The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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Cross Purposes by Janine Harrison

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“Where are we going?”  Her every morning question.

    “Miss Patty’s house today.”

    “But I don’t want to go there!  I want to stay home. Hmmp.”

    “Put on your socks—please!”

     “I can’t do it.  I’m little.”

     She puts her socks on fast enough while playing dress up.

     “Give me a foot.”

     Out juts a petite, near-rectangular block.  I nab it with pink cotton and then begin pulling up the flowered zipper-flipper of her bubble-gum purple jacket.

     She proclaims, “Iiiii’m thir-sty.  I want some juice.”

     Opening, slamming kitchen doors, I produce a sippy cup—slam it on a nearby table:  “Here.”

     Putting on my coat, “Vamanos!  Let’s go!”

     Grabbing her free hand into mine, I yank her down stairs.  She plays with the light switch at the bottom while I open the door.

     Is today garbage day?  No tomorrow.  Purse, briefcase.  I have to remember to call about her 4th year checkup.  Heat turned down?  After I drop her off, get stamps, mail bills.

     “What did you say, sweetie?”

     “Mommy, I want my blue teddy.”

     “But we’re on our way out the door.”

     “But I want it.”

      The switch on her Vive! brown orbs begins to dim, bottom lip tremors loom.

     Grade papers, grade exams.  Fill out Form 25.  E-mail about IDIS course. Is the schedule for fall up yet?  Check that.  Plan tomorrow’s class.  Books for fall—when do I have to make that decision? E-mail Liz.

     “Why won’t you EVER let me leave!” I strike, a whirling-dervish through house.

     “I just want to go to work!  Is that too much to ask?”  A plea.  To her, to a higher power—preferably one without karma.

     Bear retrieved, tossed at diminutive owner, “Go straight to the car!”  I order as I near-fling us out the door.

     Peer mentor time cards—sign first thing—check mailbox.  How am I going to manage when the third job starts? Another prep, more students, preschool pick up…

     “I’m sorry, mommy.”

     She heads toward snow, rocks, purple Turtle sand box, [insert diversion here].

     Doors unlocked, I pick her up, plop her into her booster seat.

     “I SAID ‘go straight to the car’!”

     Locking the belt, I drive-by kiss her porcelain forehead, close her door a little too hard–soon reverse, returning to my memorized morning maze, start to finish.

     “Mommy, what’s a brain?  Can we have a picnic in the living room?  Look:  the moon is still in the sky.”

     No, I’m sorry.

     Then, voice a fine, thin strand:  “Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any…”

     One and a half years until Kindergarten, I sigh.  Breathe.  One and a half years until Kindergarten.  Blue eyes moisten.


Janine R. Harrison, M.A., M.F.A., teaches creative writing at Purdue University Calumet, where she also serves as faculty advisor of First Friday Wordsmiths student organization.  She is vice-president of the Indiana Writers’ Consortium, a not-for-profit group designed to unite, network, inspire and support Indiana’s creative writing community.  A published nonfictionist and poet, she rewrote and edited Don’t Let the Accent Fool You, memoir of Arthur Lukowski, Oil Express founder.  She has also been a featured writer at Chicago’s Guild Complex.  Currently, she’s working on her memoir, Queen of Lilac Time.  Most importantly, Janine is proud mommy to daughter, Jianna, age 4, who loves to read and write, and is eerily like her.

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