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September 28, 2007



OK- I got totally carried away with this one and took way longer than I was supposed to...the characters sucked me in!

Here goes!

Kate unzipped her fleece jacket and smiled to herself as she noticed the new fall display in the front of the grocery store. Overflowing bins of Halloween candy sat nestled between bushel baskets of lumpy gourds and cornstalks that rustled with the passing of the carts. She always felt oddly energized in autumn, like the crazy squirrels the kids watched running in the yard. Kate liked to think it was about the crunch of the leaves and the permission she gave herself to eat too many doughnuts at the farmer's market. When she really thought about it, though, she wondered if it wasn't Mother Nature's way of helping her gear up for being indoors for an eternal winter with two small kids bouncing off of the walls.

Even though it was only 7:30 am the store was alive with shoppers. Kate felt a twinge of excitement as she headed for the bakery to choose a surprise for her still sleeping family. She knew they loved it when she played the weekend breakfast elf. The truth was, she was just as motivated by the chance to stop at her favorite drive thru and have her morning coffee uninterrupted in the car ride home.

After selecting her husband's favorite sesame seed and cinnamon raisin for the kids, Kate reached once more through the glass doors of the bakery case. Thinking twice and hoping that no one had seen her touch it, she forced herself to put back an enormous frosted cinnamon roll and quickly taped the lid closed on the white box. In the distance she heard the unfortunate sound of the Cart With the Squeaky Wheel. As she headed for once for the Express Lane she chuckled to herself, feeling sorry for its driver.

Kate greeted the grumpy monosyllabic cashier, as the sound of the Squeaky Wheel Cart came closer. She looked up to see that the cart was not only loud, but enormously overflowing with all manner of groceries, paper products, diapers and a rainbow colored bouncy ball that kept falling off and ricocheting around the store. Kate felt instant sympathy as she watched the back of the cart owner chase the ball and stop to apologize when it bounced in front of a shopper trying to get to the wheat bread. Kate reflexively smiled toward the child seat of the cart, hoping to distract its occupant and provide the poor frazzled woman with even a moment's assistance. She was surprised to find no child, but instead a seat full of laundry detergent and a box of tampons. Returning to the cart, ball in hand, was the exhausted form of a woman named Julie, a mother she knew from her daughter's preschool. She wondered why she was doing so much shopping on a Saturday morning. Where were her kids?

"I've never thought this was a good venue for dodgeball. Too many crabby referees." Kate joked.

"You have no idea," Julie replied, failing to match Kate's attempt at levity.

An old man in a mesh baseball cap spoke loudly into a cellphone earpiece as he pushed a cart full baked beans between the mothers. Julie managed to maneuver the cart to a less conspicous place.

She eyed Kate, confused and annoyed. "Where's your cart?"

Kate explained about her breakfast run. "Just standard Saturday morning stuff."

"This is my standard Saturday morning stuff." replied Julie. "It's either this or come here at 10:00 at night with the teenagers trying to shoplift or the creepy men leaving with bottles in paper bags. They always look at you too long when they pass."

Kate remembered that Julie worked full time. In truth she had never really thought much about when people who work go to the grocery store.

Kate had no idea how to respond to Julie's assessment of the late night grocery store clientele. She almost made another joke, but thought better at the last second. "I'd better run," she said. "I'm sure that the kids are probably standing by the bed demanding breakfast from their dad."

Julie sighed. "When I left, Jeff was trying to sleep on the couch while the kids screamed the Dora the Explorer theme song. He's waiting for me to get home so he can go back to bed."

Kate felt brave. "When do you get to go back to sleep?"

"I have to work this afternoon. There's no such thing as back to sleep for me." Julie caught the ball just as it was about to roll off of the cart again. "I'd better get these groceries home."

"Can I help you out to the car? I only have this one box." Kate offered.

Julie's eyes were hard. "I see your one box. I'm sure I can manage. Thanks anyway."

Kate turned and headed for the lumpy gourds. She knew Julie wasn't only talking about the groceries.

Lisa R.

“Shouldn’t you be home bakin a pie or something?” Ghyna squinted down at me as the smoke from her cigarette floated up into her eyes. Her hands were perched on her thick, waistless sides, her legs planted squarely on the ground in an ‘I dare to you try to get past me” kind of way.

“I’m workin Ghyna, leave me alone.”

“You know, nobody wants you here. Nobody wants that kid here. The circus is no place for a kid.”

Ghyna thinks that just because she’s got a beard that makes her manly and that makes her the boss of me. I’ve got every right to be here. Heck, I gotta be here. I need this job, now more than ever, what with the baby and all and that no good rotten clown of a father not given me a dime.

Besides, the circus is my home. And the people here are my family. Ghyna aside, everyone’s been very supportive of me. Big Bertha and Louis/Louise even offered to watch the baby while I did my act.

What’s more, I’m good at what I do. Do you have any idea how hard it is to unicycle and swallow fire while being blindfolded? No matter what city we’re in, the crowd goes crazy for it.

I can be a mama and a circus performer at the same time and I’m gonna prove it. My baby will grow up in a loving family, she’ll see the world and she’ll learn a valuable trade. And if that Ghyna doesn’t leave me be I’ll shave off her beard in her sleep. And then she’ll have to go home and bake a pie!


Lisa R. -

I love your piece! "That no good rotten clown of a father" is great!
So creative - I'd love to know how you thought of that angle.



