A black car parked on the driveway in front of the garage. The handbrake clicked, but the driver did not stop the engine.
Karen, sitting on the passenger seat next to her father, stared at the house in front of her fixedly through the windshield. Neither of them said a word. Her father also looked at the walls as if he had given in to idleness in some frozen time.
After heavy seconds, he finally stopped the car, but neither showed any intention to get out. Then Robert, Karen’s father broke the silence.
‘We’re here. We’ve arrived.’ His words were so cold that it reminded nothing of some intimate arrival home, much rather somewhere strange and disliked.
It may have taken two minutes until Robert got out of the car. Then, soon, so did his daughter. They exchanged looks, and now it was Karen who spoke, hardly audibly.
‘Yes. We are at home.’ As soon as she uttered these words, she seemed even sadder, and quickly added: ‘I’m going to Mum.’
‘Karen! Please, not now. Not yet!’ begged his father, and the two of them headed for the entrance nice and slowly.
Petra’s mother was bustling about in the kitchen. The waft of scent filtering out from under the lid of the pot on the stove, about to fill the whole house – and had it not been for the busilyworking range hood, it would have surely succeeded – suggested that the delicious late-afternoon lunch is almost ready.
That was when Petra practically crashed into the house. She threw her schoolbag on the couch – she didn’t waste time taking it up into her room and place it where it belonged.
‘Hi!’ said her mother somewhat surprised. ‘You’re early.’
‘Hi! Yeeeeeaaaah, becaaaauuuse...’ started Petra the answer, but as she didn’t want to get caught – and she was sure her mother wouldn’t get it anyway that that silly specialisation was a total waste of time, and she would drop it next year anyway, because she was much more into singing –, she chose the simpler, more effective, but also more sinful solution: she lied.
‘Because the teacher’s sick.’
‘Again?’ asked the mother.
Vague suspicion had attached to her – this had been around the third time, but she deemed it useless to start another quarrel that would surely end in the conviction of her daughter’s lies. Instead, she would spare her from getting caught, and skipped further interrogation.
‘Looks like it’ continued her lies Petra. ‘What’s for lunch?’
‘Spaghetti Milanese, and I’ve also made some panko-crusted pork. It’s almost ready.’
‘Yummy!’ started Petra the great announcement, opening the attack with a praise in an attempt to deflect some of the attention toward the actual reason. ‘But I’m not staying long.’
‘Why? Where are you going?’ asked her mum, because her motherly instincts told her something’s off.
‘You know, there’s a gathering tonight, and... I’m going there.’
‘But it’s Thursday’ reminded her mum Petra that she was not really supposed to attend all kinds of dubious gatherings on weekdays, in schooltime.
‘Yeeeaaah... but today’s Adam’s birthday’ lied Petra, but she regretted her hasty reply instantly. But there was no way back now.
‘Didn’t you say it’s on Saturday?’
‘I know... but it’s some kind of a before-party.’
‘Well, you’ll skip this one, and let them get warmed-up, and you’ll join them on Saturday, as we’ve agreed.’
‘Come on, mum! Why are you such an old hat?’
‘What makes me an old hat? Keeping my word?’ She did sound a bit cynical, but she was unable to control her emotions. Her sense of justice was deeply wounded already by this whole situation.
‘Because you can’t accept how important it is to me!’ said Petra, frenzied.
‘I know better what’s important for you! And what’s most important is that you study!’ As soon as the words had left her lips, she knew that her attempt to avoid a row had fallen through. She also knew that she was right. But at the same time, she was aware that she had just opened one frontline more than necessary. But it was necessary!
‘Sure, you know it very well!’ said Petra furiously, and dashed up the stairs.
At 8 o’clock, after dusk, Tina appeared in the living room, embraced with her boyfriend. They had spent the whole afternoon together.
The parents were sitting on the couch, watching their daughter say goodbye to the boy. It wasn’t a quick goodbye. It took a lot of kissing, whispering and murmuring, giggling and hugging for the boy to say his goodbyes to Tina and her parents.
