Memoir Writing Contest: Revisiting Motherhood by Anne Schroeder

by Matilda Butler on October 20, 2011

 catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #126 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Women’s Memoirs Announces Memoir Writing Contest Winner

Today’s memoir contest winner from our May Memoir Writing Contest is Anne Shroeder. She receives an Honorable Mention – in our Memoir Writing Contest — MOTHER’S DAY category. Next week we publish the first honorable mention in our MOTHERS AND MOTHERING category.

Congratulations Anne on your memoir vignette. We certainly like the way you end the story — with a recipe for the breakfast dish you served that day.

  Revisiting  Motherhood

  By Anne Schroeder

Back in “the day,” Mother’s Day was the event. Better than birthdays, it was the day of reckoning, the payday for all my selfless dedication. I got to sit in the Queen’s chair and rake in the accolades. I got to watch my three children and think that I had the best and most wonderful family any mother could have. Mother’s Day was all about me.

Grandma Anne -- Grandmothering is touch, but someone's got to do it.

Grandma Anne -- Grandmothering is touch, but someone's got to do it.

Today, not so much. Today, every single day is mother’s day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe it’s because the charge is over, the race is done. I’m a grandmother now and I get to rest on my laurels and spoil the grandchildren. Someone else sits in the Queen’s chair. Long Live the Queen.

But there was one Mother’s Day..

I’ll start at the beginning.

They say that the status of the child in the birth order is everything, and I have to agree. My first, Susie, was the princess, the daughter my mother-in-law never had, the recipient of flouncy Easter dresses and velvet Christmas dresses that cost an entire day’s wage.

Kathryn (Kat), was spunky right out of the chute. She likes to share about a day when I walked four miles to school to pick her up from kindergarten and we walked  home. I remember that day, too. Her dad had taken the car. He normally rode his BMW motorcycle to work, but on this day he must have worn a suit, or needed to pick up a spare tire-or something. I felt so bad I decided to make an adventure out of it.

The day was picture-perfect for walking, a sunny day in May. On our way home we stopped in a gift shop and bought a red balloon and strawberry ice cream cones. We picked wildflowers. We petted a cat. We counted cracks in the sidewalk. For all those miles it was Kat and me against the world.

But Christian’s story is a bit more complicated.

I was thirty-six and in the middle of the mother of all prideful battles with my husband. We were hardly even speaking. I was tired of our life. Tired of him. Tired of him being tired of me. But an ironic thing happened.

My brother phoned me in the middle of the night to tell me that my father had collapsed and the ambulance was taking him to the hospital. Nothing made sense-he was only fifty-nine and in perfect physical shape. He and my husband, Steve, had cut firewood a few days earlier.

Steve drove me to the hospital where my sister, my bother, and my mother were waiting in the chapel for the doctor to tell us what we already knew.

After they pronounced my father’s death, the doctors allowed us to spend quiet minutes saying our farewells and reconciling ourselves to the loss. When there was nothing left to do but wait for morning, my husband drove me home.

We made love that night for the first time in a long while.

My body told me the next day that I was pregnant, but in those days before home pregnancy tests, two months needed to pass before a doctor could give me conclusive results. I assured myself that a lot could happen in two months. When I found myself overdue I started railing at God. Clearly this was His reminder that Steve and I still had unfinished business together.

When I realized I would need the services of an OB/GYN, I searched the yellow pages for a name I could recognize. It had been ten years since I’d carried my second daughter. The doctor who had delivered her had retired, and the one who delivered my first child had died of old age. I called a few friends, but they hadn’t used a baby doctor in ten years either.

With shaky hands I flipped the phone book pages. The only name I recognized was Dr. Lollipop’s (not his real name.) He had been on call the weekend Kat was born. I had hated his movie-star good looks and his frat-boy arrogance, and the fact that he had showed up the morning after her birth with his boots reeking of horse manure from an early morning ride.

But in that moment, given my choices, I opted for familiarity. I dialed his number and made an appointment for him to tell me what I already knew. Ironically, it was first week of May.

The first thing I noticed was that Dr. Lollipop’s reception area reeked with spiritual bleakness. I don’t know what was more obvious, the dead potted plant in the corner or a tension I couldn’t explain burning off the walls. I gave my name to a receptionist who didn’t smile back, and I took a seat in the waiting room along with two other women.

The tiny, gnarled Hispanic woman huddled in the corner was trying to make herself disappear into the sofa cushions. She looked worn-out, and certainly too old to conceive. It was her eyes that drew me; she stared straight ahead with vacant despair. Strange, I thought. Across from me a fresh-faced teenybopper flipped through a magazine without looking up.

I offered the obligatory waiting room smile, but neither of them reciprocated.

The receptionist caught me looking at her and quickly averted her eyes, shuffled her papers and disappeared from view.  A conspiracy of bleakness in this place, I thought. Finally I picked up a magazine.

When the Hispanic woman heard her name called, she rose from her seat and followed the nurse down the hallway while I tried to imagine how her body could supply its own needs, let alone a baby’s. Fifteen minutes later I shifted my magazine and watched the teenager rise and follow the nurse down the same hall.

In another fifteen minutes it was my turn. In the lavatory I filled my cup and handed it to the nurse. I was surprised when she didn’t ask me to disrobe. Instead, she left me standing in the middle of an examining room, feeling awkward and unwanted-a guest who hadn’t been offered a seat.

