“An anonymous Mother’s Day gift. Think about that for a moment.”
The first card arrived in early June. The envelope was pink, with flowers drawn on in childish crayon. It stood out from the business-size white bills. It had no stamp or postal markings, though the address was written in neat print, surprisingly adult, in pen.
Though it was addressed to her, Beth opened the envelope hesitantly, careful not to rip the flap. Surely it was meant for an elementary child’s parent, and Beth was all alone. Probably just an incorrect address; she’d find out who it was from and deliver it. She still knew all the neighborhood children, so it would be easy to return it to the proper house.
The card showed a bouquet of flowers in yellow, pink, and lavender, dusted softly with glitter. The inside was a soft pink, with the words “Happy Mother’s Day!” in a cheery script.
There was no signature, but there was a child’s drawing of a sun in bright yellow crayon in the upper-left corner.
Beth sighed. How she wished for a card like that; but of course, it couldn’t be hers.
Fighting off the quiver in her lip, Beth laid the card on her kitchen countertop, telling herself to ask the neighborhood kids if it belonged to one of them. Besides, it would be good to see them again. They hardly came by for lemonade anymore.
On July 7 Beth returned from her aunt’s beach house to find a page from a spelling tablet tucked between the storm door and the doorframe. Beth put down her suitcase for a moment to retrieve the paper, expecting it to be another charity plea from the local church.
It was a drawing of fireworks, over a stick figure family enjoying a picnic on a red-and-white checkered blanket. It was drawn in marker, and Beth could see where the green ink of the fluffy trees had smudged from the artist’s left-handed coloring.
Written in careful rows on the lined bottom-half of the page was “Hapy FoRth!”
Beth stared at the drawing for a long moment. The stick figure family was three smiling figures: a boy, a man in a red shirt, and a woman with brown hair in a ponytail. It reminded her of that lovely summer years ago, back before Jerry had left. Before…
She shook her head. None of the neighborhood children had claimed the wayward Mother’s Day card, but maybe sweet little Lisa from down the street had given out Fourth of July pictures to her next-door neighbor. Beth resolved to go over and thank the little girl as soon as she unpacked her bags.
A loose pile of wild flowers—red, and pale yellow–and a bluebell from someone’s yard rested on Beth’s car windshield in August, wilted in the heat. Beth smiled at the little love-gift, and set the dying flowers in the grass next to the driveway so that the owner could reclaim them later.
She was surprised to still see them there when she got home from work, but then, children do forget things.
It was just barely October when Beth found the chocolate bar. It had been set on her front porch sometime during the day, while she was at the office, and was mushy from the heat. There was a scratch-and-sniff sticker of a slice of pizza on it.
When she flipped the candy over, Beth found the other sticker: a jolly Santa laughing and clutching his belly. Written next to the “TO:” was “Mommy” in a child’s scrawl.
Beth threw the chocolate in the trash and called her ex-husband. “This has got to stop!” she screamed. “Why are you torturing me?! Do you think this is some kind of joke?”
He denied everything. Beth clicked the phone off, threw it against the couch, and sobbed.
Beth was putting on lipstick, on the way out to a low-key birthday celebration with a few friends, when the doorbell rang. She pursed her lips to set the stain and hurried to the door.
She had expected it to be Dorothy, there to pick her up, but standing behind the glass of the storm door was a woman in a fitted business suit whom Beth did not know.
“Can I help you?” Beth asked.
The woman’s eyes went wide and she broke into a delirious smile. “Mommy!” she said in a childish voice. The woman extended her arms as if to hug Beth.
Beth backed away. “I’m sorry, I think you are confused.” She moved to close the door.
“Mommy, aren’t you happy to see me? Haven’t you missed me?” The woman sounded young, and confused.
Beth stared at her with alarm. The woman said, “Mommy, it’s me, Jamie.” The woman tugged at her blouse absently. “Oh, I forgot; this is Susan. She’s helping me talk to you today. Mommy, I have missed you so much. Didn’t you get my letters? And the candy? Isn’t chocolate the bestest?”
Beth backed away, shaking her head. “No no no, go away. Jamie’s dead. My son is dead, he died 3 years ago and you are a very cruel person. Why would you do this? I lost my son. You’re a horrible person, and I’m calling the police.” Beth was closing the door, but the woman with Jamie’s voice stepped forward and pressed her palm to the glass door.
“Mommy, I’m sorry I’ve upset you. I didn’t mean to make you sad. It’s just that I missed you so much,” Jamie said.
Beth’s eyes filled with tears. “Jamie? Baby, is that you?”
“It’s me mommy,” Jamie said. “If you don’t want me to come back anymore, I won’t. I don’t want to make you sad. But I missed you and wanted to tell you I love you. I am with you every day, mommy.”
“Jamie,” Beth said. She ran out and hugged the woman tightly, and Beth could almost imagine she was holding her son. “Jamie I love you, too. I didn’t know. I didn’t know you could come back. I’m so sorry, baby. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, mommy,” Jaime said. The woman pulled back slightly. “Mommy, it’s time for me to go, okay? Susan has to go home now. But I’ll keep sending you letters sometimes, if you say I can.”
“Yes, baby,” Beth said, clutching the smaller woman’s shoulder. “I’ll always love you, Jamie.”
“I love you, too, mommy,” Jamie said. The woman stepped back, brushed down her blouse, now wet with tears, and breathed out slowly. Her breath left a fine white mist that hung in the air.