. I made myself some scrambled eggs and drank a glass of orange juice. I had my breakfast and cleared the table. Once I put the dishes in the dishwasher, I walked to John’s room.
Mom woke me up today like she always does. She came in and kissed me on the forehead. She told me to get dressed and come into the kitchen for breakfast. I remembered we were going to the park today. I couldn’t wait. I got dressed quickly and eagerly ran from my room into the kitchen.
The kitchen smelled good. There was a place-mat on the table with a cup of milk. I sat at the table and waited patiently for mom to give me my breakfast.
“Good morning John,” said Mom looking at me with a smile on her face. She still had on her purple robe and slippers. Her long blond hair was brushed and put up, the way she always does it, in a ponytail.
“Good morning Mommy,” I said smiling.
“Did you sleep well,” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. Mom made my favorite, pancakes. She put the plate down in front of me and smiled. I smiled back and ate them with joy.
I finished eating quickly, so we could go to the park sooner. Mom watched me carefully hoping that I wouldn’t choke. Once I was done, I got down from the chair and handed Mom the plate. She smiled and took it from me and put it in the sink. I walked out of the kitchen and to the front door.
I stood by the door with my shoes and waited for Mom to come. She wasn’t far behind. Mom helped me with my shoes and we were about to leave. She looked at me and shook her head. “John,” said Mom. “You put your shirt on backwards this morning.”
“Oops,” I said blushing with embarrassment. I pulled my arms out of my Buzz Light-Year t-shirt and turned it around.
Mom took my hand as we crossed the street to the park. We walked through the black gate and Mom closed it behind us. She sat on a wooden bench near the gate and watched me like she always does. I was the only kid in the park today. I was happy to have everything to myself but I was also sad I didn’t have a buddy to play with.
I climbed up the green ladder to get to the monkey bars. I went back and forth a few times then went towards the slides. The slides were always fun. They were the only things in the park that were tan. Everything else was green and the platforms were black. There were slides that swirled around and a metal slide that went straight down. I also went to the swings where I swung for a long time. I looked around at the park while I swung. I looked at Mom while she read her book, glancing up at me every so often to make sure I was okay. I thought about how Mom and Dad used to take me to the park together. Dad used to push me on the swings when he came with. I wish he could push me now. He used to push me so high Mom would get worried and yell at him. ‘Not too high Jack! Don’t let him fall.’ I closed my eyes to remember mom and dad at the park smiling at me while I played.
“John,” I heard Mom say, “it’s time to go home now. We can come back another day.” I opened my eyes and jumped off the swing to walk toward her. I was sad that we had to leave but I listened to her. I didn’t want to upset my mom.
I am in a dark place. It is black and wet. I wouldn’t dare open my eyes. I can only hear. I hear her beautiful voice echoing through the small space. She is talking to someone. Telling that person she loves them. I thought she only loved me. I was mad so I kicked her. She rubs where I kicked. She says, “See your sister can hear us. Say hi, John.” What’s a sister? Is that what I am? Who is she talking to? I want to know.
“Hi, Sarah.” Sarah? Who is that? Is that I? I don’t understand what the two of them are talking about. All I know is that I am jealous of this John. I want to be the only one she loves.
Sarah was almost eight weeks along. I was so excited to have a girl, to share stories with and give her advice about boyfriends. I would be her best friend, at least until she grows up into a young lady and goes to college. It’s not that I didn’t love my handsome little man. I just wanted to have a daughter as well. I wanted John to look after Sarah and teach her things that I couldn’t. I wish my husband were here to share it with me. He’s missing out on so much.
Jack left me a month ago for some blonde skinny woman ten years younger than him. Her name is Kim. I met her once. She was rude and had no self-respect. She thought she knew everything. She only wanted what was best for herself and no one else. She took my husband and his money. Now, I am left with our seven-year old son, our baby Sarah on the way, and not much money to support the children and myself. At least he let me keep the house and car. I hope John and Sarah do okay. I don’t want their lives to be unstable. I can’t believe that bitch convinced him that Sarah wasn’t his.
