Waving Goodbye: A True Story

I would like to thank Alice Horibe of the US for her ‘true’ micro story submission “Waving Goodbye”, a sweet tale of memories and nostalgia.

Alice is a mother of three grown sons and she has one grandson. She tells us “when I was a young, I recall wishing for the wisdom of my older peers. I realize now that wisdom is simply paying attention to the world around you over many years. I appreciate the opportunity to share these observations, and find great joy in writing them down.”

You can find this and many other stories on Alice’s blog at www.alicehoribe.wordpress.com



Waving Goodbye

I was never a fan of scary rides, yet I looked forward to my summertime visits to Elitch Gardens.  This was not your average amusement park.  Founded in the 1890’s they prided themselves on the beauty of their flowers as much as the variety of games and rides.  Nobu and I went every summer from the time we were dating through the 1990’s when it was torn down.

            We would follow the same route through the park, admiring the giant hanging baskets, the aroma mingling with the smell of popping corn, the taste of warm, pink cotton candy and the sounds of happy squealing ebbing and flowing as the rides went up and down.  Even the most remote corner pulsated with fun.

            What had always been a pleasant excursion took on a new dimension when our son Neil was three.  That was the year we discovered Kiddie Land.  It was largely hidden from the rest of the park, encircled by large trees. But once within there were so many colorful, child-sized activities to keep their young audience busy!

            Neil rode the airplanes first, hoping to snag the red one, pulling the lever that controlled the gentle sloping of his craft.  Next came the race cars, always the orange one.

            I liked the boats.  Neil would dutifully give the attendant his two tickets and bound off, leaping in the sea craft, grasping the steering wheel in one hand, the cord to the bell in the other.

            The ride would start it’s slow, predetermined route and Neil and I would wave like mad to each other, him clanging the bell and me saying, “Goodbye, see you soon.”

            The boat would dip behind the thick bushes and my son would disappear.  I’d quickly shift left, waiting to catch that first glimpse of him as he came back, our eyes locking at the same moment.  He’d start clanging with renewed vigor, both of us waving, “Hello!  Hello!”


          


 

Neil and I did this every summer until he was old enough to go on the regular rides with his dad.  By then, Evan was three and I would stay in Kiddie Land, meeting up with the others for lunch and games.

            Once–just once–I became distracted by the mom standing next to me and didn’t wave “Hello” as Evan rounded the bend.  His shoulders slumped as he stopped ringing the bell.  He looked so sad.  I made up for it by hopping a bit from one foot to the other the next time he completed the circle, calling loudly, “Hello Evan.  Hello!”

            Soon enough it was Evan’s time to go off with Nobu and Neil while I went with Andrew to that secluded corner.  I was content.

            One year when Andrew got in the boat I couldn’t help but notice his knees were folded up near his chin and he had to scooch to fit in the seat.

            I knew that this was to be my last time in Kiddie Land.

            The thick canopy of foliage barely masked the oppressive August heat, the humidity mixing with the already thick air as it rose in visible waves from the concrete to the sky.  The world took on the appearance of a mirage.  I had left my drink on a park bench and I could feel the creeping effects of dehydration.

            The ride started and I began my ritual of “Goodbye, see you soon,” trying to ignore my light-headedness.  The children started to move.

            Suddenly, I saw Neil at three waving goodbye, then Evan and now Andrew, the illusion of being left behind so real I clutched the back of the park bench, tears and sweat leaving my cheeks chapped.

            Today they are all grown up, the illusion a reality.  I have waved goodbye at schools and airports, first apartments and visits home for the holidays.

            Even now, as they drive off with their own families, I keep waving long after they’ve disappeared just in case they turn around to see if I’m still watching. 



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Troops 123’s Annual Popcorn Fundraiser: A True Story

I’d like to thank Margaret Koger of the US for her true story submission “Troop 123’s Annual Popcorn Fundraiser”, a sentimental tale about the joys of grandparent duties.