When the doctor entered, I watched him hesitate with a brief, dramatic beat leftover from a time when his drop-dead good looks needed a moment to process. But life had defeated him. He was no longer handsome-didn’t even try to be charming. Apathy clung to his white lab coat beneath his flaccid double chin. His first words were, “Test results are positive.”

“I am?”

He nodded and studied my reaction. The conversation reminded me of one I’d had sixteen years earlier, on a pay phone in a college cafeteria. Above the laughter and chatter of college students, a nurse had delivered the same words, “Test results are positive.”  I had listened with the dawning realization that each of the students in the room had a future while the nurse had just eliminated mine with four words. But no nurse was present today. Only me. And the man with the stethoscope.

His next words were flat and cautious. He watched my eyes without blinking while he gauged my reaction. “Do you want to terminate?”

Terminate. It took a second. Then I remembered the bleak eyes of the old Mexican woman in the waiting room who was, in her own mind, trading eternal damnation for necessary goods and services. I thought of the woman-child teeny-bopper hiding her fear behind a magazine. Where was her mother? Suddenly I understood the tension I had felt from the walls of the waiting room. Dr. Lollipop had become an abortion doctor in the ten years since I had last seen him.

I felt defiled.

I turned and raced from the room, out into the parking lot to my car. I pulled the door open, sat down and waited for my heart to still. At that moment I knew I wanted this baby. It was time to pull out the brave smile.

On Sunday I invited the grandmothers for Mother’s Day brunch. I served my quintessential Make-Ahead Eggs and we exchanged our cards and flowers. At one point I remember sitting in the sunshine, watching my husband. He turned and winked, and I saw how happy and relieved he looked that things were good again. I smiled back and the image took root in my brain, a souvenir of the battle we’d just won.

Yes, it was a very good day.

This is what love looks like after 43 years -- Anne and husband, Steve

This is what love looks like after 43 years -- Anne and husband, Steve

memoir, memoir writing, memoir contest winner, memoir writing contestMake Ahead Eggs

(Serves 8-10)

12 Eggs, beaten

2 Cups half & half or evaporated milk

½ Tsp each dried mustard, salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. diced green chilies

¼ Onion, minced or 1Tbsp. dried onion

2 Cups grated cheese

6 Grated potatoes, squeezed dry

Lay grated potatoes in bottom of greased 9×13 baking dish. Combine all other ingredients and pour on top. Cover and let set overnight. Bake uncovered, 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Let set for a few minutes before serving.

memoir, memoir writing, memoir contest, memoir writing contest, memoir contest winner

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

kathleen hewitt October 20, 2011 at

Hi Anne,
I’m having trouble getting my mind out of that waiting room, the lifeless sadness. What a jolt back into the world of living, loving and trying, something you do so well. Something you write about so well, too.
Many blessings to you and all of your children….I love the Kat walk.
Kathleen

Grace October 20, 2011 at

Hooray! Great story!

Sherrey October 22, 2011 at

Poignant and rich with love! What a difference a decade makes in us and others. Thanks for sharing your story.

Anne Schroeder October 24, 2011 at

Thanks Kathleen, Grace and Sherrey. I’m glad you appreciate how difficult it is to bare one’s soul in order to write the universal journey of “us”. I want readers to shed a tear for themselves, their lost loves or rescued loves. This essay is an excerpt from my memoir, ORDINARY APHRODITE. Check it out at my blog–anneschroederauthor.blogspot.com

Oh, and about the recipe. Hash brown the potatoes first.

Priscilla A. Maine October 29, 2011 at

Talk about opening one’s soul. Anne, you put your heart and soul into that piece, why it didn’t take first I have no idea. But it certainly touched me. Thank you for sharing it with us. I had a feeling as I read it that it was meant for someone in particular. Who knows what person out there needs that uplifting, heart warming story to get her through a rough decision, maybe feeling she’s alone and the only one to ever face such a life altering move. If so, you’ve given her proof it isn’t so and that wonderful things lay ahead if she will listen to her heart.

Arletta Dawdy October 30, 2011 at

Hello Anne,
Your essay is touching and shows a bravery and commitment that is pure-Anne. Good for you for high-tailing it out of that office. What a shock it had to have been to find out what his practice now was…clearly not your cup of tea. I wouldn’t venture a guess for the teen-bopper or older woman as to their circumstances and needs. For you, only one way was the way to go and you and Steve did it together. Perhaps that is what the other two lacked…no one to stand by them.

Heidi M. Thomas October 30, 2011 at

Lovely, sweet, poignant story, Anne. Definitely an award-winner!

Eunice Boeve October 30, 2011 at

Great story! I’d sure like to see first place. It had to have been awesome to have beat out your story. Loved it! Loved the truth that life happens while your planning something else. Also love the fact that you and Steve hung in there and love wasn’t gone at all, just for the moment hidden from your sight. I repeat. Excellent story.

Penny November 13, 2011 at

What a wonderful story. I love the photo at the end, like icing on the cake. Glad you wrote this!

Lori Orser November 17, 2011 at

Anne, this is beautiful. There are tears in my eyes, as I’m sure there were in other women’s, even if they didn’t say so. At this point in my life, I sometimes feel regret that I am not a mother, will never be a grandmother — just a great-aunt. I’m glad that you chose a baby, and that it re-cemented your marriage. What a gift of grace!

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