Sunday, July 24, 2011

* The Tiny Voice

The snow covered campus looked like a painting. Margie sipped her coffee as she also drank in the details of her view through the second floor student union window. The campus was all but deserted as finals week neared completion. And the day's gray light was giving way to the glow of the path way lights along the sidewalks, which lay like dark ribbons through the snow.

There were no sharp features anywhere across the ground, only softly rounded whiteness. The old giant oaks stood huge and silent like pouting sentinels, waiting for spring.

Margie peered through the window into the scene, waiting for her daughter, April, to grace it. The joy of her life was the opportunity to be with her daughter. But, as usual, where April was concerned, other emotions were contradicting the moment. And that contradiction was especially strong tonight.

"There she is!" Margie squealed in her mind as she watched her daughter bouncing along the sidewalk clutching the envelope in her gloved hand.

In a short time, April was through the serving line and coming toward her mother with her cup of hot chocolate. "Hi Mama," she said with a broad smile. She sat the cup down; and gave her mom a long hug. " I'm so excited," she squeaked gleefully, scooting close beside her mother on the same side of the booth. They hugged again.

" I know you are Sweetheart. And I'm so excited for you."

" For us Momma."

" Absolutely. For us." Margie corrected. "OK, so - are you ready to open it Sweetheart?"

" Now that you're here, I think I can."

" It will be fine, April. Johns Hopkins is not going to let you get away."

" Well, we'll see. April handed her mother the envelope. "You do it Momma."

Margie took the envelope. She stared at it for a moment. In the corner it read, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She tried to control them, but her hands were shaking. Tears began to slide down Margie's cheeks as she freshly realized just how far she and April had come together.

Even April was taken back at the depth of her mother's emotion. " Are you OK Mom?" she asked with true concern.

"Yes Sweetheart. I'm OK. Now, lets do the deed here." she said, with a quick smile.

April gripped her mother's arm tightly, and they snuggled in closer, like two best friends sharing the most intimate secret. April put her hands, stilled gloved, over her eyes as her mom read silently.

" It a yes!" came the mouse like squeal from Margie.

Instantly, both women embraced in a desperate moment of profound wordless celebration. Then, as if cued, both leaned back a little to accommodate an exuberant high five and a loud "Yes !" from April. Laughter erupted. Then another hug and more tears.

As April was beginning to gain some composure, she realized that her mother was not. She continued to sob. After a moment, April felt once again prompted to ask her mother if she was all right.

Margie was unable to answer. She continued to weep a quiet but irresistible torrent of tears that had been waiting years to be released. Even without explanation, April realized that these tears were somehow disconnected from the present moment. She just quietly embraced her mother until this flood tide of emotion began to subside.

"Mom, what's wrong? You're not sick?"

"No, April, its nothing like that," she said, still half choking with emotion." Move around to the other side of the booth so I can look at you. I have something that I have to share with you. This is probably the worst possible time, but I just have to get this out."

"It's fine mom. Just say what you need to. You know you have to share everything with me," April said with a slight smile, trying to lift her mother's spirit.

"That has been our way hasn't it Honey. We have shared almost everything since you were born. But there is one thing that I have never shared with you. But I need to do that now." Margie began to tear again.

April took her mother's hands in her own, on top of the table. "Anything mom, you know that."

After a moment with her head lowered, Margie began. "Last night I had a dream April. I was walking in a cemetery, and it was snowing. The wind was blowing, and it was bitterly cold. I was struggling against the wind. After a while, I found myself peering down at a small granite headstone; and it had no inscription on it, no words at all." April started to interrupt, but Margie insisted on finishing.

"As I stared at the headstone, the ground became like glass, and I could see a baby. The baby was talking to me. In the most pleading voice the baby said, 'Mommy please.' That was all, just 'Mommy please.' Over and over again the baby kept begging me in that tiny desperate voice, 'Mommy please.'"
As April began to understand her mother's emotional agony, her heart began to break for her mother. "Mom, I understand how a dream like that would make you feel, but I am right here. I'm not a baby, and I'm OK."

Margie touched April's cheek with her fingertips, and looked at her as though she were looking at her very soul. "I know Sweetheart, but there's more. You see, I had exactly that same dream in every detail, one other time, 22 years ago, just before you were born."

" Oh mom," April sympathized.

" April, we have never talked much about your dad. The little I've told you was true. We were never married. And he did choose to be out of our lives before you were born. But I haven't really told you the whole story.

"I wish I could say we were in love, but we really weren't. I guess we called it love at the time. But I've learned since, that love has a view beyond itself, and we really didn't.

"We were in high school. We were part of the fast crowd. And we did what the fast crowd was doing. We made love; but we were not in love, not the kind of love that is made of forever.

"So, long story short, I became pregnant with you. I was eighteen years old with most of my last year of high school still in front of me. And now I am going to have a baby.

"I was so scared, April. And John was so frightened. He began to pressure me to get an abortion. I resisted for weeks. I spent all of my private moments crying during those weeks. Eventually, I just became so very desperate to simply get life back to normal, to what it had been before."

Both women fell silent, Margie from grief and April from shock. After a moment Margie continued with some difficulty. "I was beginning to show; so eventually I," Margie paused for a long time and then, through her tears managed to gasp, "I, ah, decided to go through with it."