"You've really brought yourself down you know. In my day we had wet nurses for that. You're like an animal with this breast feeding." Her voice was so icy that my chest went cold. I had just finished nursing my son and had put him back in his bassinet. He was all swaddled, his little toes pointing towards each other, , how would they ever straighten out I wondered. She had walked in then. My mother. My mother who never changed a diaper. I was sure she still didn't know how. I had never held it against her, never. I never thought there was anything wrong with it, she just wasn't brought up that way. That's what I told myself. And that was really fine with me until. Until Philip was born two months ago. "I know you don't like it mother but the doctor said breastmilk is the best. And we're bonding." I felt ridiculous as soon as I said it. I didn't buy any of the bonding crap but I did buy that I really loved it for some reason I couldn't exactly identify. Also I secretly hoped it would help me get my figure back quicker. "Bonding! You have the rest of your life to bond with him darling." She laughed, more of a snicker really. She went on, "You know you're going to be in some real trouble if you don't remember it's your husband you should be bonding with. Peter didn't marry you for your money darling. Have you forgotten? Your husband's a very attractive man." "Mother! I exclaimed rather louder than I had meant to. "What is that suppossed to mean?" She took note of my anger. Did she not think Peter loved me? Did she have that low of an opinion of women, of mothers, of herself to think Peter would just move on after I delivered him a son? "It's just that men have needs that we don't darling, and I just wouldn't want you getting so comfortable with yourself to think he couldn't go elsewhere that's all."
She bent down and kissed me on the forehead, gave me her wickedly sweet smile, telling me she was off to lunch with someone. Someone obviously more important that her daughter and grandson. I cried when she left. Cried for the mother I wanted & needed so badly but who I never wanted to be . Never.


Very cool piece about the circus performer. Great authentic voice -- though I'm guessing it wasn't really written by a circus person. The stay at home mom/career woman things is so often done about upper middle class women, it's interesting to think about it in terms of the lower economic tier of society. Well written.


I never thought that the idea of staying at home after I had my child would be such a problem. Or even a discussion amongst family and friends. I remember talking to my sisters who encourage me to do this, saying that a child needs their mother and that it was important to bring your child up in this day age with a parent at home. But I worked since I was 17 years old, it's what I knew...what I did. Having my son at 31, was a choice as well. A choice my husband and I never regretted. We wanted to make sure that we had a home and that we didn't live in an apartment building. Our choice...but buying the home didn't make it any easier. There were plenty of bills to pay, and my not working never entered our minds, until the day he was conceived. After the glow and after the congratulations, we sat down and looked at each other and asked, "What now?" It's not a horrible question and it's a question so many couples ask each other at times like this. The answer differs for so many. As the youngest child, my mother was always a stay-at-home mom. She was there for us no matter what. She was the caregiver and my father, the breadwinner. Both my husband and I knew things were different then, it was easier for one parent to stay home. We took out our financial papers and we went over the numbers, again and again...until I fell asleep crying held safely in his arms. My mother and mother-in-law both watched my son, until my mother-in-law fell ill with pancreatic cancer. My mother, who took up a job after the "nest" was empty, watched him 2 days aweek...I downgraded my job so that I could be home as well. My most favorite moments were at 2:00 a.m. when he'd wake up for a feeding, and I would take him downstairs and sit on the couch. As he fed, I'd look at the stars through the bay window and tell him what constellations I knew. Even though I had to get up at 6:00 a.m., this was precious to me. Now, my son is 11 years old, and I am finally a stay-at-home mom. And I know that this is the perfect time to be here with him. I never missed a step, or a tooth...and know I won't miss his passing into the teenage years, where so much can go wrong, so quickly. I have had both worlds, and I know that being a mother or a caregiver means and how precious and important it is, no matter what age. I commend all working moms...and stay-at-home moms, because we are doing what we can for our children, the best way we possibly can.

Nancy T

There was never any decision to be made as far as I was concerned. When I became a "mom" I was going to be home with him/her. We were in a good financial position, I didn't need to work to pay the bills, Greg had said it was my choice. I know me. At work I would feel quilty for working and not being home taking care of the innocent life we brought into the world. And when I was at home taking care of my new precious joy I would feel guilty for not being at work. Who can live this way?

No there was never any decision. I am staying at home with our new baby. I am going to be the one there for all the feedings and diapers and doctor visits.

How many years ago was this? Little did I know when I made that decision how much I lost of myself over time. It is a slow process. At first you are excited, you see his first smile, hear his first coo, love the way he has found his fingers and his feet. You start doing all the things around his schedule. But then over time your life has faded away.

Yes you join organizations to feel like you are doing something important. But it is not the same as when you are out there "making a living". So now what? What do you do?

Gwendolen Gross

Wonderful work, all! I'm sorry I've been a bit delayed in commenting--but here's a little something for each poster:
MJ--nothing wrong (and many things right) with getting carried away. This is a great little truth: secretly wanting the drive all to herself. Also, you've really found something interesting with the grocery-shopping inequities--you've just tapped into the real meat of conflict--it would be a good one to keep writing...

Lisa R! Very funny, immediate tone. Clever details! Waistless sides and the unicycle/swallowing fire blindfolded--you go, Lisa!

Ardith This has a zinger of a first line, beautiful details, and you're right on with the conflict and immediate relationship. Would lov emore of this one--a short story maybe? SHOWING a bit of th elast bit--? I want to learn (see/feel/hear) more about that wickedly sweet smile...

Gabrielle--I'd love to see the "what now" scene written out--that could be very interesting if you got more specifically into how the characters discussed it...if you wanted to write into it (fictionally or otherwise). Lovely sentiment at the end--we need more moms like you (or your characters)!

Nancy--very important question and the crux of this issue--women, moms, identity...one thing we CAN do: write.
Lovely start!

Great going, everyone!


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