Margaret is a retired school media specialist with a writing habit living in Boise, Idaho. She says she writes in hopes of adding small strands of connective tissue to our shared web of life. Most of her recent publications include poetry and short stories published locally and online. One of her favourites can be found at https://www.idahomagazine.com/contests/fiction-writing-winners/christmas-in-central-cove-2015-first-place-adult-division/.

Margaret tells us “My memoir recounts the days I spent helping my grandson earn money for his Boy Scout activities and for the troop he belonged to–actually Troop 123. Of all that I did for my grandson as he went through the teen years, this was the best. I stood in the background watching him walk door-to-door for his fundraiser–how he presented his invitation to buy and how people reacted. Truly a Grand Mum experience and an honor to write about.”

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links help me keep this page running, thank you!

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Troop 123

Troop 123’s Annual Popcorn Fundraiser

When I arrive at my grandson’s home, Ramsey enters the living room dressed in his uniform: tan shirt, red tie, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) tie clasp, green khaki shorts, and a worn, billed cap with its official logo. ‘Ah’ I think ‘shorts’. It’s October, the poplar leaves are turning color and there is an abundance of crisp air circulating at ground level. Never mind, I have my coat, hat, and gloves and I’m ready to walk with him as he rings doorbells and makes his pitch, trying to raise enough money to pay for next summer’s scouting activities.

He positions himself in front of each door, his sales placard front, and center, his legs spread a bit as if the opening of the door could blow him away. “Hi, I’m Ramsey and I’m here for our annual Troop 123 fundraiser. This year we have our one pound white cheddar, our …

In the short ride to Cobbler’s Creek where we’ve sold popcorn for the last four years, I have a chance to talk with the eighth-grader. I tell him the stories of his infant times when I took care of him while his mother worked. He’s fifteen now,  six foot two, recumbent where he’s seated in my little Subaru like a willowy sapling bent down and ready to spring up when released. I turn the radio on and we discuss music, the “Okay” radio station because it plays everything. “Really I like 80’s and 90’s music.”

I’m sure I’ll recognize and enjoy some of the popular songs from these two “long ago” decades so I say, “Yes,” even though I’ve become a classical music fan, mostly listening to CDs from the late 19th and the early 20th Century.

“So much of the new rap is nothing but a joke.” he adds.

I think of one reason he loves music so much. Band is his favorite subject where he specializes in percussion: drums, xylophone, cymbals, and so on. His junior high music teacher leads an after school jazz band where he gets a couple of extra hours of rhythm twice a week. “Why you love music so much?” I ask. “Well, when you were a baby, I played a symphony for you every day. Every day the same symphony, written by a Scottish musician named Bantok, celebrating the Hebrides Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland. I’d hold you to my chest and we’d dance around the living room. It helps with brain development so I gave it a try.”


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A song by Sam Cook comes on the radio: “She was only sixteen, only sixteen/ I loved her so/ But she was too young to fall in love/ And I was too young to know.”

“I heard this song in Portugal last month,” I say. “You used to love it!”

“I still like it, it’s just not one of my favorites now,” he answers.

Other days we talk more about school, his friends, my activities, and his family—even about my teenage years—revealing how the angst of being a teenager continues with many of the same challenges in discovering one’s identity. After ten or fifteen minutes of driving, we arrive and park. It’s time.

With Ramsey, even selling popcorn is rhythmic. Beyond the ring of the doorbell, the wait, more waiting, the sometimes appearance of a person, managing the door, the screen door, the dog, and the all-important pitch. For a couple of hours in the evening, after the workers arrive home and settle in and even during dinnertime, people will answer the door and buy popcorn although we get plenty of unanswered doorbells and “not interested” responses.

Others don’t want popcorn, but they donate cash, anywhere from a couple of bucks to $10 or even $20. One evening as we looped back from a culdesac a woman came out of a house where no one answered the doorbell. In bare feet, she crossed the street to hand Ramsey a $20 bill. “We don’t want the sweets, but I wanted to help you guys out,” she said.

Older people like to draw Ramsey out. “How long have you been in scouts?” “What does the money you raise go for?” “My husband was in scouts and both my boys.” One remarkable young man says, “I see the order form hasn’t changed since I was selling!”

