If You Had Stayed

By Heaven Angleberger

I don’t have any memory of you. You are the one person who has been shut completely out of my life. You left because you couldn’t take care of me. You didn’t have the money or the time or the energy to handle being a mother. Dad says that keeping me away from you is better for my sake. That I am better off without you because where I am now, I can be provided with all the things needed to succeed in life. As I have grown older, I have developed an understanding of what really happened. I think a lot about the life you are living.

I have always wondered many things about you. What you look like. If you are short or tall. Whether you have blonde or brunette hair. Why you didn’t stay. I wonder about who you are and what kind of life you are leading without me. Do you think about me? Do you think about the way you betrayed my trust when you left me behind, how you put all the responsibility on Dad’s shoulders?

I always thought that it was my fault that you left. That I had done something that made you think your daughter wasn’t good enough. That I had not been the daughter you dreamed of every night. Would you have stayed if I looked differently or had been more like you in some extraordinary way?  

Dad and I have the same smile. There is something lopsided about it that can warm an entire room. I wonder if you have the same lopsided, warm grin. We don’t listen to the same music– he listens to heavy metal while I listen to pop, sometimes country. Do we have this connection? I wonder sometimes what little things that I didn’t inherit from Dad, I inherited from you.

If you could only see me now. You would see an intelligent fourteen-year-old who is the goalie for her soccer team. I dive and jump to block kicks and make my team the best in the district. I am a straight A student that has always been at the top of my classes. I stay focused on my work and set an example for my fellow classmates. I write days on end and get carried away into the world of my words. I set the goal of getting into Barbara Ingram, the ninth-rated school in Maryland. After working my butt off for a month, I received notice that I had been accepted in. I am daring for the time I cut off fifteen inches of my hair to show my inner self. I wonder if I am anything like you.

But I am more like my new mom than anyone else.

She is daring for going back to college to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. She completed her many pages of homework each night while caring for four children. She is intelligent and has completed each year of college passing with an A or higher. She is everything that I have dreamt a mother could be. We go back-to-school shopping at Kohl’s, making sure that I start the year with the latest brands. She browses the store for hours searching for the exact style of jeans that I want, never stopping to complain about how long it is taking. When I am sick, we go to Chipotle to catch up on the gossip. I always order the burrito with rice, which instantly makes me feel better.  She makes sure my homework is completed and ready to turn in the next day. If it isn’t, we sit down together to make sure I have a full comprehension of the assignment. Sometimes she will sit down with me, on my bed, to talk about the important lessons of life. She doesn’t care that I am not “her own.”  She loves me as much as any mother would love her child.  That’s more than you ever did.

I guess I will never understand the reason why you left. But I am okay with that. Now that you are gone, I finally know what it looks and feels like to be a part of a family. My new mother takes your place as if you had never been there at all.

 

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