Copyright is held by the author.
On Holy Saturday, 2000, an egg destined to be a masterpiece splattered across the kitchen floor. Seven-year-old Ramona’s nose wrinkled to make room for the pout of her lips. “Doggone it, Mom!”
“It’s okay, honey.” Helena slid the shattered pieces of shell into a paper towel. She turned her back after slipping an uncolored egg from the bowl into her apron’s deep pocket.
“A drum roll, please,” Helena prompted. Ramona pounded on the counter with two wooden spoons. After an “Abracadabra”, Helena dropped the broken egg and paper towel into her pocket. When she turned, she presented the stolen egg between her right thumb and forefinger. “Hah! Fixed!” Helena pronounced with a flourish.
Ramona pointed to the blots on Helena’s apron. “Broke means broke, Mom.” She got off her step stool and untied her apron. “I’m going to play my game now.”
Virtual villains screeched as Helena finished coloring the eggs.
On Holy Saturday, 2015, Helena rushed from the mailbox, clutching a letter. She read it three times.
Congratulations! You have won second prize for your photo, “Jersey Shore.”
Helena put her arm around Ramona and pointed to the logo atop the letter. “Second place this time.”
“Does it say how much you won?” asked Ramona.
“Nope, but . . .”
Ramona scowled at the dining room table’s disorder. “Mom, you’ve got to get your taxes done. It’s already April, right?”
In her cramped kitchen, Helena poured a cup of victory tea and munched on Girl Scout cookies. Her fingers flew as she posted the news on her Facebook page.
From the living room, Helena heard the word, “Nothing.”
“What?” Helena poked her head into the next room.
“That’s what the website said you earn for second place. First place, 50 bucks. Second place, nothing.” Ramona shrugged and put her hanging earbud back in. “Sorry, Mom.”
Only a half-hour from home, the Jersey Shore’s windswept dunes, sharp tufts of seagrass, and cold, crashing waves through cloud-shrouded sunshine whipped Helena’s messy tresses into knots. She observed a mother and daughter launch a triangular kite polka-dotted with eggs and Easter bunnies.
Helena couldn’t stop. Frame, focus, snap.
The mother reminded the little girl to make sure she held the string tightly in one hand. “Don’t break the eggs!” The mother pointed to the kite’s pastel decorations.
“You can’t break those eggs!” The girl giggled as the beach tossed her dark hair upwards. The kite rose to 20 feet before the child’s grip on the string loosened. Soon mother and daughter chased the spool down the beach. The fierce wind ripped; both waved goodbye as the kite’s remains floated over a churning ocean.
She slumped as she shut her camera off. “Photography . . . rubber-necking other people’s lives. Saner lives, ones where kids laugh with their moms.”
Helena’s phone chirped. She smiled as she read the text.
Love you Mom.
“Be patient with me, Ramona. Moms aren’t perfect,” Helena said aloud.
Her voice was lost in the wind.