“You again!” one woman exclaims. Each year she’s reported on the health of her husband, a former Eagle Scout and WWII Medal of Honor winner. Last fall she thought they’d have to move because he couldn’t climb the stairs. Then, last summer he died—and she still doesn’t know how much she’ll receive in benefits—she’ll have to pass on buying this time. “You may have read about it in the paper. He was ninety-two,” she says. “It was time. I’m ready too, I’m eighty-eight, and I’m tired.”

“So sorry,” we reply. “So sorry.”

This year, for the first time, several people have insisted we both come inside, “You too,” they say as they wave for me to come in. For some, it’s a change that quiets the dog, for others, it’s about hospitality. “I won’t bite,” says the owner of Jana’s Haircutting Store. Another woman is watching Ken Burns Viet Nam program on public television. “It’s so awful,” she cries. “We didn’t know and those protesters did!”

“Did you say when the delivery will be?” an older buyer asks. “Just before Thanksgiving,” Ramsey assures her.

“That’s such a long time from now! We’ll forget we ordered the popcorn,” she exclaims.

“Well, we have to have a lot of time to sell,” Ramsey replies.

And I know he’s thinking of all the streets we walk, up and down, offering the caramel corn and yogurt pretzels that many people are wary of—giving up sugar, not eating corn, bad for our health—and how they often buy anyway. Who can resist a six-foot-two beanpole with short hair and a face reddened by the chill holding such luscious illustrations of popcorn?

“I’ll be using whatever I buy as gifts,” one buyer says and she orders large bags so she won’t be tempted to open them for her own use. It was as we left her house that Ramsey said, “Sell now, sneeze later. I just found out I’m allergic to cats!”

Since seventy-three percent of the sales apply to camping fees, troop activities, and funding for the national organization, each sale is really a donation. But I know the sugary temptations increase the buyer’s desire to help. Ramsey and his brother Riley have sold enough popcorn in the past to completely fund their camp excursions, as well as adding to troop funds, which earns them praise for being role models to younger scouts.

But I think the contact with people in their homes and the push of learning to talk with strangers has been the most invaluable part of the activity for the boys. As cute little guys, when they rang the doorbell, lots of people were charmed into buying. Now it often takes a man answering the door. He may have a hard time saying no to the gangly eighth-grader who prompts memories of his own youth when growing up was so hard to do.

Selling popcorn door to door wasn’t anything I ever expected to be a part of; however, as I stand on the sidewalk holding the order sheet and pen at the ready, I’m eager to smile and wave to whoever opens the door—yes, he has an adult with him and she’s glad to be here.


Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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After The Fire: A True Story

We’d like to thank Claire Taylor of the US for her short story submission “After The Fire”, a dramatic true story about a traumatic childhood event which shaped her feelings and perspective’s into Motherhood.

Claire Taylor is a mother, writer, and Licensed Massage Therapist. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared or is upcoming in Yellow Arrow Journal, The Loch Raven Review, Capsule Stories, American Writer’s Review, and Canary Literary Journal. Her writing about motherhood and depression has appeared on Scary Mommy. She is the creator of Little Thoughts, a monthly newsletter of original stories and poetry for children. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland (United States), and can be found online at clairemtaylor.com and you can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor and Instagram @todayweread.

Photo Credit: Frederick Medina on Unsplash

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After the fire

After The Fire

I was seven years old when my mother nearly burned down our house. My brother, sister and I were watching TV in the den while Mom was getting dinner ready. She poured oil into a heavy cast iron pan and set the pan on an open flame to heat. We were going to have french fries. The phone rang and I went into my dad’s study to pick up the call. 

“Mom!” I shouted to her from the opposite end of the den. “Phone!” I set the receiver down on the desk and went back to my spot on the couch. 

“Who is it?” Mom asked as she came out of the kitchen and made her way toward the phone. 

“Aunt Denise.” 

“Oh,” she said, and gently closed the study door behind her. 

