The tempo of the music bursting from the speakers increased and so Dermia picked up her pace to match. The hair on the nape of her neck had already become drenched through her efforts. She felt proud of herself because she knew that her new exorcise routine was going to pay off and hopefully she will look great in the dress she picked out for her sister’s wedding. It hadn’t been easy trying to find the right dress. Every one she had tried on revealed some unwanted bulge. In the end she decided on a dress that concealed her flabby arms even though it didn’t perfectly hide her round tummy. Dermia chose it because she felt it was easier to lose a bit of fat more easily from her middle than her arms. She only needed to lose ten pounds and the dress would be fine. It was really important to look her best on the day, after all she was the sister of the bride and part of the wedding party. The wedding was going to be a large affair and there was the chance that she may meet someone rather interesting. It didn’t feel fair that her sister would soon be married to her childhood sweetheart while she being older was a single mom who had had her heart broken. As if on cue, a small voice interrupted her thoughts from the doorway.
“Mummy, is it breakfast time yet?” asked Grace, Dermia’s four year old daughter. “My tummy is rumbling.”
“It’s almost breakfast time,” Dermia panted. “I just need to finish working out to this cd and then I will make you some breakfast.”
When the CD was finally finished, Dermia put it back in its case. She was about to run into the bathroom to have her shower when Grace popped in front of her with a hopeful grin. Her blond hair was still dishevelled from her night’s sleep and her mother suddenly noticed that her pyjamas were in need of a wash. Grace’s large, bright eyes looked up at her mother’s.
“Can I have Cheerios with raisins for breakfast?”
“Um…Grace, can it wait till I have my…”
“Mummy is just going to have her shower first. I will be very quick.”
Dermia ran into the bathroom and quickly stepped into the shower. She spotted the new shower gel she had bought and suddenly slowed down in order to inhale the fragrance of patchouli and jasmine. It had been a bit expensive but it was worth every penny. She felt a twinge of guilt for dipping into the money from her child support which she received from Grace’s father but then brushed it out of her mind by telling herself she often uses her own hard earned money for things Grace needed. After finishing her shower and drying off. She went upstairs to her bedroom and carefully chose her clothes for the day. Today she was taking Grace to her first day of preschool. She chose clothes which she hoped would make her look like a successful business woman to the other mothers even though she actually worked nights as a seamstress in a clothing factory.
Fully dressed and with carefully applied make-up, she went downstairs and walked into the kitchen to find Grace happily eating a bowl of cheerios without milk.
“Grace! What are you doing? You were supposed to wait for mummy to get you breakfast.”
“You werm bishy so I wamted to hep by getting it myshelf,” said Grace with her mouth full of Cheerios.
Grace grinned up at her mother. One solitary Cheerio was hanging precariously in front of her mouth making it look like an oddly shaped and enlarged tooth. Dermia smiled back and went over to the refrigerator to get the jug of milk out.
“I’m sorry I made you wait so long for your breakfast.”
“That’s okay Mummy. You had to get ready for my first day of school. You’re pretty mummy. I love you.”
“You’re right Grace. It’s an important day today and you and I have to both look pretty. So hurry up and finish your breakfast so we can get you dressed.”
Grace arrived with her mother at Little Acorns preschool looking adorable with her OshKosh B’gosh polo dress and denim jacket and her hair put up in one wavy ponytail with a Frozen hair ribbon. Dermia had a quick word with Grace’s teacher to ensure Miss Price was aware of how exceptional Grace was and how devoted a mother Dermia herself was. She then dashed off to her ‘business meeting’ aka the nail salon to get her infills.
Grace was enjoying her day at preschool. Miss Price handed out paper and crayons and asked the children to draw a picture of someone they love. Grace worked hard and thoughtfully on her picture. When she showed it to Miss Price, her teacher smiled quizzically but praised her effort.