It’s not right that Kim has to make up some stupid excuse to not give me money. She doesn’t want him to pay for child support. I’ll have to convince him some how. I hope he understands and helps me.
I did have a relationship before Jack, which ended up with me becoming pregnant at twenty, but I had a miscarriage. After the miscarriage, he left me.
After that I met Jack. I met him my sophomore year in college at a football game. It was a cold and windy afternoon. I was sitting on the cold hard bleachers that were at the top against the fence. It was a more comfortable spot than the rest. You could rest against the fence. He sat next to me and offered me half his blanket that he brought. I accepted and we watched the game together. I knew right then that I would be with him for the rest of my life. Clearly that thought was wrong. Not everything falls into fairy tales like the stories I grew up with.
I don’t know why my dad left. It all happened so suddenly. He was home hugging my mother and kissing her as he left for work in the mornings; playing with me after he got home from work with my cars and battle figures. We’d watch movies as a family, even though he’d always fall asleep, and played board games together. Now he is gone. It has been a month now. He is never gone longer than a few days. He doesn’t really call and if he does it’s about money and he only wants to talk to mom. He once talked to me to see how I was doing. I held the phone to my ear. “Hey little man. How’s it going?”
“Fine,” I replied. I didn’t know if I should hide my feelings or not. I looked up at mom nervously who was standing nearby with her arms crossed over her big stomach.
“How is school,” Dad asked. He always liked to know what I was learning in school. I used to talk to him about science class. He loved to know that I was carving pumpkins to get the seeds out to make them and learning about the solar system.
“It’s good Dad. We had show and tell the other day and I brought my Woody doll from Toy Story. Everyone loved him…” I was cut off.
“Sweetie why don’t you come to bed now. It’s getting late. Don’t you think John needs to sleep?” I heard a lady’s voice on the other end. Who was she?
“Hey kiddo I gotta go but I’ll talk to you another time OK?” Before I could say a word he hung up the phone. I handed the phone to Mom and she hugged me tightly. I started to cry. I wanted my daddy home.
There was one less presence out in the space where Mother and John were. There used to be another voice. It was deep and soothing, now it was gone. I wondered where the voice went. I knew I had some connection with him like I did her, but it wasn’t the exact bond since I was more part of her than him. I still missed him though. His voice talking to John every night made me drift off into some other space. Not knowing where he was bothered me.
I heard many conversations she had with him on something called the phone but I could only hear her.
“I don’t care if that slut is there or not, Jack…you need to give your son and your unborn daughter money…do you want them to starve? No, I won’t let you come over here. You’ll bring her into the house…I don’t want her here…I don’t care if she wants to meet John…the answer is no.”
I heard a bang. Something must have fallen or was put down hard. I wish I knew what was going on and what they were talking about. I hate being stuck in this dark place and not knowing what is happening outside of it. It makes me have this unpleasant feeling that makes me feel weird like I’m tightened up.
I looked down at the granite counter where I smashed the phone. I started picking up the pieces that chipped off and the batteries that fell onto the floor. I was frustrated that Jack was acting like this. I don’t want my children affiliated with that woman. Is she even a woman? She is more like the devil to me. He better keep Kim away from my kids. I don’t want her to influence them into doing things. I don’t want her to try and control my children. She already controls my husband.
I can’t believe I am almost due. I am so excited to hold Sarah and see what she looks like other than on an ultra-sound. I wonder what her eye color is and what hair color she will have. I can’t wait to capture the precious moments on camera once she’s born. I hope John is excited too. I know he isn’t as excited as I am and doesn’t know what to expect when she comes except for a lot of crying. I know he will be a good brother. He is already eight years old and going to start third grade. My time sure does fly by.
Jack and I finalized the divorce papers last week and they are being filed. I am so happy to get this over with. It was a very long and hard process. Thankfully I have child support and everything I need for myself and the kids.