I can picture her sitting back against the cracked vinyl of my dad’s office chair, her feet up on his desk, distracted, at ease. I remember the sound of her laughter rising over the din of the television. I remember the flash of orange reflected in the TV screen. The brief moment that felt like slow motion minutes as my brother and I turned toward the kitchen, confusion melting into understanding and morphing into panic. I remember the fear in my brother’s voice as he shouted, “fire!” and that same fear on my mother’s face as she threw open the study door and paused for a split second before racing across the den and into the kitchen. She pulled a container of salt down from the cabinet and poured it over the tower of flames. They raged on. She frantically looked around the kitchen, her head on a swivel searching for aid and coming up empty. She caught sight of us in the kitchen doorway–three little wide-eyed faces–and without hesitation, grabbed the handle of the pan and carried it out of the kitchen and through the living room. She pulled open the front door, letting in a breeze that blew the flames back over her hands, and flung the burning pan into the air. It landed facedown in the middle of the yard with a thud, suffocating the flames and charring the grass. 

The front door remained open as my mother stood at the kitchen sink, shoulders hunched as she ran cool water over the blistering backs of her hands. My sister, so young then, had disappeared into our bedroom in search of a stuffed animal. She wasn’t with my brother and me when my dad came home from work to find a pan sitting in the yard, the front door ajar, his wife somewhere unseen, and two of his three children racing toward him yelling, “She’s burned! She’s burned!” He thought we meant my sister until she came toddling into the living room with a teddy bear tucked beneath her arm, until he turned the corner into the kitchen and saw my mother leaning against the side of the sink, her eyes swollen from tears. I remember the way he wrapped his body around hers, pulled her into his chest, his embrace. The way their foreheads pressed together, radiating warmth. 




That fire was the source of my insomnia. For years I’d lie in bed thinking I smelled something burning, or wake in the middle of the night from dreams in which my room had been set ablaze, the house slowly turning to ash and disappearing all around me as I sat trapped in my bed, powerless to stop the flames. I was constantly afraid that everything would catch fire. I turned the ceiling fan off at night despite the insufferable heat and humidity of Texas summers because I was certain the whirring sound meant it would spark and the whole house would burn to the ground. Well into my thirties, I still turn to my husband whenever an appliance makes a funny noise, or a lamp flickers when the air conditioner flips on and I ask “do you think it will catch fire?” It has taken him a decade to calmly reply “no” without first giving me a puzzled look. 

I blame my mother for these anxieties, for my need to get out of bed each night and double-check that I turned off the stove. How irresponsible does a person need to be to leave a pan of hot oil sitting unattended on a gas range? What kind of mother forgets about the safety of her children? Forgets that she was in the middle of making their dinner? 

I have a box of old photos in my living room that my son likes to look through. He pulls it from the shelf with his tiny thick hands and dumps the photos into a pile on the floor. There are pictures of my siblings and me dressed up and sitting in front of a Christmas tree. One of my brother, towheaded and round-cheeked, awkwardly holding a wrinkly, swaddled newborn me. There are school portraits, family vacation photos, and way too many images of my sister and me wearing hideous dresses or high-waisted floral patterned shorts. But my son’s favorite photograph is one from my mother’s 35th birthday. She’s sitting at a kitchen table, a cake in front of her with those number candles, 3 and 5, lit up in the middle of it. She’s smiling brightly despite the fact that three small children are climbing and hanging all over her, each of us scrambling forward to blow out the candles. 

The first time he held up that photo, it occurred to me that I was only a little older than my son when that picture was taken, and only a little younger now than my mother was on that birthday. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be 35 with three children under the age of six, overwhelmed as I was by the demands of caring for just one toddler-aged child. I looked at the photo, at my little sister not yet a year old in the image, and flashed back to a day when my son was around nine months old and increasingly daring in his efforts to cruise around our living room from one piece of furniture to the next. He was holding on to the side of our sofa and reaching out to grab the coffee table. He’ll never make it, I thought and I moved toward him to help him navigate the gap, but at the last second, I stopped myself. How will he trust himself if I’m constantly stepping in to make things easier, I reasoned. How will he learn his limits if I never let him test them? So I held back and I watched him reach out for the table. Watched him let go of the sofa. Watched him fall forward and bash his chin against the edge of the coffee table. Blood filled his mouth instantaneously, muffling his howls of pain. 