Tina headed for her room on cloud nine, but her mother’s words made her stop in her tracks.
‘Tina, come here for a moment please.’
The girl turned and headed for her parents with a strange expression on her face.
‘I’m here’ she said, and as if sensing a more serious conversation is to come, her mood adjusted to it.
‘Your father and I have to talk to you’ started Tina’s mother, but at the same moment, her father jumped up off the couch, faster than a speeding bullet.
‘Well, I have to go now, because I’m late for work, but listen to your mother, Tina, will you?’ he said dumbly: it was obvious that it wasn’t the actual reason, just an excuse to escape from the situation. ‘Bye, sweetheart’ he added, and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Men... When you really need their help, they’re gone” thought Tina, or something along these lines.
But there was nothing to be done now, she kept her face of parental authority on, and decided not to argue with him, and let him put on his coat and start to work – allegedly. Well, technically, work for him only started in two hours, so he had plenty of time, he could have easily stayed and taken part in the conversation.
‘Come here, sit down here, beside me a bit’ Tina’s mother beckons her.
‘What is this about?’ asked Tina, and sits down.
‘It’s about you and your boyfriend’ she starts.
‘What about us?’
‘You know, your dad and I...’ This was a rather awkward opening, considering that, even though they had talked about it, and they agreed, her husband had just escaped from the fatherly responsibilities, leaving her all the burden of the task. Yet she went on: ‘...we realised that you spend too much time with your boyfriend, and—’
‘Mum!’ Tina interrupts her mother. ‘I hope what’s coming next is not that I should break up with him, because then my answer is a definite NO!’
‘Look’ started her mother, trying to buy some time to maintain her determination yet not to crush her daughter’s spirits. ‘My goal is not to cause you any harm, but it can’t go on like this. That boy spends every evening here! It comes at the expense of your studies!’
‘I don’t need the lecture!’
‘This is not a lecture, these are facts. I’m not saying you should break up with him, just—’
‘Yes, that’s exactly what you’re saying! You want to control me!’ Tina cuts her short again.
‘All I’m asking you is to limit your daily rendezvous to a weekend day.’
‘Mum, do you hear yourself?’ Tina remarks cynically. ‘If you want to scare me away, you’re doing it great. If you continue, I’ll just leave and never come back. Here is not the only place we can be together, you know!’ The threatening, and very firmly formulated words cut through the air like blades.
‘Don’t act like that! And don’t make me put you grounded!’ Tina’s mother changes tactics.
‘Don’t be such a bitch!’
‘Watch your tongue! I am your mother!’
‘And if you’ve failed to notice, I am your daughter! I’m fed up!’ replied Tina and rushes up to her room.
Diana’s mother was sitting on the terrace in front of the house, indulging in the first gentle May sunrays on her face, warming her soul, too, a cup of steaming coffee in her hand, its fresh scent drifting across the room. She enjoyed the smell, but she rather closed her eyes and yielded herself to the sunshine.
That’s when her daughter arrived. She opened her eyes and glimpsed her right away.
‘Come, sit here, next to me. It’s so nice and sunny.’
‘No, thanks. Can you give me some money?’
‘Money? For what?’
‘Shopping’ replied Diana, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
‘Okay, but what?’
‘Does it matter?’
‘Why wouldn’t it matter? You have everything. So?’ asked her mother, aghast at the fact that her daughter was mooching money again.
‘Adam’s birthday’s on Saturday, and I’d like to buy him something.’
‘But we have bought him a present, together!’
‘But that’s different’ Diana made a weak attempt.
‘How is that different? We’re not that well-off that you can just squander money!’
‘Why, am I the only one to squander it? And you don’t? We’re full of all kinds of schlocks.’
‘You’re being unfair—’
‘...Well, I’m gone’ said Diana, and was about to leave.
‘But where are you going at this hour? Tidy your room first, don’t go anywhere before you finish it! And you could also help me clean up the house’ said the mother to her daughter, who was in such a hurry that she paid attention to all but her mother.