Jack’s girlfriend left him when we were working on our divorce. I think it turned out better than I expected. He is now living in an apartment complex not too far from the house so he can see John a lot and Sarah when she is born. Jack has taken John to the park a lot lately since I am on bed rest until delivery. I have been feeling so sick and my feet are really swollen. I wish Sarah were here already.
I am really ready to be out of this place now. I can feel myself moving down to get ready to come out. My father is back from wherever he went. Well at least sometimes. He isn’t there all the time. I can’t wait to see my family. I wonder if they are like how I pictured them. I could see my mother with her dark blond hair and my father with almost black hair, and my brother, John, with his light brown hair. I wonder what mine looks like. My mother has blue eyes and my father has brown. My brother has brown eyes like Dad. Why is that? Does that mean I have brown eyes too or are they blue like my mother’s? I need to know. I feel tense.
It was cold and bright. I didn’t open my eyes because there were too many lights surrounding me. I could feel the heat they gave. I could hear people talking. I felt a warm blanket surrounding me and then I was held. I heard my mother talking and the sound of her heartbeat. I could feel the relaxing rhythm of her breathing moving up and down slowly. She must have been tired. I wanted to open my eyes but I didn’t want to see the light. I kept them closed and kept listening to the sound of mother’s soothing heartbeat.
A little later, I heard John and dad come in. It was nice to hear their voices out in the open and not from inside of my mother. It echoed in there. Out in the open world, it was clear. I felt someone take me from my mother’s arms. It took me a little to realize it was my father. He held me close and then I felt someone else touching me. It was John. He had the gentlest hands. Father let John hold me. I was happy to be in my brother’s arms. John held me close and kissed my forehead. I nuzzled myself into his chest and fell asleep.
The first time I saw Sarah, she was in Dad’s arms. He gave her to me and I held her gently. I didn’t want to hurt her with a tight grip or drop her. I wasn’t nervous to hold her though. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to make her feel safe. She was so tiny and cute. She had Dad’s hair but mom’s face. I sat down in the chair in the room and rocked Sarah back and forth slowly. I thought mom needed to rest. Dad left the room to get everything ready in the car. He was going to bring in the car seat for Sarah.
As I sat in the chair in the hospital room, I rocked Sarah gently. Mom watched Sarah and I every minute and smiled. I looked at her tired face and smiled back. I think she felt proud. I walked over to mom and showed her Sarah. She kissed my head and rubbed my back. I rested my head on Mom’s head and looked at the sweet baby I held. Sarah just slept.
Sarah was so beautiful. She had my face and my eyes but Jack’s hair. I bundled her up in blankets and carried her to the car. John walked beside me while Jack walked ahead opening the doors. The four of us left the hospital and drove home. We brought Sarah inside and put her in the crib to sleep. I wanted to take a nap. I was exhausted. Jack was nice and stayed to watch John and Sarah if she woke up. I left Jack and John in the living room watching a movie with the monitor. I put Sarah in her room and quietly shut the door behind me. I went to the bedroom and fell asleep right away. I didn’t bother to change.
I woke up to my deep purple painted walls as usual. I couldn’t believe today was my eighteenth birthday. I feel like my childhood went by so fast. I remember trips to Chicago and vacations to some place in California when I was little. I remember going to the American Girl store and buying a doll. I got one that looked like me. My dad took me once and I could swear I almost bought the entire store. There were so many things I wanted. I got a lot of outfits and accessories for her. I also remember going to the grocery store with my mom and going to the park with John.
John showed me the ropes of the playground and how to do everything. He even pushed me in the swing. I loved the way John pushed me. He never pushed me too high but always pushed higher when I asked. He used to tell me that dad would push him way too high and mom would yell at him. Dad thought John liked it, but he didn’t.
John and I shared a lot of close memories. Not just the times at the park but also other times when we would be stuck at home together when mom went out. John would stay home to babysit me. We would watch movies and play games. Of course the games we both liked. He never pushed me to do things he wanted to do and I never pushed him to play with my dolls. I guess he lucked out that I liked playing video games with him but he sometimes got frustrated when I beat him. What can I say; the student always surpasses the teacher.