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I couldn’t get the bleeding to stop and I couldn’t think clearly. I tried to push him to my breast to comfort him by nursing, but he pulled away and screamed even louder. Should I call an ambulance? Rush him to the emergency room? Was he going to die? It was just a bump on the chin, but I didn’t know what could kill a nine-month-old. Everything, I assumed. I felt panicked and desperate. I called my husband to have him call the pediatrician, and then I called my parents. My dad answered the phone, and though he is calm and comforting in a crisis, I remember thinking how much I wished my mom had been home. 

As I drove to the pediatrician’s office, my son still crying and bleeding in his car seat, I pictured my mother on the day I fell on the playground in preschool. I was climbing up the side of a big metal fire truck and slipped on the rung of a ladder, whacking my chin against the metal. It split open, requiring stitches. I waited in the office of the church building for her to come pick me up and bring me to the hospital, and I can still recall the heartbreaking relief I felt as she walked through the door. 

I pictured my mother kneeling on the bathroom floor, gently applying bandaids to scraped knees. My mother pulling the sheet back to let me crawl into bed beside her after a bad dream. The sound of her voice saying, “oh honey.” The weight of her hand smoothing over my hair. My mother holding a bag of ice to my swollen cheek as I sat on the edge of a hospital bed waiting for x-rays. My mother wiping tears away from the tip of my nose. My mother carrying a pan of fire out of the kitchen, not right through the den, just a few steps to the backyard, but through the living room, the long way out of the house, away from the area where her children were waiting, and out the front door, holding tight even as the flames blew back, scalding the thin tissue of her hands. My mother, overworked and overtired, enjoying a brief adult conversation, a moment of respite in a long day of parenting young children. My mother making a simple mistake, a forgivable error. My mother staying calm and clear in a moment of danger, knowing better than to throw water on a grease fire. My mother not nearly burning our house down, but heroically saving the house from catching on fire, sacrificing her own safety to protect her children. 

My hands trembled as I gripped the steering wheel and glanced back at my son’s angry red face and bloody lips. I pictured my mother’s hands, mottled and scarred in the spots where the fire had burned her. I pictured them reaching out, gently cupping my cheeks, and I knew everything would be okay. 




Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog. You can read more stories HERE and if you’d like to submit a story for consideration to be published, please visit our submissions page.

If you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news, promos (including writing competitions and giveaways) plus receive a FREE Ebook, sign up to our mailing list here or fill in the form below.


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Batting Mice Around: A Micro Story

We’d like to thank Madlynn Haber of the USA for her Flash Fiction Story ‘Battling Mice Around’. A fictional story based on true events, ‘Battling Mice Around’ is a humorous story about single mum life and the oddity of memory association.

Madlynn Haber is a mother, retired social worker and a writer living in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Letters to Fathers from Daughters, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: A Gathering of the Tribes, The Voices Project, The Jewish Writing Project, BoomSpeak, Quail Bell Magazine, Mused Literary Review, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, and Mothers Always Write.

You can view her work at www.madlynnwrites.com


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Battling Mice Around

There was water rising in the basement. Cold, dark, murky, slimy, water. Being a woman alone, a single mother, without a man, she had no idea what to do about it. Calling the landlord hadn’t helped. She left message after message with no response.

Then there were the mice who must have been displaced by the rising water. She saw them running around the edges of the house late that night. She didn’t know what else to do but whack them with a broom. She didn’t want to hurt them or kill them she just wanted to make them go away. She stayed up all night, sitting by the baby’s crib holding on to that broom, smoking cigarettes and batting away mice. By morning there was a grey cloud of smoke hanging in the air and all signs of the mice were gone.