‘I’ll tidy up in the evening’ she added quickly, in order to not appear completely disrespectful.
‘And when are you gonna study?’
‘Come on, just leave me alone, and stop nagging me! I’m fed up with your bulldozing! I’ve got my own problems, you know, I don’t need you, too!’ This was the point when the girl had had enough, she couldn’t contain herself and took a French leave.
The first morning class is maths. Karen was standing at the window staring at the happenings outside apathetically, with unseeing eyes. But nothing was happening outside, and thus, the girl looked a rather scary sight.
The others were chattering, unable to find their places – they were not trying very hard, though. That’s when the young teacher arrived. Her nicely-combed, blonde hair swung right and left, as she teetered in in her medium-high heels. She was wearing a smart, almost mini skirt and a white shirt.
She put down the books on the teacher’s desk, and her gaze wandered to Karen, who was still standing at the window, staring out of it motionlessly.
‘Please take your seat’ the teacher asked Karen, while the others were getting quieter, but were still loud.
Karen didn’t move a finger, as if her teacher’s words hadn’t been addressed to her. Of course, the teacher didn’t leave it at it, she repeated her command. But Karen, as if she hadn’t heard, still wouldn’t move. The third time, the teacher commanded her angrily, and even stepped to her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
‘I said, go to your seat and sit down. I’m not going to tell it again’ she said, and her voice was now loud and imperious enough to bear an emphasis in the already more or less quiet room.
Karen turned, and – although gently – ahook the teacher’s hand off her shoulder, then headed toward the door. Everyone stared at her, but no one dared to speak.
Karen wouldn’t stop, and the teacher was now almost shouting:
The girl stopped and turned.
‘I’m not staying here’ she replied.
‘Who do you think you are? I am the teacher, and this is a maths class!’ The teacher started the lecturing, after all, she couldn’t let a student undermine or abuse her teacherly authority.
Karen just stared at her, and several seconds passed before she spoke.
‘And you want to teach me maths?’ she asked her.
‘How insolent you are—’ started the teacher, but Karen walked up to the blackboard confidently, cut her short, and started to write furiously on the board.
‘You know, teacher, I have nothing against you’ she started, and wrote a long equation on the blackboard. ‘The development of humanity depends on a lot of things, and so many areas of mathematics are undiscovered that one couldn’t even imagine. Many scholars and scientists have dedicated decades of their lives to solving problems that may advance humanity. They spent very-very long time trying to find solutions to a riddle sometimes successfully, at other times, in vain. And in some cases, the successful solution did not mean advancement, it rather brought new questions in need of an answer.’ Karen spoke nice and slowly, while she finished the really long equation.
The teacher just stared at the girl in astonishment. She didn’t quite know why she wouldn’t stop her. Maybe she was curious to see what this all was getting at.
Karen stepped in front of the teacher, half-sat up the desk, leaned on her hands beside her, and looked the teacher in the eyes. The teacher was the one to speak first.
‘Why did you write it on the board?’
‘You are the teacher, you want to teach me maths.’ Karen is not cynical, not challenging, but her voice carries some inexplicable power. ‘If you solve this problem – after all, you want to teach me something –, then I’ll listen to every word you say attentively all year long, even if I’ve long known all you are talking about.’
The teacher was observably unsure of what to do. It crossed her mind that she should use her teacherly authority and overlook the fact that she was now expected to flash her mathematical knowledge. But if she backed out, her respect was gone for good.
She didn’t know why, but she stepped to the board, and after lengthy analysis, she started writing on the other side of the blackboard.
She wrote for quarter an hour. Sometimes, she wrote something very long that looked like a solution, then erased it all, and started again.
Her forehead was beaded in sweat, and the only thing saving her from smudged mascara was that she used quality make-up.
Only half an hour later did she realise how much she had lost track of time. Strange, but the other students had been waiting motionlessly, without a word. Then the teacher turned to Karen.
