A Short Story by JannaTWrites:
Laurie Papadakis propped her fuzzy-slippered feet onto the ottoman and held a freshly poured mug of hazelnut coffee by her chin. The steam warned her it was still too hot, so she savored the aroma with a slow inhale. Hold. Hint of a smile. Exhale.
She closed her eyes and listened: nothing. During the last two days, Laurie learned she didn’t know much, but she knew enough to appreciate the well-timed and much needed peace surrounding her. She brought the cup to her lips and the liquid numbed her tongue before sliding down her throat. Tension expelled from her shoulders in one lengthy sigh.
Laurie took inventory of the influx of opinions that pelted her over the last forty-eight hours. Some new and others tired, they came as steady as waves onto a beach. Just as she recovered from one, another poised to knock her back down.
For years, she had known her mothering skills short-changed her children. It started with the temperature of baby formula, graduated to absence of manners, and settled on lack of discipline. Discipline stood an excellent chance of attaining permanent status on the “improvement list.” Laurie swigged more coffee to wash down that bitter pill.
She smiled as the sweetness from the stevia lingered on her tongue. At the moment, Laurie didn’t care if stevia harmed her more than sugar, as Ismene swore Doctor Oz had warned. She also enjoyed the satisfaction of ignoring Ismene’s advice to separate her bananas and store her grapes in ice water. No, she preferred clustered bananas and dry grapes.
Laurie exerted resistance in subtle ways. Butter stayed in the fridge and Greek Salt disappeared from the cupboard. She remained steadfast in her refusal to iron her husband’s clothes and derived pleasure from the fact this bothered Ismene. Laurie chuckled, spilling coffee on the sofa cushion next to her.
When Laurie pulled the washcloth from the kitchen drawer, she remembered the day before. Ismene corrected her by calling it a dishrag. “No, ma’am. This here’s a washcloth,” Laurie said out loud even though no one would hear. In company, her silence kept peace, but her quiet defiance served as loose stitches holding her sanity intact.
Laurie blotted the coffee spot and ran her hand across the damp cushion. The tacky film puzzled her, until she remembered it had to be spray sunscreen. Ismene chose to use it indoors after Laurie explained her desire to keep the oily glaze off the carpet and furniture. Laurie suspected that Ismene practiced her own quiet defiance. This could, perhaps, be the second thing they had in common.
Laurie settled back into the sofa and took consolation in the fact her husband had not emerged unscathed. After conceding to Ismene’s insistence that he wear a polo shirt, Ismene didn’t like the color he chose. Laurie had been surprised when his sarcastic, “would you like to pick my clothes for me?” wasn’t met with Ismene pawing through his drawers.
Over the years, Laurie met givers and takers; Ismene Papadakis was a giver. At every opportunity, she shared a piece of her mind. So generous in fact, Laurie wondered if she might one day run out of mind to give. Two days with her mother-in-law left Laurie proud that her thinned patience survived yet another test. She accepted she had much left to learn, but prayed she never knew as much as Ismene.
Laurie heard the key in the front door. She set her mug on the table and headed to greet her husband and children. In the back of her mind, she wondered: what will I do today to draw Ismene’s admonition tomorrow?
As Laurie hugged her kids, she basked in everything she’d done well. The rightness eclipsed the mistakes she’d made along the way.