Tears now streamed down April's face. Margie was forced to look away, out the large window, to continue. "John and I had the money between us, so I went to the clinic in Newton. I was the second appointment that day. John didn't think it was a good idea for us to be seen together there, so he was going to come back and pick me up."

" That was good of him," came April's sarcastic and tearful interjection.

"It was supposed to be a counseling session. As I sat in the waiting area, I was able to faintly hear the counselor's conversation with the young lady who went in ahead of me. The counselor echoed the line of the day about a woman's right to have control over her body. No mention was made of the baby.

"Most of the session was just figuring out how the young lady would pay. As I listened from outside the door, the manipulation just became so clear. This insanity wasn't about rights or personal freedom. That was all just a line. This was simply about money for the doctors and convenience for the girls, for me.

"All I could think of was," Margie dropped her head into her hands, obviously reliving the moment fully, "I've come here to kill my baby.

"Then I became enraged at their casual dismissal of that horrible fact. And just at that moment, you kicked me." An involuntary and awkward smile appeared on the face of both women.

"I guess you must have been wearing spurs, because when you did that, I bolted out of that waiting room right into the snow. The receptionist came running after me, and yelling at me to come back in, that they would take me wherever I wanted to go. But I did not stop.

"Right then, all I wanted to do was go. I just wanted to be somewhere where life was sane again. I yelled back at her that I would be back tomorrow, and I just started walking.

"I didn't know anyone in Newton. It was a day about like today, bitterly cold, and snowy, and blustery with low hanging gray clouds. I was just walking and crying. I came to a cemetery with a broken down iron gate. I remember it was anchored in a brick column that was beginning to lean badly. I don't know what made me even go in there. Maybe because I knew it was deserted, and I wouldn't have to face anyone.

"As I entered the cemetery, it was as if I were enveloped in a dream. Nothing seemed quite real, and yet the headstones impacted my minds with unusual importance. I was in the cemetery wandering around for a long time. It was the deepest emotional agony that I have ever felt.

"Eventually, somehow, John found me there as he was driving around looking for me. He took me home. I really don't remember much about the rest of the day. It just washed away in large waves of fear, and depression, and desperation.

"It was that night that I had the dream for the first time. I saw you in that glassy grave," Margie paused briefly, bit her lower lip, then continued with tears streaming. "And, even as I listened to you pleading with me in the dream, 'Mommy please', I remember being so painfully aware that you would not even have the dignity of a grave. The whole time, I knew that you would be ..." Margie broke into sobbing. She simply could not continue. The words were just too horrible.

"When I awoke the next morning, I knew God had helped me hear the pleading of my child in time. I told John to forget it. I was keeping the baby. He was angry and upset, but, at that point, I knew I was right. No way was I going to ignore the pleading voice of my precious child. I already loved you, and my dream allowed me to come to grips with that reality. And, with grandma and grandpa's help, we made it through, and most of the rest, you know.

"But what you've never known is that all these years, the thought of what I almost did has haunted me. But, it was so horrifying, I've just tried to look the other way, mentally. The problem was, the more I loved you, the more I hated myself.

"Then yesterday, when you told me about the answer to your application, somehow the whole issue was reawakened. It was like I just could no longer bear it. Then, last night, when the dream came again, I knew I had to get this out of me.

"I know my timing is lousy. But I had to tell you. I don't know what more to say to you except that I am so ashamed, and so very sorry." Margie looked away, out the window again, unable to confront what she might find in April's eyes.

After a moment April spoke softly, "Momma." Margie steeled herself, and turned to look into the eyes of her daughter. "All of my life, I have sensed that there was something that you needed, that I could never quite give you. I didn't know what it was until now. Now I know what it is." April paused for a second, and then continued softly, "Momma, I forgive you."

Margie looked stunned for a moment. She just sat there under the shock wave of those words. Then she burst into laughter and tears all at the same time. It was as if a fresh morning light had flooded some dark recess in her soul.

Both women rose from the booth and embraced. As they hugged each other tightly, in the deep love of mother and daughter, Margie whispered to April, "Thank you Sweetheart. Thank you. Thank you."

"Without releasing her embrace, April whispered, "No Mom, it is I who should thank you, for loving me through your fear." Margie buried her face into April's thick coat. April could only faintly hear her mother's prayer, " Thank you Lord for loving us both."

                                         The End

Where Sleep Our Children

A lament of the infamous decisions of the Supreme Court
of the United States to devalue the life of the unborn.

Where sleep our children in these troubled days
when their laughter we long to hear?
Where are those flashing, excited eyes
and their tiny contented sighs?

Where are those moments when we're first aware,
somehow through the peek a boos,
And the rhythm and rhyme of our giggling time,
that our love is returned in kind.

Where are the memories of growing up,
those times of joy and pain,
All cherished alike, because they're shared,
all counted by love as gain.

Where are our children? Oh no! Oh God!
They're victims of our own moral sleep.
For our children lie in the grave of convenience
unmourned in the graveyard of greed.

And still we slumber while our children die,
the victims of darkened minds
That speak in a way that - "it seems ok,"
So on we sleep as they cry.

Where sleep our children in these troubled days
when their laughter we long to hear?
Where are those flashing, excited eyes
and their tiny contented sighs?

Our children lie in the grave of convenience,
unmourned in the graveyard of greed,
Because we have not awakened ourselves,
To protect them as true Love decrees.