‘There’s no solution’ she answered eventually.
Karen’s face creases into a smile.
‘Until about half a year ago, it was so’ said Karen, stepped to the teacher, took the chalk from her hand, and simplified the equation with two motions.
She circled three parts of the received, simplified equation, and explained that a mathematician with a Russian name, who had worked for over 30 years on this problem, had solved it not long before. On hearing the name, some of the students browsed the Russian mathematician on their phones, and there are plenty of founds about what Karen said next: that his solution had greatly helped advancement in genetics.
As per the three encircled parts of the equation, she referred to three theorems – as if they were self-evidently known to everyone –, then, her purpose accomplished, just finished her speech with a “thank you for your attention” toward the teacher, and left the room.
Dead silence prevailed in the room. The teacher was unable to speak, and the students were also just staring into space. Then one of the girls, Diana, quietly asked her friend:
‘Do you know who this is? I’ve never seen her.’
‘I think they moved away last year, and now she’s back. But I don’t know her either’ replied Tina.
The teacher, woken from her daze, started the class, as if nothing has happened. The students didn’t say a world, they were so much under the influence of the travesty of the previous minutes. Even though the actual teaching had just started, the bell rang five minutes later. Yet, those five minutes were the most disciplined five minutes in the school’s history.
Diana, Tina and Petra went to the bathroom.
‘It was shocking!’ said Petra.
‘It was indeed’ agrees Diana.
‘Did you see Miss Maths Wiz’s face?’ asked Tina, smiling.
‘It was nothing like I’d seen! But who is this girl?’ asked Petra.
At this moment, someone stepped out of one of the stalls: Karen.
She stepped to the washbasin next to the girls chatting and fixing their make-ups. She let water on her hands, and turned to them.
‘I’m Karen’ she said emotionlessly, then wiped her hands and turned to leave.
‘Wait, Karen!’ yelled Tina after her.
Karen stopped and turned back.
‘It was ingenious what you did there!’ said Tina.
‘Why would it be?’
‘Because...’ she couldn’t seem to find the words, ‘... because it was.’
‘I see’ replied Karen, and started toward the door once again.
‘Listen. There’s a birthday party on Saturday. Come, we could chat a bit there. What do you say?’ asked Tina.
Karen’s expression was impassive; the girls expected her to refuse, but all she said was:
‘Okay... Where is it?’
Saturday, birthday house party
The night was mediocre. The presents had been given, and gentle music played. Karen was drinking some squash in a corner. The three friends were chattering not far from her, the music couldn’t muffle their conversation.
‘I’m fed up with my mother! She’s always trying to tell me what to do!’ said Petra.
‘Tell me about it. Mine wants to stop me from seeing David. I told her that I’ll leave, and move to David’s. She just stared at me dumbly’ added Tina.
‘I can’t see why they keep nagging us! They’re convinced they know better what’s good for us’ said Dina.
‘Exactly. All the hassle’ nodded Tina in agreement.
‘I can’t wait to get outta here and stop having to listen to their bullshit’ said Diana.
Karen just listened to their talks. Although she didn’t say a word, the girls noticed her watching them, and they tried to involve her in the conversation – after all, she was now the greatest hero and coolest girl in town.
‘Aren’t your parents a pain sometimes?’ asked Tina.
‘Yeah’ replied Karen, ‘yeah, they are. All parents are sometimes, just some this way, some another’ she replied mysteriously.
‘Do you also want to leave them?’ asked Diana.
‘No, I’m okay.’
‘I don’t understand. You’ve just said that you have trouble with them...’
‘Yes, but my mother is wonderful...’ she started, but then halted.
‘Do you get on well?’ inquired Diana. ‘Because I can’t stomach our quarrels anymore.’
‘Oh, she’s really easy to get on with’ explained Karen. ‘But now I live with dad.’
‘Aren’t your parents together?’ asked Tina surprised.
‘No, it’s been a year now.’
‘Sorry, I didn’t know’ apologised Tina.
