Hey all - I haven’t written in a long time. I’m trying to work on my writing skills through shorter pieces so I hope you all enjoy my new story:
Commencement - by Lauren
“I really appreciate all your help today, Emma,” my mother said. Sweat crowded her brow, between the immense June heat and running around trying to make certain that she didn’t forget anything. She glanced quickly at her watch and began to fret afresh. “I’ve got to get your sister out of her bath; have you seen her diaper bag?” she asked.
I paused in thought, sure that I had seen it, but not certain where or when. “I think it might still be in the car, unless you bright it in after last night,” I said.
“Could you be an angel and find it for me, so I can get your sister dressed?” she asked, looking a little exasperated, and I smiled empathetically.
“Of course,” I said, and set off in search of the diaper bag gone AWOL. I went out to the car. The rubber handle of the front door to the family Subaru Forester was heating up. Ten AM on this late June morning and already about 80 degrees. I hoped Mom would be dressing Amanda in something light and breathable.
“Lost something, Pumpkin?” came my father’s voice behind me, giving me such a start that my upper body jerked slightly.
“Jeez, you startled me!” I said, ducking out from under the doorframe and turning to face my father. “I’m all set, but Mom can’t find Mandy’s diaper bag.”
Dad took his fedora off and scratched his forehead, clearly deep in thought. “It isn’t on the dining room table? I could swear I brought it in last night after I went out to get milk,” he said.
“Oh, I didn’t look there; thanks!” I said, and tore off in that direction. Sure enough, atop the dining room table, sat Mandy’s pink and white diaper bag, complete with designs of Piglet and roses on it. I unzipped it and began taking inventory. There were only two diapers left, but baby wipes, pacifier, changing mat, and empty bottle were all present and accounted for. Knowing my mother’s obsession with having a fully stocked arsenal with her at all times, I headed up stairs to Mandy’s nursery. The door was cracked, but only a bit, so I knocked.
“Yes?” came my mother’s voice, tainted with the stress she was subjecting herself to.
“The bag is on the table but there’re only two diapers left,” I said through the crack in the door, “so I came up for a few more just in case.”
I heard my mother sigh loudly. She was, in all likelihood, looking frantically around Mandy’s nursery in search of her diapers. I heard the closet door slide open, and then closed. Another loud sigh. I had to stifle a giggle, as I rather believed the saying that “Murphy was an optimist.” I had to bite my lip when my mother appeared looking as if the next minor mishap would split her at the seams holding three fresh diapers aloft in her left hand, and a soiled on in her right.
“And throw this in the dining room garbage, will you please?” she asked, a completely frazzled look on her face.
I was down the stairs and three-quarters of the way to the dining room when I heard her call after me. I ran back and stared up the stairs at my disheveled mother, starting to look as if she’d come back from a play date with an electrical socket.
“Emma, darling, you’re not even dressed!” she said frantically. I laughed.
“I’ve got my clothes all laid out, Mom,” I said, trying to sound confident and soothing. I may have achieved something as my mother lapsed momentarily from her frenzy.
“Oh, okay then. Well, that’s a relief. And tell your father we need to pick up diapers on the way home. We’re out after the ones I just gave you and I’m never going to remember.”
“Okay, Mom, I will.” I said. “I’m going to pack Mandy’s bag, and get dressed. We have about twenty minutes.”
“TWENTY MINUTES!!!” she said, a little louder than she’d intended, and set about finishing Mandy’s preparations. “Aren’t you going to do anything with your hair?” she asked. From the bottom of the stairs, I could almost make out the vein throbbing in her neck, fit to burst.
"I’m just going to pull it back into a ponytail. Most of it will be unseen under my cap, so I see no reason to fuss. It’s only a couple of hours and a few pictures. My hair doesn’t need to stand out.
“Oh,” my mother said, as if it was the most sensible thing she’d ever heard and as if she was astounded she didn’t think of it sooner.