Eventually, the landlord called back. Someone came and pumped the water out of the basement and the mice went back to their hiding places. Years later she stopped smoking cigarettes.

The baby grew up and got a job working at a zoo. There, she had to kill mice and put them in an aviary for the birds of prey. Everyone wondered how someone, who loved animals as much as that young woman did, could so easily smash a mallet down on their little heads and turn them into bird food. For some reason it felt natural to her. One time she asked her mom about it. Her old mother just laughed and said “When I think of you batting those mice around, it makes me want to smoke a cigarette.”

More Stories

Read more stories from our contributing writers HERE

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Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Our Life Stories: In Chapters

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As our name suggests, we are all about life stories here on Mum Life Stories, duh!

I know in my own life, my story has influenced my views, my opinions, my fears, my goals, my dreams, my past, my present and my future. My story so far, has brought me to the place and position I am in today, with the attitude I have and the outlook I perceive for tomorrow. Good and bad, my character and identity has been shaped by the story I have lived up until this point, but my story isn’t finished yet, and neither is yours!



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Chapters

I believe our lives are made up of many many chapters, all coming together to create a complete life story. We learn and grow through these chapters, becoming stronger and wiser for the next chapter. Many of us have chapters we’d rather forget, chapters that wounded us, chapters that broke us beyond our worst fears, but chances are those chapters refined us, made other chapters easier to deal with or gave us a deeper understanding or appreciation for those chapters.

If you look back on your life so far, I am sure you could find some chapters that have made you the person you are today. Chapters that if you were to erase them, you would not be so strong or resilient or determined. Chapters that were vital in building your character and resilience to the world in which we are all forced to face every single day.

Those chapters that you’ve already been through, could be the same chapters that others are currently facing, chapters which they feel they will never recover from or find a way out of. Your experience in those chapters could prove to be more than just a growth experience for you, they could be a teaching experience for many others.


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Your Chapters Could Be An Inspiration To Others

Learning about your story could inspire many, motivate them and encourage them to believe there is a better chapter coming, that no chapter lasts forever and that each chapter is just a small part of their complete life story, a story that is not over yet.

My goal with this blog is to share of and in the life stories of Mothers all around the world. To encourage, inspire and motivate Mum’s to discover their own unique life story and in it discover their own identity. To embrace and love that identity and truly realise their worth.

If you believe you have a story to tell, no matter how significant, that could help even one person to find hope, I encourage you to share it with us. You don’t have to be a writer (that’s what I’m here for), you just have to be able to write it down (or type it up) and send it to me in an email. I will work with you to get your story up in front of hundreds of eyes and into hundreds of minds.

If only one person is touched by your story, only one person is changed, only one person is inspired, I guarantee you it’s worth it. That life story you affect could go on to affect a hundred, a thousand, maybe even a million other life stories in the future. You may never see the effect but you can smile to yourself, knowing that your story is out there and one day, whether it’s today or tomorrow, someone, somewhere will read it and change the direction of their life story in a positive way.


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Get Motivated

If your feeling motivated right now to tell your story, don’t hesitate, send me an email at mumlifestories@gmail.com because as I know myself, if I put it off, chances are it won’t get done. Even if you just send a quick note (use the form below) to let me know that your interested in sharing your story, I can follow you up and keep you motivated to get it done.

Let’s work together to keep one another on the path that leads to a happy ending!

Don’t forget to sign up to our mailing list, for all the latest stories, news and promos (including giveaways and writing comps) plus receive a FREE Ebook, exclusive to our subscribers!


Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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Calling Mum…Home: A Short Story

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We’d like to thank Maura Maros from the US for her nonfiction story ‘Calling Mum…Home’. A touching true story about grief and the special bond between Mother and Daughter.

   Maura Maros has a master’s degree in Human Resources Administration from the University of Scranton and Creative Writing from Wilkes University.  In 2018 she completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at Wilkes University.

   Maura’s short story, Hidden Gem (February 2016), and her book review of The Self-Care Solution (June 2016) were published in Mother’s Always Write.   Her short story, The Warrior, was published in the anthology I AM STRENGTH Maura’s poem A Mother’s Guide to Getting By is in the summer edition of the American Writers Review 2019.