‘By the way, I can’t reckon you’re saying such nice things about your mother. Please tell us more about her!’ said Tina.
‘My mother always listens to me, even if I talk for hours. I know she loves me, and I love her very much, too. If I could, I’d spend every moment with her.’ Karen’s face was smiley and unsure at the same time. When she had uttered these words, her expression darkened. ‘Of course, I know I can’t. Every moment I’ve spent with her has been wonderful.’
The girls listened attentively, open-mouthed. They really couldn’t believe Karen had said such things. This was some fantastic and incredible story. Diana voiced her doubts.
‘That’s like some fairy tale. Such thing doesn’t exist... You’re lucky with your mum...’
Karen suddenly stood to leave.
‘Sorry, I have to go. I get up early in the morning, and visit my mother, after all, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow’ she said, and dashed out of the party.
The girls stared after her perplexed. This girl is so baffling!
‘Do you believe her?’ asked Tina her friends.
‘Damn, it is Mother’s Day tomorrow. I forgot’ said Diana.
‘I’m curious of Karen’s mother’ said Tina.
‘Me too, a lot’ nodded Petra.
‘Let’s sneak and check her out’ suggested Tina, and the others nodded. All three of them started giggling.
On Sunday at dawn, the three friends were walking toward Karen’s house. It was sunrise, when suddenly, Karen stepped out of the door. The girls tried to remain unnoticed; they even pulled off the pavement.
Karen didn’t see them, just kept strolling persistently.
The girls followed her, curious to learn where she might be headed for at this time of the day. Karen got on a bus. The girls didn’t know what to do now; they couldn’t follow her on the bus, or else they’d be caught.
The bus started. They then glimpsed a taxi, and to their luck, it stopped. They got in unhesitatingly, and told the driver to follow the bus. The driver didn’t care about the whys, he started and followed the vehicle dutifully.
It was a long ride. The girls kept wondering. Where did Karen’s mum live? They’d left the centre. Did she perhaps live at the other end of the city?
At the sixth bus stop, the bus stopped, and Karen got off.
The girls told the driver to stop a bit further away, paid him, and followed the girl a bit further off, but still in sight.
Weird. At this part of the city, there were mainly factories and offices. They couldn’t even guess where Karen’s mother might live, but of course, they wouldn’t give up. Curiosity lords over all, it urged the three friends further.
Karen walked at a normal pace, steadily always ahead. They had no idea where she might go next, but soon, it turned out. They arrived at a place they would have never guessed.
Karen turned in a small iron gate. On the top of the gate, the inscription read: “St. Emery Graveyard of Mercy”.
The girls are puzzled why she was going to the cemetery, but they followed her anyway. A minute later, Karen stopped at one of the tombs. Close to it, there were three big trees; the girls snuck behind them, and watched and listened to Karen.
‘Hello, Mother!’ she started, as she took a candle out of her pocket, lit it, and placed it on the tomb. ‘I’m here. It’s so strange... it happened a year ago, but it’s like it were today. Yet the accident was so long ago...’ A teardrop appeared in the corner of her eye. She quickly wiped it off, sniffed, and continued. ‘I sometimes drown myself in self-pity, thinking how unlucky I am... that you’re not here anymore... but then I think, you are always here, and I can come and see you anytime.’ Karen’s eyes are brimmed with tears again. ‘Imagine, it hasn’t been a week since we moved back, but I’ve already made three friends. Tina, Diana and Petra. Nice girls. I’d so happily switch with them!’ Karen’s voice trails off, she sniffs for a while, but goes on. ‘...I don’t understand them. Last night, I heard what they said about their mothers. I’d give anything to have you quarrel with me, spank me just once more! To forbid me something! Anything, just to hear your voice, smell your scent, see your smile! I wouldn’t even mind if you were angry with me, just be with me!’
