Short Story Saturday: Happy Tears

Sara hung over the fence dividing their yard from the neighbors’ property. “I’m bored,” she moaned.

“What about the books you got from the library?” Mom asked.

“I already finished them all.”

Mudd Puppy seemed to sense Sara’s angst. She wandered over and stood comfortingly beside her young owner. Sara absentmindedly scratched the dog’s ears.

“You could always clean your room,” Mom teased.

“I’m not THAT bored,” Sara grinned. “I wish Katie wasn’t visiting her grandparents today. Then maybe I could go to her house.” She paused for a moment. “I wish our grandparents didn’t live so far away.”

“I know, kiddo. I know…”

The early spring day was exquisite; crisp, bright, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. Overhead the sky was almost unnaturally blue without a cloud to be seen. Plants and trees showed off their newborn leaves, shining in satisfied pride as if they were adoring parents, but the yard was still plain. Maybe she was spoiled. A single red tulip and two scraggly daffodils—leftover bulbs buried by a previous owner—made a valiant effort to spruce up the area around the house, but it wasn’t enough. She couldn’t help but let her mind meander for a few moments, wandering back to her hometown. Grandma H—’s yard would be glowing right about now. Giant patches of daffodils. Lilacs. Tulips. This would be the perfect kind of day to drop by. But a ten hour drive each way with four little ones and a dog in the back of their cranky, creaky old station wagon couldn’t happen often. If only they live closer. But it was no use dwelling on if onlys.

“That’s one of the bad things about moving. You always find new people and things to love, but you still miss the ones you left behind,” Mom said. Her young daughter couldn’t exactly relate yet, but that didn’t detract from the truth in the statement.

Sara pondered the words for a moment. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Can I go see if Sarah May and Becky can come out and play?” she asked.

“I’m sure you can go.” Mom replied, emphasizing the offending grammar.

May I go?” Sara corrected her misused word.

“They have dentist appointments this morning, remember?”

“Oh, yeah…” Sara heaved a deep, dramatic sigh. “I forgot about that. What time is it?”

“Their appointments? Or the time right now?”

“Both.”

“Their appointments were at 10:30, I think, and I don’t know what time it is, hun. You’ll have to go inside and check.”

She moaned and tossed her head as she wandered towards the house. Angela met her at the door akwardly balancing a large cup.

“What do you have in that cup?” Sara asked.

“Just water. I found some pretty flowers in the grass, but they’re so small. Maybe if I give them LOTS of water they’ll grow big enough to put in a vase—“ she lowered her voice and looked around, “for Mom for Mother’s Day…”

Their voices sank into whispers for a few moments before Sara entered the house and Angela shuffled into the grass trying not to slosh water as she walked.

Mom smiled to herself as her attentive eyes scanned the fenced-in backyard. Jess and Kyle were playing on the swings.

“Look how high I’m swinging!” Jess yelled. She put her entire body into the pumping motion and soared through the air. She swung so mightily that the entire swing set creaked and rocked back and forth, jumping just a little out of the ground and and slamming forcefully down in rhythm with her movements as she rose and fell. “I can pump faster than you can,” she proudly declared to her little brother.

“Nuh-uh,” Kyle denied. He kicked his legs furiously, but barely budged an inch. “It’s just cuz you’re older,” he retorted stubbornly, unwilling to outrightly admit defeat. “When I’m your age, I’ll be able to swing way higher than you.”

“You’ll never be my age, cuz I’ll always be older,” Jess proclaimed triumphantly.

“Mooooom!” Kyle cried. “Will you give me an underdog? Please?”

Mom set her book aside and slid her large-rimmed glasses from the top of her head to their rightful place on the bridge of her nose. “Okay, but just ONE!”

“One for ME, too!” Jess piped in.

“You don’t need one,” argued Kyle. “You’re going high enough already.”

“I can stop. Look! I’m slowing down. I’m gonna jump off!” She bravely kept her word, tumbling to her knees on the soft grass in front of her.