In the kitchen, I found my father, poring over Mandy’s diaper bag as if it were a jigsaw puzzle he could have sworn he had all the pieces to.
“Perfect!” he said, looking up and eyeing the fresh diapers in my left hand. He took them from me and squeezed them in amidst the rest of the contents of the Arsenal. “And, that reminds me as well,” he pointed to the soiled diaper in my right hand as I tossed it into the garbage can. “We should pack a few of these,” he said, holding up gallon-sized Glad-lock bags, “just in case.”
“Good thinking!” I said.
"That’s why they pay me the big bucks. He smirked; the minute he caught my eye I grinned my patented Cheshire Cat grin, and headed to finish getting dressed.
Hair pulled back, scrunchie more or less firmly in place, I put my lavender blouse to match my blue sunflower-speckled skirt, tossing the t-shirt I’d been wearing around the house in the laundry. I slung my purse over my shoulder, and my cap and gown over my arm.
I returned to find my family assembled, the vein in my mother’s neck no longer throbbing, but visibly she was still a nervous wreck. My father smiled as if he was the only one who truly got the joke, and again I was forced to bite my lip to stop the onslaught of laughter that would doubtlessly ensue. And, I can never forget, my reflection, only wearing a pink pinafore with gorgeous white Mary Jane shoes, a haircut to give Shirley Temple a run for her money, sucking gently on her Winnie the Pooh pacifier and, although you wouldn’t know by looking, a thick, white, disposable diaper.
My mother, ever the upholder of image, took the pacifier from Mandy’s mouth, and deposited in her purse.
“You can have it back later, Mandy,” she said, “after graduation.” Mandy pouted, but said nothing.
“Let her have it back at least until we get there; it’s not doing any one any harm and it’ll stop her from sucking her thumb,” I said. My father, I noticed, chose not to get involved by becoming very interested in the knot in his left shoe.
My mother looked from my sister to me and back, torn between her fear of Mandy being seen sucking a pacifier at her age and the thought of the damage sucking her thumb would do to her teeth. Added to all else she’d stressed about this morning, I thought she’d explode, but, in the end, she relented, and Mandy smiled her very own Cheshire Cat grin around her pacifier once more.
“Very good thinking, Emma,” My mother said, seemingly relieved from the pressure of having to make a decision and/or the embarrassment of taking back something she’d done.
“Why thank you,” I said cheekily. “That’s why they pay me the big bucks.” It was my father’s turn to stifle a laugh.
“Emma,” my mother said, suddenly stern.
“It was a joke!” I replied, defensively.
“Sometimes,” she sighed, “I wish you were more like your sister.”
“I am very like my sister,” I retorted, hardly able to contain my laughter, “We’re identical twins!”
“I’ll go start the car then, shall I?” my father asked.
“Yes,” I answered firmly. Cap and gown in one hand, Mandy’s diaper bag over the opposite shoulder, I followed my father’s lead with my “baby” sister Mandy right behind me.
“Oh, I would probably tell you, Dad,” Mandy said, after popping her pacifier out of her mouth and fastening her seatbelt, “my last few diapers are in that bag, so we should probably pick up some more.”
“Thanks for telling me, Mandy,” my father said. “Why your mother insists on constantly treating you like an infant all the time I’ll never understand. Anything else we need while we’re out?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I think Mom could use a good, stiff drink.”
Unable to contain it any longer, the three of us burst out laughing. I’d just barely caught my breath when the front passenger side door opened and in climbed my mother.
“What’s so funny?” she asked as she seated herself and fastened her seat belt.
The only one capable of stifling laughter enough to reply, I said, “Mandy just told us a really funny joke.”
My mother flipped up the mirror on the inside of the visor to find Mandy, eyes twinkling, grinning her patent-pending Cheshire Cat grin, around her pacifier.
“Honestly, Mandy,” my mother said, clinging to shreds of borrowed temporary sanity, "I wish you could be more like your sister.
“I am like my sister,” she retorted, popping her pacifier out of her mouth. “We’re twins.”