Karen burst into bitter tears. The three girls behind the trees first listened dumbfounded how Karen spoke to her Mother’s soul. They had had no idea how much the girl’s words would touch them. All three of them saw with their mind’s eye themselves arguing with their mothers, wishing they could move away from them, and their annoyance at being limited in their freedom. But there, in that moment, they imagined a world where their mother was no more. All three were crying. They watched and saw Karen’s terrible pain. They knew and understood that Karen would never ever see her, and would never ever be able to tell her in person that she loved her.
That’s when Karen’s father arrived. The girls didn’t know if he would notice them, but to tell the truth, they didn’t really care if he did.
Robert put a bouquet of flowers into the vase at the head of the tomb, set them right, and turned toward his daughter.
‘I heard you leave at dawn. I knew you’d come here.’
‘Mum would be happy if she knew that—’, but he didn’t let her finish her sentence.
‘I’m here now. One year ago, I fled away, because I couldn’t...’ Robert’s voice died away a bit, but he pulled himself together, and continued. ‘...I wasn’t ready... But now I’m here...’
‘I can’t tell her how much I love her, dad. Ever!’
‘Yes, you can! You can always tell her here, and she’ll always hear you up there.’
‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mother!’ said Karen quietly, then stepped to her father, and hugged him, sobbing loudly.
Diana, Tina and Petra were also in tears. This moral – that people are feeble, and they always do bad things against their beloved ones, however aware they are of the deed’s vileness – had given the girls a completely new perspective to life.
Leaving the cemetery behind, they walked homeward wordlessly side by side, then they parted. Each of them knew exactly what they had to do.
Karen, on the way to the car in her father’s embrace, was preoccupied with her thoughts. Her father jolted her out of her introspection.
‘I was summoned at your school’ said Robert.
‘Well, this was quick.’
‘Your maths teacher wanted to talk to me about you.’
‘I assume, I’m in trouble’ inquired Karen gently, not knowing what punishment she should expect after her performance in class. However afraid of coming back she had been, now that she was here, she didn’t want to leave, and she wanted to fit in, however hard it may be.
‘She said you humiliated her in front of the class.’
‘Dad, I just... It was just that—’ she made a poor attempt at explaining away herself.
‘Relax’ he cuts her short. ‘She apologised for not having made inquiries about you at the beginning, before class, and for letting herself be dragged into such a delicate situation.’
Karen listened aghast: she couldn’t believe that it was the teacher who apologised to her. A sense of guilt ran across her for her behaviour toward the teacher.
‘You say, she apologised?’
‘Yes. She said it’s not your fault, she is the teacher, she should have acted more maturely.’
‘No, it’s not right, I was very flip to her. This is stupid!’
‘The point is, she knows a special maths tutor who’s in connection with the greatest mathematicians of the country. She’ll recommend you to them, and perhaps your mathematical career will start.’
Karen was at a loss for words. She just listened, flabbergasted, how wonderful things were happening to her. She glanced back once more at her mother’s tomb, and all she could think of was “I love you. And thank you!” She had no doubts whatsoever that it was her “spirit’s” doing.
On the way home, she bought a rose at a florist’s. Her mother was already awake and surprised to see her daughter come in through the entrance door, not sleeping in her bed.
Diana gave her the rose with blurry eyes, hugged her tightly, and whispered in her ear:
‘Happy Mother’s Day, mum! Please forgive me!’
Her mother was elated, even though she didn’t know what she was talking about. What should she forgive? A mother forgives her daughter everything, without noticing, even if there are some disagreements sometimes. She returned the hug, savouring the moment.
Tina was the first one to arrive home. She basically ran.
She found her mother busy watering the flowers. She walked behind her noiselessly, and closed her eyes. Her mother noticed her only now, and just as she did, Tina embraced her from behind.
Tina was overcome by some inexplicably good feeling. She had not felt so amazing in a while.
Her mother put down the watering can with a smile, and turned in the embrace, to see her daughter’s face. She had also missed this miraculous feeling that a hug can give.
‘Happy Mother’s Day, mummy!’ said Tina, smiling.