I knew John would always be there for me. He was always there to make me feel better when I was sad by telling me jokes and was there when someone bullied me at school. John usually picked me up from school everyday. He would always put a little treat in my lunch box and a note that I would get at school during lunch. I smiled every time I’d see the sneaked-in treat and note. I loved John so much. I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.
John was coming home for my birthday. I was excited to see him. I missed him a lot. I can’t believe he’s been out of college for about three and a half years and living in Denver. He went off to Denver, Colorado for school while Mom, Dad, and I were still in Detroit, Michigan.
Dad has lived in that same apartment that he had after Mom and him got the divorce but I helped him make it look nice. I gave him artwork I drew to put up on walls since I was little and went to stores with him to pick out furniture. His place looked pretty cool. He only looked like he had taste because of me. If I weren’t there to pick things out for him, his place would be a total disaster. I liked going on errands with my father.
I wish I had been able to do more with my father. I knew he wasn’t going to be completely in my life like my friends who had their parents still married. I always wondered what it would be like to have Mom and Dad married again, but I knew that wouldn’t happen. I just ignored those thoughts and focused on the positive: I had a great big brother and a wonderful mother who loved me.
Slowly, I got out of bed to take a shower and get dressed. I walked out to the living room and kitchen to find John sitting on the couch and mom in the kitchen. I ran to John. He stood up in surprise and hugged me tightly. I didn’t expect him to be here already. “Happy birthday, Sarah,” he said while kissing my forehead and hugging me tight. I was happy he was here.
“Thank you, John. I am so glad you could come home for the occasion.” I hugged him tighter and walked into the kitchen with him. Something smelled good.
“Good afternoon and happy birthday darling,” said mom with her sweet smile. “I made your favorite, chicken parmesan and spaghetti.” I smiled at her and gave her a warm hug. She always knew what to do to make my birthdays special.
“You’re the best mom. Thank you.” I sat down at the table that was surprisingly set and John joined me while mom finished cooking.
“Who set the table,” I asked while looking at the two of them.
“I did,” said John with his confident smile. “I had to help mom with something. She had a lot to do. I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing.” I smiled at him.
“Everything is ready. Do you want to eat now or wait until Dad comes, Sarah,” asked Mom. Dad was supposed to come, but he didn’t always remember to come to certain occasions. He always said he was busy.
For John’s last birthday, Dad was supposed to come to visit. John was really pissed. He just went into his room, slammed the door and blasted his music after he got the phone call. I remember being very worried about him and hoped that he would be okay. Eventually, he came out and he was calm, but he had a sad look on his face.
Today, I hoped dad would come. I didn’t want him to come because I knew that John would feel bad and it would make me feel favored. I didn’t want that. I hated feeling like the favorite. I wanted us both to be loved equally.
We waited two long hours to hear from Dad and then phone rang. I walked to the phone and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hey sweet pea, its Dad. How is your birthday going?” I could hear loud announcements in the background talking about gate changes and asking someone to come to a gate to not miss their flight. He must be at the airport. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well.
“It’s fine,” I said. “Are you coming home for my birthday?” Mom and John looked at me, waiting to hear the answer.
“Oh sweetie I can’t, I am stuck in Denver in a snowstorm. I’ll try and come see you as soon as I get home. OK pumpkin? I have to go. They are making an announcement about my flight.”
Click. The call was over. My stomach twisted into a knot. I put the phone down on the table.
I knew Dad wouldn’t come. He was predictable, and I felt like he didn’t care. I wish he would come, but I guess I’d rather have someone who cares come to events than someone who doesn’t. I knew Dad wouldn’t be in my life completely. It’s like when I was still in Mom, and he left the three of us for another woman. At least this time I was prepared for it.
John and Mom looked at me sympathetically. I looked at the table. “Let’s eat,” I said.