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Calling Mum…Home

I padded into my parent’s bedroom like I had countless times over the past forty-one years. Usually, my mom wanted to show me a dress or a pair of shoes she bought at Macy’s or maybe get my opinion about a necklace. But this time was different. She called my sister and me upstairs to show us the leopard dress she wanted to be buried in.

“This is the one she said, with my black sweater to cover up my arms,” she said, holding the dress out in front of her.

My sister and I humored her, “Okay, Mom.”

After dress selection, we carried her jewelry box to the kitchen, surveying its contents like fine purveyors of jewelry. My mom pulled her favorite pieces out and asked us who wanted which one. We tossed the old costume pieces and left only the items that she valued. My sister and I went along with this charade, confident she would rally against the cancer she fought for eleven years.

I showed up a few days later, carrying her vanilla latte from Starbucks when my dad came down the stairs to the kitchen.

“I can’t wake her up,” he said.

I didn’t believe him and went up to the bedroom, gently shook her shoulder, and said, “Mom, wake up.” Nothing, no reply.

Not a week later, I walked back into her bedroom; it was quiet, heavy with anticipation, no TV sounds, or chatter. The fall breeze blew through the window and injected some air into the room billowing the sheers. My mom laid in the bed on my dad’s side. I’m not sure how she rolled over to his side, maybe his body had created a tiny slope over the years, and she gravitated to him, even when he wasn’t there. Her body made a C curve, and her eyes opened, but she didn’t really see me. My mom flickered in and out of consciousness over the next few days.

I crawled into the bed next to her. I moved slowly, trying not to jostle the bed. I curled her hand in mine and laid my head on the pillow. I stared at her face, taking in all the lines, praying she would wake up. The hospice nurses weren’t giving us false hope, but no one knew what to expect. We were unprepared for my mom’s sudden decline. Although she wasn’t, she knew and was trying to prepare us the best she could. The dress, earrings, sweater, all picked out for the funeral home, the notes written about the service, all clues, that she knew she was losing the battle.

The days dragged on and she remained semi-conscious as we circled around her in a heightened state of awareness. Then a few days into our new normal, she was more awake than other days. “I love you, Mommy. Do you remember when I used to sneak into your bed as soon as Dad got up?” I whispered to her. I don’t know why I called her Mommy. I never called her anything other than Mom. I felt like a child again, needing my mom to comfort me when I was in pain, but our roles had reversed over the weeks.
Her eyes opened, and she nodded, a faint smile on her lips, “I love you too,” she murmured.

I wanted to beg her to stay, but I knew she was in pain. Tears ran down my cheeks as I continued to hold her hand. There were so many things I wanted to tell her, but my mother, only sixty-seven years old, was fading away, and I wanted to make sure she left the world feeling loved. Our family and friends sat vigil with her, taking turns perched on the edge of the bed or the vanity bench we moved in next to her. Every night I watched Jeopardy with her, me answering, her mostly unconscious, just like we did night after night when I was on bed rest with my daughter.

When I was a little girl, I crept across the hallway to my parents’ bedroom, dragging my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag behind me. I paused in the doorway and listened for my mom’s breath to determine just how asleep she was. I tiptoed to mom’s side of the bed and whispered, “Mom, are you awake?”

“Huh?? What? You scared me,” she mumbled as she slowly realized I was standing there.

“Can I sleep on your floor?”

“Okay,” she sighed.

I laid out Strawberry Shortcake and snuggled down on the hard floor. I sandwiched myself between the side of the bed and her closet doors, hoping I didn’t hit my head on the sharp edge of the nightstand as I threw my pillow down. Still, l couldn’t calm down and fall asleep, “Mom, can I hold your hand?”

“Yes,” she said as she dropped her hand off the side of the bed.


