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The Song My Mother Sang
“How did you do that?” they all asked as I exited the stage as innocently as a cat. I acted as if no small miracle had occurred. My teacher stood with her score sheet pinned to her chest and her blue eyes wide with surprise. That small state of shock that surrounded the auditorium gave me a secret satisfaction. I rolled my sleeve up to check on my ring, like I did a million times a day. It shone brighter than ever.
Staring into the pairs of eyes belonging to every single kid in the school meant nothing. Feeling the cold grip of the mic in my hands didn’t faze me a bit. The word flowed out of my mouth like a tumbling river. I didn’t trip over my lines; I didn’t go into panic-freeze. My mind floated itself into its own distant land of memories.
I had no background music to accompany me. I didn’t even know what the name of the song was that I was singing. All I know is the sweet melody that lulled me to sleep and filled my heart with happiness.
My mother would tuck me into bed, all snuggled up with my precious orange tabby cat, Ayanna. She had striking blue eyes that glowed in the dark like sapphires. My mother had found her and nursed her back to health like the compassionate-hearted animal lover she was.
“I can’t go to sleep unless you sing,” I reminded her every night.
“I’d never forget that,” my mother smiled. She had the prettiest smile, kind and mother-like in its empathy. “I don't know what I've done. Or if I like what I've begun.”
My mom’s voice was so soft and light that it was like being drifted away in a cloud of cotton, to a world where everything was right. Her eyes were a glossy mottle of black and brown and her almond hair long and dark.
“'Cause I don't know who I am, who I am without you. All I know is that I should. And I don't know if I could stand another hand upon you. All I know is that I should. ‘Cause she will love you more then I could. She who dares to stand where I stood.”
Sometimes I’d ask my mother why she sang this beautiful melody to me, and she’d just reply, with a distant glint in her eye, “It was played at my wedding.”
“Mom?” I would ask, with genuine concern in my voice. “When is dad coming back?”
“Soon,” my mother would pull the covers over my chest and give me a final kiss goodnight. “I promise. Now go to sleep.”
My mom had more on her plate than she could handle, and I’d often stay alone in the house. It was all right by me, for I always had Ayanna to hold or my mother’s reassuring lullaby to echo through my troubled mind.
Yet, one night, she didn’t come back. I rocked back and forth, cross-legged on top of my bed, clutching my maple-colored teddy and waiting, waiting for my mother to come back. He clock struck twelve, then one, then two.
And yet my mother never came back.
Some say her car flipped off the rain-soaked road. Others say she just couldn’t take the stress of her life and headed for the hills. When my hope dwindled low, I went into my mom’s bedroom and opened up her wooden jewelry chest. That clean small always made me feel satisfied.
I noticed a small gold ring sitting in the corner, with five little diamonds lined up across the band. One for every year they dated; my mom had said when she had spotted me peeking at her engagement ring a while earlier. I slid it on my finger.
Backstage, I rolled my sleeve back up and fingered my tousled black hair. I had big dark eyes, just like my mother, but the ebony hair of my father. I was small and meek, with a body to match that bashful personality.
Shortly after going up on stage and singing out my sweet reminiscences, I was awarded second prize for the school talent show. First prize had gone to a fifth-grader that had done a magic act, but winning anything at all didn’t matter much to me. The whole point of this wasn’t just to show my classmates I wasn’t a submissive little second-grader either. The point was to live out those old memories one more time.
I checked my ring again. I wore it on the third finger of my left hand, just like my mother had. It was my way of staying connected to her.
My father and stepmother were waiting for me outside the auditorium when it was over. My dad told me, “That’s my little girl!” and gave me a big hug and a kiss. It felt so great to have him back in my life again. My stepmom had gotten me some sweet red roses, just like the kind that get tossed to stage performers.
To celebrate my silver medal, my dad and stepmom took me out to the local Brusters for some ice cream. They knew nothing made my day faster than a dino sundae. I could feel some of that cheeriness building up inside me. I had never been one with a real noticeable personality, but the accomplishment of letting that song be sung one last time was really bringing the best out of me.
While I sat and picked the layer of rainbow sprinkles off the top and ate that first, I noticed a very familiar woman, with big dark eyes and slick, almond-brown hair. She sat next to a clean-shaven young man on the park bench as they both ate chocolate ice cream comes. He had his arm around her, and as they tossed their trash away and strolled off into the parking lot, I could see her kiss him, then laugh and rest her head on his shoulder.
Like I said, I wasn’t one with a real noticeable personality, so I didn’t lose my temper. I didn’t point anything out to my dad, who was perfectly happy chatting with my stepmom. I had no reason to make the sweet notes sour. He was happy. I was happy. Why cause drama? Now I knew why my dad had left my mom. She couldn’t be trusted.
I took my mom’s old ring off my finger and threw it into the bushes. I wasn’t connected to her anymore. I then tossed my empty cup in the trash, wiped the chocolate ice cream off my lips, and walked out to the car with my mom and stepdad, still humming the song the woman who had once been my mother had sang, with the lyrics tweaked just a bit:
“'Cause now I know who I am, who I am without you. Now I know that I should. And now I know if I could stand another hand upon you. Now I know that I could. ‘Cause he can’t love you more then I did. He who dares to stand where I stood.”