Cl-clack cl-clack cl-clack cl-clack
Emily knew that sound anywhere. She had been waiting since Ms. Cannaday released her fourth grade class to go home for the day. Emily was about as patient as any kid who just turned double digits would be. After eleven calls from the secretary’s telephone and five hours reading Magic Treehouse in the office, Mom was here. Once Emily heard the familiar sound of her suit-clad attorney mom’s high-heeled shoes in the linoleum hallway, there was no stopping her.
She clung like a koala to her rescuer as Mom dragged her leg and her daughter into the office to thank Mrs. Broadstreet for watching Emily.
“How’s he doing?” Mrs. Broadstreet knew everything going on at school and was good about caring for the families that stepped in her office. She thought of typing newsletters and organizing meetings as the side job to her more important occupation.
“He’s doing better now. He says he feels better. They just want to keep monitoring him since they don’t know exactly what’s wrong. The color’s back in his face, which is more than I could ask for.”
“Oh, that is so good to hear. Well, let me tell ya, not a minute goes by when I’m not thinking of you and Bill. We’re all here for you.”
“I appreciate that, I appreciate that,” Mom said nodding.
“Is he still at the same place?”
“He’s as of today at Zale Lipshy. I was just up there, that’s where we’ve been hoping for this whole time. And I think I’m about to head up there with her.”
“Good, good. All right, well y’all take care. Let us know if you need anything.”
As she grabbed her lunchbox, Mom addressed the tugging on her dry-cleaner-smelling skirt: “Want to go visit Daddy?”
“It’s a high ball, going back toward the left-field fence…back, BACK…”
Tom Grieve, the color commentator for the Texas Rangers, was the only voice in the SAAB 9-5 as it sped East down I-20 the same familiar way. His voice was something trustworthy, one that could always be counted on. Tom would describe pitchers, give stats, and raise his voice in seemingly genuine excitement about yet another “base hit for Rafael Palmeiro” each of the 162 games every season. These days Emily would pretend to be asleep in the passenger seat.
As a toddler, her playground was underneath the bleachers at Wade’s games. She had always loved baseball. Emily played first base on The Ladybugs because she was the only girl not afraid of the ball. Her parents told stories of YMCA homeruns and nosebleed seats at Rangers games and Mark McLemore autographs she stole from her brother. Baseball was the family pastime.
But now that she was thirteen, a game-winning homerun couldn’t even excite Emily, pressing herself against the passenger door as Tom declared the ball “history.” She had pulled a Rolling Stones trucker hat down over her face and black-brown hair, creating as much distance as possible between her and her mother behind the wheel. It was the tween years. Emily probably couldn’t even name one Stones song.
With her eyes closed, she replayed her favorite fall memory, the one with leaf piles and game of catch in the front yard with her dad.
It was just because it was her mom that Emily acted like this, pretending not to care as the people on sports radio 1310 celebrated the tally mark in the win column.
“Why do you have to be so contrary? I wish you would realize that your actions affect other people. I’m a person too, Emily.”
Her mom often reminded her that she was a real person with real feelings, but Emily was thirteen and didn’t find listening necessary. The view on parents at that age, at least for her, was an illogical blend of invincible yet wrong. Thirteen-year-old Emily end up hitting the bull’s eye for hurtful disrespectfulness: not only did she argue, she argued ruthlessly because it seemed like parents didn’t have hurt-able feelings.
“I can’t wait for this stage to be over,” her mom would say time after time.
It smelled like acetone.
“Do you think it’s dry?”
The toes Emily would be housing in Saddle Oxfords the next morning had been painted proudly with red nail polish. Lorelai had told Rory that “private school girls always wear red nail polish” on the Gilmore Girls episode the night before Rory’s first day of high school, so of course Emily and her mom had to start a new tradition. With Wade at A&M and just girls in the house, Emily’s mom found ways to insert herself into Emily’s life: Softball Team Mom, Booster Club, sponsoring the Mock Trial team at school. She was relentless.
“You look so much like your mom!” people at school started to say.
But that was because they didn’t know her dad, Emily thought. Emily knew her dark hair, her eyes, and her sense of humor were in fact his. She had never moved the famous picture of her and her dad’s matching bed heads after waking up from an afternoon nap one summer from her bedside table. The picture must have been framed ten years ago, but even as Sherwin Williams changed her room from Primrose Petals to Fresh Lime to Candle Glow, it didn’t budge from its permanent perch. Emily never had the guts to tell anyone that she looked more like her dad or that she had red toenails.
Squeesqueaaak, boom, boom, boom
The ball bounced off the hardwood floor as girls made cuts through the lane.
“MGP! Make good passes!”
Emily’s mom was notorious for shouting advice from the stands even though the players definitely weren’t listening and wouldn’t have understood her abbreviations if they were. She never missed a game. There is a certain kind of love that comes to every basketball game straight from work in a tweed blazer even when your daughter plays a total of twelve seconds the entire season. This was the kind Emily’s mom offered her. A kind that persevered, that overflowed, that couldn’t be refused.
“I still think he should have put you in today!”
“Mom, I’m a freshman! It’s my year to cheer on the bench and I’m happy to get water or warm up jerseys or whatever else my teammates need. Coach knows what he’s doing.”
“Who says he’s the coach?” she said grinning, seeing if she could incite a reaction. A roll of the eyes and a please-act-like-an-adult tone of “mom” meant she had succeeded.
“…Emily Hansen is the daughter of Genie Hansen and the late Bill Hansen. She intends to pursue Chemistry at Texas A&M University in the fall. Emily Hansen.” Mr. Mrozek’s voice echoed over the sound system.
On the 50-yard-line, she could feel the whole school listening in anxious anticipation as she grasped her mom’s arm that was hooked in hers. Emily was nervous, but couldn’t pin for what reason. She knew Mom would be proud either way. She had made it to the center without tripping, and there was no use in being embarrassed that most of her classmates were flanked by two people; they were already out there on display after all. Clutching her mom, waiting for them to announce who would be crowned, Emily realized that she felt secure. Secure and free that her mom loved her for who she was, not what she did. Secure in having a different “normal” than everyone else.
The stadium lights were too bright to see her classmates, but standing boldly in front of all of them made her realize she probably did look a lot like her mom’s daughter from their point of view.
Cl-clack cl-clack cl-clack cl-clack
Emily knew that sound anywhere. They walked off the field, her suit-clad attorney mom’s high-heeled shoes making their familiar sound on the concrete. Emily couldn’t help but feel loved by her mom, even though she had tried her best not to since fifth grade. There was no stopping her.