Tag Archives: mother

Birthday Surprise

It’s my daughter’s birthday. I promised her I would visit her during lunch and surprise her for her birthday. That was the plan until my boss scheduled a luncheon meeting, which is another way of saying I was working through lunch.

But I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter. After all, I was working more than I had ever worked before during her short life and the following week I was going out of town for business. I would not see her for a few days, which seems like forever when you’re young enough to count your age on your fingers and your toes. I had to do something to stop those big crocodile tears from ruining her pretty face.

So…I devised a plan. I would tuck a birthday gift inside her lunchbox.

I bought cherry-flavored lip balm and an ice cream cone-shaped mirror in a gift bag that said, “A girl can never have too much stuff!” along with a card signed by her father, her brother, and me.

When she woke up in the morning, I told her I had already packed her lunch. She eyed me suspiciously, but went along with it anyway since she had been sick the whole week and knew I was wont to spoil her. But on the drive to school, her tell-tale smile gave away the fact that she knew my little secret.

I thought the surprise was ruined, but it was not. “I saw the gift, but I didn’t open it,” she said. “I was just looking to see why my lunchbox was so heavy.”

“It’s because I packed you a drink,” I said. “The gift doesn’t weigh much.”

“I promise I won’t open it until lunch time,” she said.

“It’s all right if you open it up sooner,” I said. “I know you want to show your friends.”

“I’ll open it at lunch time,’ she said.

For a long moment, neither one of us spoke.

I parked and started the short walk with my daughter to school.

I didn’t know what my daughter was thinking or feeling, but I knew what I was thinking and feeling. “I knew you were disappointed that I had to work so I just wanted to surprise you.”

“You did surprise me,” she said.

In front of the lavender tulip tree, my daughter and I embraced. “Happy birthday,” I wished through her freshly straightened hair.

“Thanks, Mom,” she said.

I strolled down the sidewalk, thinking about how different my childhood would have been if my parents had valued imagination over facts. Maybe I would have had a few surprises in my lunchbox instead of the big things that caused so much heartache in the end. As a child, I had very little control over my environment. But as an adult I could act in ways that I felt were not only appropriate but lifesaving. By choosing to take the time and the creativity to show my daughter how much I love her, I was able to fulfill both my role as a provider and my role as a mother without anyone losing anything.

Short Story, “No Sleep,” in Snail Mail Review

Check Out Snail Mail Review

It’s like a catchy song you can’t get out of your head. It plays over and over again, that same melody, and just when you think it’s gone, someone says something to start it over again.

It’s just a silly dream
, I keep telling myself. Let it go.

But it follows me like a mist, shrouding my thoughts, collecting itself around my body, until I feel like I am walking through sleep. In my dream, I’m being chased by my mother dressed as the Grim Reaper. In her tangled dark robes, she slices through fog with a Kill Bill machete and screams, “I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.”

My mother has been dead for 10 years. I haven’t thought much about her, hardly at all. I’m a practical man, a stock clerk studying to be an engineer, and I know from my professors that only the facts count.

But this dream unsettles me. For three days, I drink coffee in the afternoon, double espresso with two packets of sugar, a makeshift elixir of go-go-go. In the evening, when my co-workers head over to the cantina for margaritas and chips and salsa, I down a bottle of Gatorade and an energy bar to hurtle me through the commute home. My boss says, “You should take a vacation. Get some rest.” But the last thing I want to do is sleep. Ever since that dream of my machete-wielding mother three nights ago, I’ve been keeping myself up. By choice. I don’t tell anyone. They’d think I’m crazy.

To read the rest of my short story, “No Sleep,” purchase a copy of the Spring 2012 issue of Snail Mail Review.

On another note, it does not look like I’ll be going to New York this year. Thank you to everyone who voted for my blog on the Goodreads website. I appreciate the support. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year.