Dermia was happy with the results of her new manicure and was about to do some grocery shopping when she ran into a friend of hers. They decided to have lunch at a café. The café was closed however so they went to a small restaurant across the street. As they were both on diets, they decided to each have the soup of the day, a bowl of marinated olives and a glass of wine each. What they ended up having was the soup of the day with crusty bread and butter, a bowl of olives and three large glasses of wine each.
Suddenly, Dermia realized she had five minutes to get to Little Acorns and pick up Grace but it would take fifteen minutes for her to walk there. She quickly said goodbye to her friend and toddled off as fast as she could to Little Acorns. On the way there she passed some construction workers who were working on a new build. One of the workers did a wolf whistle and Dermia deliberately tried to walk more provocatively. Because of this (and because of the wine she had), she ended up losing her balance slightly and scraped her arm on a fence with a jagged splinter of wood sticking out tearing the sleeve of her designer lookalike blouse.
When she arrived at the school, Grace was sitting on a bench outside chatting away with Miss Price and holding her drawing carefully in front of her. She saw her mother arriving and stood up with a huge grin and ran to her.
“Hi Grashe, sorry Um late,” her still tipsy mother said.
“That’s okay Mummy, you’re here now!”
Miss Price scowled slightly at Dermia.
“Will you be driving Grace home?” she asked.
“Oh no, weesh only lif around the corner,” answered Dermia.
“Would you like to come into the classroom so we could discuss Grace’s first day?” Miss Price was no fool and she wanted to ascertain whether it was safe to send Grace home with her mother in the condition she was in. Dermia agreed to come in. Although she was a bit tipsy she was aware enough to realize what Miss Price had realized.
They walked into the classroom and sat at the small desks.
“So tell me about your first day at preschool!” Derma said smiling at Grace and trying to appear the doting mother once more.
“I made this for you Mummy!”
“What is it?”
“It’s a picture of someone I love very very much!”
Dermia studied the picture. It was a picture of a rather gangly figure with several arms and legs.
“Who is it?” asked Dermia confused.
“It’s you Mummy!”
“Why do I have so many arms and legs? People only have two arms and two legs each Grace.”
“Sometimes when you exercise and dance you move so fast it looks like you have lots of arms and legs. Also sometimes you are so busy you can’t help me or hug me. You have sooo much you are always doing. But see that red thing there in the middle? That’s your heart because I know you still love me even though you are very busy a lot.”
Dermia’s eyes welled up with tears. “Oh Grace, I am sorry I am so busy sometimes. Does it make you sad?”
“We-e-ll, a bit,” Grace said tentatively. “But it’s okay mummy because you are very very pretty and you are sometimes sad because there’s no daddy and I love you…THIS much!”
Grace held out her arms wide. Dermia hugged her daughter.
“I do apologise Miss Price for being late picking up Grace. I can assure you, I won’t let that happened again.”
Miss Price smiled and could see that Grace’s mother was relatively sober and it would be safe to let Grace walk around the corner with her mother.
“I understand that sometimes business meetings can run late,” Miss Price responded tactfully. “Please do try to not allow that to happen too often as it is hard on both children and staff alike.”
Dermia took Grace’s hand and walked slowly and remorsefully home. She realized that she had been taking Grace for granted. She realized that Grace is a beautiful and loving child who loves her unconditionally and that she was lucky to have her. Dermia vowed to actively love and care for her child more and to never be too busy to spend time with her and to hug her.
Who is Grace? Grace is the One who gives because of Love alone. Grace doesn’t say I am for you because you earned my time, my gifts or my love. Instead Grace says, ‘Here is my heart because in spite of what you put out, I see you. Here are my hands ready to serve you and to help you because in spite of how little you give me, I value you. Here are my arms wanting to embrace you even though so many others deem you unworthy. I know you and you are not unworthy to me. I am here for you even though you don’t yet know how to love fully and you don’t always see me.’
Photo by Marilylle Soveran