Written for an Essay Contest: Fiction


There on the top of a pile of old pictures from sixty years past, is a small photo that features my mother’s three children. We are walking through piles of stones in Yosemite National Park. I am a head taller than Taylor who is two heads taller than Stuart. What has become of my mother’s children is not what this story is about. It is about my mother and about her other children.

I knew that my mother loved cheese, was a good friend and neighbor and learned to drive a car later in life. I knew that she was president of several organizations, after overcoming paralyzing shyness. She prepared only the freshest foods and never served fish. I knew that she fiercely loved her children and would go to the ends of the earth for them. What I didn’t know about my mother was what I will call her secret life. The life she lived parallel to ours.

The other woman who lived in our home for 28 years was my parent’s housekeeper, Lula. Having all of my mother’s household duties performed by another gave her a lot of free time. My mother’s free time was daytime hours because when my father came home at 5:30 p.m. sharp, our mother was there dressed to the nines. I had no idea what my mother did in the daylight hours. I knew everyone liked my mother because as I look back, people sought my mother out and were overly friendly and very thankful. They would gush and smile while blessing her, thanking her and hugging her. I didn’t know what my mother did, but I knew she did something important.

I wanted to know more about where my mother went and what my mother did, so I stayed home from school with fake excuses of being on death’s door. When my mother slipped out of the side door, I slipped out right after her. I had to put the move on because since she did not drive at that time, she had become a speed walker. I followed her to the poultry market, which was on the corner of State and California. I saw her through the window. She received a paper and read back the information to the individual behind the counter. He nodded and off she went. She did not slow down for anything, even sped across busy streets. I almost lost her, but got myself to speed along almost as fast as my jaunty mother. She slowed down to read the paper and made a turn into a building that housed several families. She disappeared into one of the doors and did not come out. I got tired and bored with just my fingers to pick, so I ended up going back home for the comfort of my bed.

Every so often for years I would fake being sick and follow my mother. She again and again would return to the poultry market, receive a paper and off we would go. I’d follow, but she would repeat her disappearing act each time at a different location. I suspected she was a spy for the FBI and I thought if she were, I would have one of my own dreams realized in my mother. You ask, why didn’t I just ask my mother what she was doing?  I did and she would always reply with, “ Oh, I m visiting a sick friend.” At the time I wondered why my mother had so many sick friends.

When my mother got her driver’s license, my father surprised her with a little dark gray ladylike car. She practiced and practiced. She had an obsession with proper hand signals and you would see her with the driving manual under her arm wherever she went for months. . Pretty soon I could tell she felt pretty confident behind the wheel of her car. I was sinking inside knowing that I could never follow my mother once she drove off in her car. I knew there was something more to her life than what I knew. I could see it in her eyes. I watched her self-confidence grow.  I knew my mother was growing into a person with special qualities, but back then, in my child’s mind, I saw my mother as my mother not the person who began to be the center of attention wherever we went. She was glorious. My father was oblivious to all of it.

One night after my mother started driving her car, she called to say that she would be late and to go ahead with our dinner without her. After that time more calls came in with messages that contained, ‘go ahead without me for dinner’. When the calls came in for my mother, she would jot down an address and go in her car somewhere. She didn’t walk to the poultry market anymore.

I kept thinking to myself all those years before I got my driver’s license that when I got my license, the first thing I would do would be to follow my mother and see what she did that I didn’t know she did. I got my driver’s license, borrowed my dad’s junkyard car and followed my mother in her car many times. I never saw more than her arrival at a residential destination. She would do the same things every time. She would take her bag from the back seat, disappear into the building or home and would not come out for hours and hours. Usually my impatience won and I would drive off, not being able to uncover her secret.

I knew that my brothers had no idea that their mother and mine had a parallel life. I knew my father was unaware of what she did and when I asked him if he knew where

our mother went, he would say, “She has a household and children to attend to.”  I respected his answer. There came the time in my life to move from our home in our small southeastern town to the west coast of California. I finished my degrees and settled down with a job, family, home and friends.

Our mother died on August 24, 2009, during the early morning hours. We decided on a small graveside service since our family is small and there are very few of my mother and father’s friends still alive.  On the day we buried my mother, next to my father, over  two thousand people lined the burial site. I was astonished to see this crowd of people and before the service began I talked to many of them. I thought maybe they had the wrong site, but no they were here for my mother. Through several conversations with some of the mourners I was able to realize that my mother’s secret was midwifery. I learned my mother was a person who was very suitable for this position. She had all of the abilities and all of the skills to perform her duties. She loved her work and had a very sympathetic disposition.  She was quiet and had a calming effect in high anxiety situations. It is still astonishing to me that my mother was a midwife. A midwife!

All of the people at her graveside were connected to her, connected to each other and connected to all my mother’s children by the work she did for all of us. They each had a story of wonder about when my mother helped them have a healthy pregnancy and a natural childbirth experience. The children of these births were of all ages. They were here at her final resting place to send her on her way to the almighty. It took me some time to gather and process all of the amazing grace my mother performed without the knowledge of her family and friends.

I can only question how did my mother do all of this work without any of us knowing about it. It seems so supernatural. Also, I query why she kept it a secret. Did she know that my father would have put an immediate end to it?  If he knew he never let anyone know. Did she worry what her children would not understand? Did she want something for herself?  Did my mother know that she was on the right path and did she know she had the approval of God and did she cherish the love of these thousands of connected souls?  May this power of holiness and may this power of the spirit carry my mother to her just reward.

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