Her mother just stared at her and stared. At first, she was suspiciously trying to find the catch or trick, and her second thought was that aliens must have kidnapped her beloved daughter and switched her to this “other” Tina. But then she chased away these thoughts, because she was more than happy with her daughter’s behaviour. If she could, she would have frozen this moment, engraving it into her heart to remember for the rest of her life. All she could manage was:
Tina extracted herself from the embrace, and looked her mother in the eye impishly.
‘I was thinking, I’d help you tidy the flat’ she said, and if it’s possible, her expression was even more mischievous. ‘Someone has been neglecting house chores lately! Just look around, everything’s scattered all over the place!’ she said with pretended indignation, but she eventually couldn’t hold her laugh any longer.
‘I’ll give you neglection!’ replied her mother, also laughing, because these playful sentences meant the world to her. ‘I’m so happy for you...’ she said, and she couldn’t add anything, just gave her all to the moment.
‘I thought about what you said, and you might be right. I may have overdone things with David.’
‘And I may not have worded my thoughts appropriately, I just want what’s best for you. But I also want you to be happy, obviously!’ she explained to Tina, even though the whole situation was rather silly. But at least, it was now light; much lighter than their forced conversation had been.
‘I know... Today, it’s my turn cooking, and you just sit and chill on the couch, or maximum you can prevent me from poisoning the whole family with my cooking’ said Tina, and both of them laugh.
The market is right on the way home, and although they were already packing up their goods, Petra notices something.
Her mother’s favourite fruit was strawberry. Every year, she could hardly wait for it to finally be available on the markets. Petra was at the right place at the right time, because she had practically run into a crate of the earliest beautiful, red strawberries. There was nothing to assess, she rushed there, and bought a kilogram of it.
When she got home, her mother was already bustling about in the kitchen, as usual. Unsurprisingly, the kitchen was filled with the most delicious blend of smells. Even if one came in blindfolded, one could tell no problem that Petra’s mother was cooking in the kitchen.
Petra was just standing in the living room, frozen, watching her mother preparing the tasty lunch with ethereal movements.
Her mother, although surprised at the sight of her daughter arriving from outside not her own room, stayed quiet, just waited. She could see, but mainly sense, that there had been some kind of change in Petra. Not only from the great pile of strawberries in her hands, and not only from her standing wordlessly, motionlessly, but her maternal instincts told her it was something really good.
Petra was still just watching her mother. There were some feelings inside her, too, which she had not felt in a long time. After the events from a couple of hours earlier, the thought flashed through her mind that this idyllic sight was real, and how lucky she was to be able to enjoy it. She was sad at how blindly she had looked at her situation. One can only realise the greatness of something once one has lost it. But she was extremely lucky, because she could go and hug and kiss her mother anytime. It’s just so hard to feel it day by day, as it’s so natural that we don’t even realise it, and even consider it natural, what’s more, a right. But there could come some unexpected event anytime that ends it all, and the we can regret all the moments where we missed an opportunity to tell them we love her.
Petra suddenly put the strawberries on the table, practically jumped to her mother, and hugged her tightly.
No wonder that her mother drew her closer without a question.
They didn’t know how long the embrace lasted, it just felt so good for both of them that the time they’d spent in each other’s arms seemed like decades.
Then the strawberries occurred to Petra. She stepped to the table again, glanced at her mum’s face and handed her the berries.
‘I’d like to wish you a very happy Mother’s Day with these strawberries’ and Petra just stood there, waiting for her mother’s response.
She took them from Petra nice and slowly. Petra, under the pathos of the moment, burst into tears, and her mother pulled her closer again.
‘Thank you’ she said, and put the fruit on the table.
‘I am so sorry, I feel so bad, please forgive me!’ The words just tumbled out of Petra’s mouth, and her tears streaked down her cheeks. But she did not care, just hugged her mother tightly.
‘It’s okay. It’s okay, everything’s alright’ her mother stroked her head. ‘Come on, let’s sit down on the couch for a bit’ she said, and set the stove to minimum, lest the lunch got burnt.