My fingertips stretched up to reach hers’ in the dark as I entwined my fingers between hers. I felt my mom’s skin melt into mine, and I didn’t care how uncomfortable I was in my contorted position when I was holding her hand. I was safe. My fears dissipated, and my sleeplessness faded into slumber when I was tucked away in my sleeping bag, my mom inches away.

In the morning, I heard the closet door squeak open as my Dad tried to navigate around me as he got ready for work. Once I knew he went downstairs, I jumped up and scurried into his still-warm spot. I loved lying next to my mom in the mornings when I had her to myself.

My mom looked at me, “What was wrong last night?”

I didn’t have an answer; I was afraid of everything. The excitement of Christmas kept me awake every year, or a scary movie, and forget about it if I heard Michael Jackson’s Thriller song. The narrator’s voice, in the beginning, was enough to keep me up for days. When the movie Seven came out, I was nineteen-years-old and slept on my parent’s floor for three nights. Me and Strawberry Shortcake made numerous trips across the hallway.

But today, as I held her hand in mine, I was most afraid of losing my mom. The thought of her not answering the phone or giving me advice on raising teenagers suffocated me. Year after year, she battled back against cancer time and time again. It was easy for me to believe cancer wouldn’t kill her. Even when hospice came to manage her medications, I thought she would rally, but seeing her in the bed for the last week was making it difficult to deny the reality that my mom wouldn’t be here.

Each night I left my parent’s and went home to my children who needed me, I tried to make their lives normal. I feared that my mom would be gone when I got there in the morning without saying goodbye. And then it happened, the ring of the phone pierced the early morning silence, and my dad said she slipped away in the night. It was 5:00 AM when I picked up my sister to see her one last time. I raced from the funeral home to my parents; I couldn’t let the next time I saw her be in a casket.

As I approached the bronze coffin, I touched her folded hands; they would never hold mine again. I wanted them to squeeze my fingers reflexively, but there was nothing but papery coldness. I wouldn’t feel her aged skin or see her painted nails, entwined with my younger, less manicured ones for the rest of my life. I wasn’t sure who would comfort me again or answer the phone when I called. As we said our final goodbyes at the cemetery, my heart sunk with loneliness as I walked away from her grave. It was unbearable to leave her there alone, in the cold and dark, when I was going to my warm house and pretend to carry on with life.

I spoke to my mom at least twice a day. No one cares about your mundane nonsense, except for your mom. Ten 0’clock, that was our first phone call of the day; she was home from the gym, and I needed a break from work. We only deviated from the routine when one of us was on vacation, or I had a conference call. It took months of practice not to pick up the phone and dial her number each morning.

I listened to her voicemails. I needed to remember her voice, but how can you remember how someone felt? The feel of their hand in yours, their hand on your back as you cry, it’s not possible. I felt the ache on my heart for the warmth of her touch. Again, I’m reaching for her in the dark, but I’m unable to find her hand.

She’s been gone a few months, and my phone contact was still labeled, “Mom.”
When I sync my phone to my car, I instruct my Bluetooth, “Call Mom.” My car replied, “Calling Mom, Home.” I knew she wasn’t going to answer. I should have updated my contact to something more appropriate, like Dad or Parents. But parents would be misleading. I cleaned out my voicemails, all but two. The lone messages were from August 26th, 2017, from Mom- home.

“Hey Maura, it’s Mom. We were out working on the pool. So, uh, I will be here ironing. Call me if you want. Bye.” Eleven seconds. Her voice was clear; she seemed strong, helping my dad close-up the pool for the summer. The last message was from September 14th, 2017, from Mom-mobile.

“Hey Maura, calling you back. I just got on the phone with Mary Fran, so obviously I’m here. Call me back when you have a chance. OK bye-bye.” Fifteen seconds. She sounded groggy and like her tongue was thick, or she had been crying.   The calls were two weeks apart, not enough time to come to terms with her declining so quickly. One month later, she was gone. The message totals 26 seconds; that was all I had left of her voice. I should change her name in my phone. I know that once I do that, I’m admitting she is gone. Gone from me. Gone from my dad. Gone from my sisters. Gone from my kids. Irreversibly, gone.

 


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