©2022 R.G. Ryan
My wife and I were at the shrine to the Green Mermaid doing our usual thing—she conquering yet another sudoku puzzle and me reading through the local fish wrap while enjoying our beverages of choice.
A young mother and her son entered and sat at the table right in front of us.
The name emblazoned in a nearly illegible scrawl on the young woman’s cup of coffee said, “Veronica.”
If I had to guess their ages I would say that Veronica was around thirty and the boy perhaps two and a half.
She took great care in placing her son in a seat next to her, fussing over him so as to insure not only his comfort but also his safety.
When he was well-settled she opened a bottle of chocolate milk which he accepted gleefully and began to drink. He was a bit too eager in the initial consumption, and predictably an entire mouthful of the silky sweet liquid escaped and cascaded down his chin soaking his very stylish shirt.
He looked down at the mess and began to cry.
Veronica immediately picked him up and sat him on her lap ministering comfort that only loving mothers can provide in such moments. He calmed down and had another go at the chocolate milk making sure this time that the sips were manageable.
She sat with her arms around him and her head resting on top of his brown wavy locks, eyes closed, lost in a moment of maternal bliss that was nearly rapturous in its appearance. For in that moment no one else on earth existed save she and that beloved child.
The scene was shattered by the insistent ring of her cell phone. And while I could only hear one side of the conversation, what transpired was heartbreaking.
After the initial small talk her face took on a sad, wounded look and she said, “Yes, well, I’m not sure you really want to hear about that.”
Apparently the caller did, and she reluctantly continued, “Well, it’s not good. Last night my attorney called and said that David is going to ask for full custody. Can you believe it? He said David intends to claim that I’m an unfit mother…”
It was here that her voice broke and her grip on the child tightened unconsciously.
After a few seconds of silence during which time she listened to her caller’s remarks she said, “I know all that, but this means that I’m going to have to go in there and defend myself like I’ve done something wrong.”
By this time the tears were flowing liberally. The child looked at his mommy and with a tiny hand reached up and gently brushed away her tears and laid his head against her breast. The love exchanged between these two was nearly tangible in its intensity.
My wife and I glanced at each other shaking our heads sadly.
Finally, she said, “Well, I’d better be going. I’ll call you later on…I love you, mom.”
She closed the lid on her cell phone, returned it to her purse and choked back a sob that had risen unbidden in her throat. The child turned on her lap so he was facing her and placing a hand on either side of her face said, “Be awight, mommy.”
She crushed that precious child to her and covered his head and face with kisses, rocking him back and forth…back and forth, bringing to mind a line by Robert Munsch that my wife used to recite to our kids when they were little: “I love you forever, I like you for always; as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
It was time for us to go, but I just couldn’t walk away without saying something…but what?
I settled on, “I just wanted you to know that the way you love your boy is precious. It touched something deep in my soul.”
Blinking her eyes rapidly so as to hold another torrent of tears in check she simply smiled and nodded her gratitude as we made our way out the door.
An unfit mother?