Word Count 501
By Terry Rainey
My daughter came to live with us in the summer. She came with zero English. She’d never heard it spoken, very little of any language, apparently. Her age, I found out, was off by months on the papers.
Her peers were children challenged by some defect or impediment. Not knowing her exact age, I sent her to a Montessori school which had multi grade classrooms. Also, I hoped, she would not be the only Asian.
She relied totally on her own instincts. Frugal natured, determined, she avoided intimacy and chose… distance. I could not impress my daughter, could not surprise her, could not please her. I had no answer for her solemn wanting. Her absence of need silenced me. She was like a piece of land underwater, and no matter how deep I dove, I never reached her. She teetered on an edge between two worlds, neither of which she understood.
I yearned to show her a world of love, a mother’s pure joy and hope. I did not expect any special gratefulness, just normal, as one gets from kids, at times. I felt that wasn’t too much to ask for, so that I could see her happy. But not with my daughter: she never even threw me a bone.
In December, her school pretzeled itself into odd secular shapes, barely mentioning Christmas. The “holiday” party was pointedly international and all-embracing.
But it was the season, and I made awesome cookies shaped like snowflakes, Yule trees, things like that. I’d spent years perfecting it. No non-professional could match me.
I was tickled to share them with my daughter’s classmates so I added my name to the clipboard list in the classroom. My daughter would be so proud of my cookies. The hit of the party, no doubt. The kids would go crazy for them.
The room mother called next day. She asked “Could you cook some turkey bacon for the party?” I said yes, and wondered if I could bring some cookies too. I was told no, they already had too many sweets.
Disappointment swirled in my mouth. I paused, swallowed its bitterness, while the room mother thanked me and said goodbye, no doubt to call the next person. I scrutinized the phone. Was there anything about my parenting experience that could be normal?
That day I decided to give up on normal. I made the most attractive dish of turkey bacon I could. Two pounds! I lovingly spruced it up and admired my pure effort. At school, I carefully rested it on the cafeteria table.
When the students arrived, I watched from the hallway, fingers intertwined, in my liminal place, a threshold between wish and reality, where I could observe her natural state while she was unaware of my beseeching gaze.
When the happy maelstrom of kids entered the room, my turkey bacon — my total offering – quickly disappeared. Amidst the joyful swarm, my daughter’s face startled me, its happy beauty amidst the swirl of feast and cheer.