Grasp for Love
is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.
heaved the last bag of groceries onto the kitchen counter. Five
full bags to unload. She muttered to herself, You pick items
off the shelf, put them in a cart, unload the cart, scan the items,
throw them back into bags, drive home, lug the bags inside, take
the items out, and then load them into cabinets. Its a vicious
if you had a garden and used cloth towels instead of those whimsy
paper things, there wouldnt be so much work, her mom
said as she limped into the kitchen.
weve gone over this before. Things are different now.
you just dont want to take an old ladys advice,
her mother said and turned around, shuffling back to her room.
Missy hurled frozen items into the freezer and slammed can goods
on the counter. She stopped and looked out the kitchen window.
Why? Why cant we get along?
Her mom had never worked outside the home. Breakfast was at seven
a.m. sharp, lunch straight up noon, dinner at six p.m., and no
one dared to be late.
must be on time. Its a sign of respect, her mom would
repeat at each meal.
laughed at that memory. Her dad never made it to any meals on
time. Her mom would sit there lips squeezed tight, eyebrows pinched
in a frown, and stare at her husband.
remembered the day she came down the stairs with a red bow in
her hair. She had put her long brown hair in a ponytail, tied
the ribbon into a bow, and slipped it on.
that thing out of your hair; it doesnt match your dress.
Besides, its crooked. You cant go out of the house
like that. What would everyone think?
matter Mama; I want to be red today.
Missy, your colors must always match. Now, do as I say,
her mom said in that firm voice.
each year, these incidents increased. Their differences turned
to war: a battle of power. Missys thoughts jumped to junior
high school. She wanted to belong to the crowd, fit in someplace.
morning she rushed to breakfast in a sloppy red shirt, torn jeans.
She looked at her dirty sneakers. Now she would fit in with what
the other kids wore.
mom shrieked. No daughter of mine leaves this house looking
like that. Upstairs, young lady, change, or youre grounded.
all the kids dress like this. Its the fad.
fad in this house. Now, change.
heard the firmness in her voice that meant either or.
kids never had these problems. Missy watched her best friend and
her mother laugh together as they went shopping or to the movies.
They included her whenever she could get permission to go with
them. She wondered why her mom couldnt laugh and talk to
arrived and she got accepted to a college out of state. At
last I can get away, she told herself. Even away from home,
her mom managed to pull her strings. Missy called home each week,
but the messages were all the same:
never come home. Here, Im all alone. Your dad doesnt
help. On and on and on. Why cant you write your
poor mother? Other kids write to theirs.
wanted to hang up. A couple times she did. Then she received a
call from her dad telling her not to hang up again, as it made
graduated from college and got her first job as a lawyer. The
struggles and sacrifices gave her the chance to live her dream.
During her second year at the law firm, she met her future husband.
provided him with the background between mother and daughter on
the drive to her hometown. He laughed, Youre a lawyer
now. When the prosecution gets heavy, put up a good defense.
reflected on her marriage. At least her mom kept any opinions
about her husband to herself. Infact, her mom tolerated him with
silence. However, for Missy, her house was never straight enough,
and she never cooked real meals, always using those frozen things.
When the two grandchildren came along, nothing was right.
looked back at one particular incident. Shed breast-fed
both her girls. One time her mom remarked, Bottles were
good enough for you, why do you have to show your breasts to everyone?
Missy saw the cold stare before her mom stomped into another room.
this is the natural way. Bottles are either conveniences or for
the non-confident woman, she replied. She never knew if
her mom had heard or ignored her reply.
the grandchildren grew, her mom wouldnt play with them,
read to them, or show any interest more than enough to endure
shake of her head brought Missy to the present. Dad had died two
years ago and her moms health would not permit her to live
alone. So, she moved in with Missy, and the power game continued.
thought about this last conversation with her mom and realized
that the tables had been turnedmom is now the child. Then
an insight hit. She would start playing the part of mother, not
only to her daughters, but to her mom, and include her in their
playtime and bedtime ritual.
knot tightened in her stomach at the thought that her mom didnt
know how to play, how to show emotion, or how to love. Missy had
learned about love through friends, but most of all from her husband.
Maybe she could give her mom what she could never givelove.
stopped. She looked at the grocery bags left to unload. It would
be hard for both of them, but
Hey, Mom, Missy
hollered. I need some help with the groceries.
E. Patterson has been writing since the middle 1980s.
Her poetry has been published in Wildacres 2002, Lessons Learned
Anthology I and II, and the Atlanta Senior Newspaper. In 2002,
she published an essay online at Insolent Rudder, and Story House,
LLC published a flash fiction piece in 2004. Muscadine Lines,
A Southern Journal, published her short story, "Meadow Run,"
in 2005 and "The Journal" in 2006. She has won awards
in short story and poetry through the Atlanta Writers Club. She
is a member of The Atlanta Writers Club and Georgia Writers Association.
She has participated in creative writing classes at Callonwolde,
Evening at Emory, Winter Poetry & Prose Get away, Wildacres,
Georgia Perimeter College, and The Paris Writers Workshop in 2005.
She has attended The Harriett Austin Writers Conference in Athens,
Georgia. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she has finished
a novel and is working on her second.
Patricia E. Patterson