I share with you a short story that I wrote in 2007, just before I graduated from college. This story follows the internal dialogue of two individuals, a mother and her son, as they prepare to see each other for the first time in almost two years.
This story is dedicated (as it was when I wrote it) to my mother, Roseann Givens.
One Year, Eleven Months, Two Weeks, and Two Days
Part One: Mother
It had been one year, eleven months, two weeks, and two days since she had last seen her youngest son. Tired, she laid her head back on the disposable white cloth that covered the headrest of the chair she was sitting in. Riding along, she was now somewhere between Memphis and No-where, Illinois. The baby a few seats behind her in that train car had finally fallen asleep after three long hours of cry and fussing. Roseann focused on the setting sun outside, jumping in and out of view between the frequent trees. After two beers and a sigh, she realized that she could no longer see outside. The sun had set and the lights were on in that train car, making it so that she could only see her reflection.
Making eye-contact with herself, she studied her features. "Nearly two years," she thought to herself. Her life had changed so much, yet so little in that time period without seeing her youngest son. It was he, in fact, that had pushed for her and her husband to move to Mississippi to start anew. They had talked about doing it for years, though they were waiting for Jerry and Kenny to be settled on their own. Jerry had been doing well. He had a great, well-paying job and was three years deep into his undergraduate studies when they left. Her eldest son, Kenny, was unsure about his life's direction and had joined them for the move to expand his uncertain horizons. These were some points that Jerry had pushed when he convinced them to make the rather spontaneous move. "Was he right to do so?" she thought. It all had happened so fast. Not that these last two years had been too bad, although a lot had happened. She had acclimated to her new environment without too much distress and found a decent, yet not-so-glamorous job quickly.
That was two years ago. Two years since she had left Michigan. She was born there. Was raised there. Went to college there. Raised her children there. Had a life there. Now, nearly two hours from No-where, Illinois, she felt suspended between her two worlds. "How much has changed since I've gone?" "How much has he changed?" "How much have I changed?" She studied this last question by peering distantly into her own reflection's eyes. Her eyes looked tired. Very tired. She gave a weak smile and some of her fatigued look began to dissipate. This softened her mood some. Just a smile. The crow's feet around her eyes had become more defined, or had they? In truth, she could not remember exactly what she looked like two years ago. "Maybe I look the same as I once did."
Begrudgingly she came to the realization that none of this really mattered. The first reason was that she was only going to see her son. Even though she wanted to look decent for him, in his eyes, she was always old. "I guess all children view their parents that way," she thought. The second reason was that she was about four months shy of her fiftieth birthday. Fifty is not that old by many standards, and she sure as hell didn't feel that old, but she was concerned about looking it. But then again, as she stared past her reflection, none of that really matters. By tomorrow at this time, she would have her baby boy back in her arms again.
Certain that he was okay. She worried so much about him, despite his pleas for her not to. She couldn't help it. The distance had made it worse. But she would soon be consoled. She found comfort in this and grew anxious for the next day. The smile returned to her face. Two days from now, she would see the finished product of a four year higher education. Her son had done much in those four years. Done things that she had never done. Things that she never expected him to do. He grew in his job of three years and was busy and respected there. He had learned a foreign language and even had traveled to that country for nearly two months. Those two months she agonized in worry over him. Again despite his pleas for her to relax. But again, she couldn't help it and did not feel guilty for it.
But it was all over now. He would graduate. So much promise. A sense of pride overwhelmed her. "I made that." "I'm responsible for that." "I must have done alright." Focusing briefly back on her reflection, she realized that she was still smiling. That made her happy. Her thoughts were momentarily interrupted by the train's PA. "One hour until No-where, Illinois." It wouldn't be long now. Her journey was almost over. She looked back at her smiling self and was content.
Part Two: Son
It had been one year, eleven months, two weeks, and two days since he had last seen his mother. Tired, he shifted in his seat and leaned his body against the window. On his way home from work, he was somewhere between downtown and his bus transfer at the university. The loud teenage girl on her two-way cell phone a few seats behind him finally got off at the last stop. Jerry focused on the architecture of the historical houses that whizzed on by, broken only by the crossing of an intersection. After ten hours of work and a sigh, he realized that he could hardly see outside. The street lights were not bright enough to penetrate the florescent light of the bus cabin.
Making eye-contact with himself, he studied his features. "Almost two years," he thought to himself. His life had changed so drastically in that time period without seeing his mother. It was he, in fact, who had pushed for her and his step-father to move to Mississippi to start anew. They had talked about doing it for years, though they were waiting for him and Kenny to be settled on their own. He was doing well in both his job and in school, of which he was a junior, when she had moved. His older brother Kenny, had grown unsure about his life's direction and had joined their mother and step-father for the move to expand his uncertain horizons. He had pushed these points to convince them to make their move, so spontaneously. "Should I have done that?" he thought. They had moved so fast. A lot had happened in the past two years that she had missed out on. He had been used to her not being around as much, because he was so busy with college and a full-time job.
But it had been two years. Two years since they filled up that rickety van and left Michigan behind. He was born to her here. She raised him here. Taught him life lessons here. Their lives were intertwined here. She had a life here. Now, nearly to his transfer, he felt off balance and unsure of his mother's appearance. "How much has changed since she left?" "How much has she changed?" "How much have I changed?" He studied this last question by peering distantly into his own reflection's eyes. His eyes looked tired. Quite tired. Possibly more than they should at his age. He gave a weak smile and some of his fatigued look reduced. That softened his mood slightly. Just a smile. His appearance had, indeed, changed. Although he could not quite remember exactly what he looked like two years ago, he knew his face was altered. He’d grown out his side burns. His hair was combed differently. "Will she recognize me?"
Lightheartedly he came to realize that she would. The first reason was that she was his mother. She could tell by his eyes. "Those," he thought, "have not changed." The second reason is that despite his growth, both physically and mentally, over the past two years, he had not really changed too much. She had seen recent pictures of him in France and they talked on the phone several times a week. Looking past his reflection in the window, he stopped worrying. By tomorrow at this time, he would have his mother back in his arms again.
He would be certain that she was okay. She worried a lot about him, but perhaps she didn't know exactly how much he worried about her in return. He couldn't help it. The distance had made it worse. But he would soon be consoled. He found comfort in that and grew anxious for the next day. The smile returned to his face. Two days from now, she would see him complete his final step in his four years of higher education. He had done so much in those four years. Done things that she had never done. Things that she never would have expected him to do. He grew in his job of three years, having been promoted twice, and was busy and respected there. He had learned French and had spent two months of the previous summer in France. She worried hard about him for those two months. But he worried about her too. He couldn't help it. She was going through the most difficult time in her marriage during those two months.
But it was all over now. She would see him graduate. As she had promised to. A sense of contentment overwhelmed him. "I finally made it." "I owe my success to her." "She raised me alright." Focusing briefly back on his reflection, he realized that he was still smiling. That made him happy. His thoughts distracted for a moment as he switched onto the #3 bus. It wouldn't be long now. He was almost home to get ready for her arrival. He sat down and looked at himself in the window again, still smiling. He was content.
Copyright Jerry Givens 2015 | All rights reserved