Mother’s Day

Anna McDougall

Neither of us smiles; we both concentrate on the task. A beginner, I worry I will fail the simplest assignment. To protect the pink cotton of her clothes from the semi-solid lumps I take small scoops. Setting the spoon in the white dish, I raise a tissue to clean her cheek. Mary swipes with hands barely coordinated, but I am quick, and she misses.

I have longed for this, and now that Mary is before me, I am awed by the feelings she stirs. We are blessed to have this Mother’s Day together, our first.

I must enjoy each moment fully; before long it will be our history. Will I be able to recall my early impressions in years to come? I study her features. Does Mary favor me? Her hair is light and soft; mine is brown and wiry, but her eyes—yes—her eye color is the same.

I increase the pace, pleased as my expertise builds. Balancing sloppy beige food on the tiny utensil, I deliver it to her waiting mouth. Mary receives this nourishment without as much as a glance at the contents of the bowl. Mutual trust is at the root of motherhood. We must trust those who care for us, but they must also trust themselves. She separates her pale lips again and holds my face in her eyes. We continue the spoon-mouth-bowl rhythm smoothly; she seems hungry, but cannot tell me with words, of course. Both of us have questions in our eyes.

Mary’s face convolutes and deepens in color. She no longer resembles the image of serenity I was dancing with just a moment ago. What happened? My heart begins to pound as I replay my last move. Have I hurt her? Suddenly, her voice erupts into a howl. The last bit of supper slips over her quivering, lower lip. My fingers stiffen around the spoon and I look around the room, stunned.

A nurse rushes over and pats the bony shoulder of the old woman across from me. Calmly, she speaks to me with a smile. “I’ll take her to the washroom then we’ll join you in her room.”

I wave to the woman I was just getting to know, relieved from duty by someone who knows better.


Anna writes fiction and creative non fiction from her home in Calgary, Canada. Her work can also be found at Verb Sap, Salome Magazine and at Flash Fiction. E-mail: mcdougall[at]

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