When they sat, Petra grabbed her mother’s hands without a word. It had been very long since the mother last felt it. She recalled those times when Petra had been very young, and as she had been her constant source of support, Petra had always been all over her. Her eyes had always been looking for her, as she had been her beloved mother. Yes, when she was young.
Then things changed. Petra had grown up. Well, not completely, but enough for things to change. Now it was an embarrassment for her to appear with her on her side. They didn’t have mutual programs anymore. Petra wanted to go her own way, and all she saw in her was an obstacle in reaching her goals. All she wanted to do was bypass and trick and play her.
But now, as she was holding her hand, the old feelings from back when they were together had come back miraculously. And she loved it. She enjoyed the nostalgia, even though she was aware and happy that Petra was growing up. She knew that’s how the world works. Yet it’s so hard to let go of someone you love, to admit that the daughter you have done everything for – all those sleepless nights full of cries and worries for sickness and feeding and dirty diapers; all the sweet burdens that you would still bring back into your life anytime – is about to enter the gate of adulthood. It felt wonderful. This was what she had do everything for.
But still, now it was so good to feel the little girlish movement how Petra held her hands, and said:
‘Mum! I never wanted to hurt you, and—’ she would go on, but her mother didn’t let her. Today was not about apologies. Those few honest, genuine words that had come from the depth of the heart were more than enough for her to know what there was to be known.
‘I know. I’ve never wanted to hurt you either. Just, you know, we, adults tend to forget that we also have been kids. We forget that it’s not your fault. You’re seeking your place, and that’s how it should be. And often, we not simply do not help you... but that’s natural. Whether or not you believe me, I also suffer whenever I can’t permit you something, and that makes me get under your skin. You think that you have to hate the world for it, and you’ll get frustrated, because you don’t get what you want. It’s not your fault. Just watch a toddler trying to walk right in front of a truck in an attempt to discover the world, walking barely, just fast enough for a disaster. What happens when their mum picks him up and takes him back? The child will start screaming and crying in a hissy fit, because they were deprived from his big plans. Is it his fault? Of course not, he’s too little to understand what’s going on. But mother, who watched out for him, and however much of an attack the child feels her act of foiling his plans, had in fact saved his life at that moment.
‘As you grow up, you are getting smarter and smarter. You have an ever-growing desire to try your wings in a real fall. All I’m doing is try and save you from that truck. You may feel ready to fly out, while I’m fighting time with all my might to prolong this time as long as possible, so that you are confident. Because however strong you feel, you’re still bearing the marks of childhood. This is our eternal fight. But always keep in mind that I’ll always be on your side, calmly and persistently, however limited in your freedom you might feel by that. One day, you’ll understand this, just like I understood what happens for what reasons. And until then, we’ll both laugh and cry together, whichever comes next. Now it’s so good to feel that you’re listening to me and understand me, even if I know that we’ll soon get on each other’s nerves. But I hope that it will occur to you that it’s not your fault.’
Petra did listen attentively. Obviously, she didn’t agree with everything, but understood most of what her mother was trying to tell her.
As she looked around, she could see that the flat was as clean as a whistle, the lunch was being made, yet her mother still had time to sit with her and talk. Somehow, Petra didn’t feel it embarrassing now; on the contrary, today, she appreciated her mother’s arduous work that she did for her day by day, and cherished it like a treasure. She felt slightly offended when her mother had said they would soon continue quarrelling, because now she felt like everything would change. Of course, it would happen again, and soon. She vows to herself that if it was up to her, then she would bring back this feeling every day. It’s interesting: after a certain age, saying the words “I love you” is so hard! But even if she doesn’t say so, she wants to make it felt, and even if not every day, at least on this, wonderful day of every year.
Petra cuddles to her mum, and all she said is a quiet “thank you”. In her thoughts, she even added – although this was not to be heard: “Thank you, mum... for being here for me”.
We wish a very happy Mother’s Day to every Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother and Great-Great-Grandmother.
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