Congratulations to New Voices writer Amy Scharmann for her story, “The Mothers.” This piece does some beautiful things with language, which Scharmann uses to develop this world so beautifully. Our editorial director Sadye Teiser said this story “dictates its own lovely progression,” which is putting it quite perfectly. A grandmother takes a road trip to visit her daughter, who is in labor. You’ll be thinking about it all day.
by Amy Scharmann
Lizzie called to let me know she was in labor and asked if I’d drive out to California to help. “Don’t bring the boys,” she said. “It would just be too much for me right now.” She almost whispered it, in her usual trance of apathy. She told me the baby would be there by morning. I’d known this was coming, my daughter birthing another human she wouldn’t love. But even so, the news felt unexpected. Her words blew out of the phone like a flurry of dead leaves, and their dry sound circled around my head for hours.
Eli and Jacob did not ask about their mother. Eli was four and Jacob was six. They couldn’t sit still long enough to realize the woman trying to hug them was postmenopause, sagging with the guilt of her entire life, one of the only things going for her being the way her long red hair carried the scent of shampoo. I looked at this woman in the mirror every day. I waved to her. I told her she did her best.
Eli and Jacob’s favorite game was to act out natural disasters—spinning through the house like tornadoes, knocking things off tables as if earthquakes were happening, leaving water running in sinks and the tub to damage the floor as if there was a flood. And I let them. It gave them joy—a charged light in their eyes that might someday reflect a different life—and the release of energy helped them sleep, which would not be possible otherwise.
My mother had recently moved to St. Jo and now lived a mile from my house. She loved me. She would always love me because she followed the endless path toward heaven. Some might think that love is mandatory, and my mother may say so to her plump, church-going friends, but the way she put her hands on my shoulders this morning was anything but mandatory. We paused for several moments in the doorway, her fingertips tensing and releasing with fears she wouldn’t talk about, a love that was deeper than hell.
To read the rest of “The Mothers” click here.