Mom walked by Angela. She sat on the grass, carefully pouring the contents her cup onto a patch of garden weeds.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?”

The voice drew her out of daydream land, and she glanced up, startled. “Just flowers,” she answered vaguely, as if woken from sleep, her mind still captive to the previous moment’s thought. She set the cup down, wandered after Mom to the swing set, and leaned against one of the metal legs as Mom expertly ducked under Kyle’s swing and launched him in the air in a high arc as she ran beneath.

“Wheeee!” Kyle cried.

“My turn now! My turn, Mom! Oh, look, Mom! Look! It’s a UPS truck. I wonder if they’re coming here!” Jess exclaimed in hopeful excitement. The truck slowly drove past the house and inched around the cul-de-sac. “Too bad!” she cried.

“Sorry guys,” Mom said. “I don’t think it’s stopping here. We’re not expecting anything.”

She pulled Jess’ swing back and started the wind up for her underdog push.
“It is stopping here! Look! It’s right in front of our house!”

“I bet he’s going to one of the neighbors,” said Mom.

“He’s coming up to our door!”

“You know what? I think you’re right!” Mom hurried into the house with three little one riding on her heels. Sara already had her hand on the doorknob, ready to answer the great the delivery man.

“Good morning. Are you…” the man in brown lifted the box a little closer to his eyes, “Colleen O…?”

“That’s me,” Mom replied kindly, as the poor man made a valiant, yet severely flawed pronunciation attempt of her name.

“If you’ll just sign right here…”

“Certainly.”

“You all have a nice day!” the UPS man said as he jogged back to his truck and sped off as quickly as the narrow little road allowed.

“What is it, Mom?”

“Who’s if from?”

“That’s a pretty big box, Mom. Is it heavy?”

“I wonder what’s inside!”

“What’s the return address say?”

“It looks like it’s from…someone in Ohio…” Mom responded to the chattering buzz of voices. “Grandma H—?…no…she wouldn’t…she couldn’t have! Oh! Where are the scissors? I need some scissors.”

“Why didn’t she just send the box by regular mail?” Sara wondered practically. “I mean, it’s cheaper that way, right, Mom?”

“I’ll get the scissors!” Jess cried as she charged from the room.

“No running with scissors!” Mom’s voice called after her.

“I know, Mom. I won’t!” her voice promised from the kitchen. “I don’t see them in the junk drawer.”

“They’re on the kitchen counter next to the cookie jar,” Angela chimed in softly.

“Try the kitchen counter, Jess!” Sara yelled. “By the cookie jar!”

“Found ‘em!” She carried them carefully back into the living room and everyone gathered around to watch Mom smoothly slice away the packing tape and open the flaps of the box—.

“Oh!”

“Wow!”

“Let me see! Let me see!” Kyle exclaimed, pushing his way in between his older sisters.

“How’d grandma do that?

“Are those real, Mom?”

“I thought flowers needed water or they’d die right away, right, Mom?”

“Mom?”

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Don’t you like the flowers?”

“Mom, are you sad?”

She lifted a hand to her cheek, shook her head, and laughed through the tears as she gathered the blossoms to her nose for a deep inhale of spring scents, garden blossoms, memories and love shipped across the country in a cardboard box.

“I’m not sad at all,” she explained. “Some tears are sad tears,” she said. “But other tears are happy tears,” she sniffed. “I’m crying because I’m happy!”

© Angela M. Adams


About Short Story Saturday: Last year, Short Story Saturday jumped around all over the place. It included current writing and very old. There was fiction, nonfiction, and something in between. One week I wrote about garbage disposal in Japan; then came a story about my husband and I shooing a bunny out of our garden; and there was a fictional piece about dying young mixed in there, too. No rhyme, no reason. 2015 will likely be more of the same. I’d like to focus on childhood, especially my years growing up in South America, but I’m not sure I’m ready to promise that. We shall see…

All posts on this site were written by Angela M. Adams (unless otherwise noted) and they may not be copied elsewhere without her permission. Thank you!

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