Unlike Her Children
by Channie Greenberg
Until her own children, who historically smacked face first against her car’s back windows, who were lulled by visions of their friends jumping from flagpoles, who chalked profanities on sidewalks, and who attempted to steal scout cookie money, she felt insufficiently favored to lord over others.
As that mom lifted her family’s bags of garbage into the neighborhood receptacle, ever conscious of their tang of rotten vegetables, rancid meats, and expired dairy products, she weighed whether or not she ought to have excused her sons and her daughters from her latest, ill-fated charitable work. Certainly, their city’s hedgehogs needed mittens to survive the forthcoming cold.
If she could have made her youngest offspring sit still long enough to count his freckles, perhaps she would have been able to have divined if gloves would have been superior to mittens as paw wraps. As it was, nonetheless, she had to seek for wonder among carrot peels, herring bones, and discarded cottage cheese containers. Divining refuge was unpleasant, at best.
Unlike tea leaves, bits of rubbish told that lady nothing of why her teens laughed at her outside of their home or why, within their cozy quarters, her children turned their electronics up to their highest volume whenever she tried to engage them. No matter; she was sure that somewhere in her community of good hearts there were other people — adults, adolescents, children, and maybe also babies — who shared her curiosity about and worry over the wee hedge critters. Surely, those neighbors trusted her sagacity and were, even now, collecting funds for local, indigent prickly pigs.
Based on a recent census, she knew her town was replete with continuum-based mothers, with gals who made do without secretaries, high heels, or expensive sets of jewelry. It seemed reasonable to assume that the patrons of her region’s community-based agriculture would also care about how cold the residents of the hibernaculum beneath the town library might get, especially as temperatures tended to plummet on frosty nights.
Besides, that mom’s community also boasted a full compliment of millennium dads, of fellows known for their interest in unassisted birthing, in extended breastfeeding, and in homeschooling. Those men, if she could summon them via Internet, or by canvassing door-to-door, would rally to her cause. In fact, they were the sort of people who would likely volunteer to knit or to crochet additional paw protectors.
For the time being, though, the mom would have to make do by sketching her idealized winter garments and creating prototypes. Her kids’ discarded doll clothes would continue to lend both concepts and substance for her project.
While some mothers bond with their children over hair styles or nose rings, she still meant to provide her young with experiences of environmental guardianship and responsible recycling. Her young ones’ failure to grasp the vision, which was undergirding her desire to protect the digits of spiny pups, of the feral sort, was no reason for her to yield her dream. Accordingly, the mom turned to crowdsourcing to fund her Help the Hedgehogs mission. Her sons and daughters would yet take delight in her farsightedness and in their roles in actualizing it.
It followed that, days later, this heroine found herself aboard a commercial airliner heading for a summit of like-minded individuals. The assembly’s featured speakers were to be, respectively; a scientist devoted to saving the toads, which reside only within the bowels of New York City’s sewer pipes, and an entrepreneur who promised to direct ten per cent of his company’s profit on weed killers prone to herbicide volatilisation to further the study of the recent decrease in population of Albanian dust mites, especially as that demise was occurring in Elbasan and in Maliq.
She hugged her roller bag as she sat in the departures hall. Within its confines were: an airplane pillow, dental products, underwear, hair products, tea tree cream, bath salts, and a pair of florescent orange sneakers. In her wallet, to boot, she had stashed scraps containing important phone numbers, such as contact information for local “friends” with whom she might couch surf. She also clutched a lone USB stick.
After she was forced to stow her bag twenty aisles away, not having known that the airlines had taken to auctioning off not only snackies but also overhead compartment space, she found her seat. The gentleman, who had claimed the one next to hers had been permitted by the cabin crew, amazingly, to carry on board a miniature cooler.
When their plane was over Kansas, he revealed that his lunch bucket was filled with salami, concord grapes, and individually wrapped endive leaves. Muttering something about conspiracies, he gobbled his provisions while spewing copious amounts of saliva. As he scoffed his comestibles, he read handwritten letters. The man had carried no electronic devices of any nature on his person or in his small, wheeled suitcase.
“Mild winters are ahead,” was all that he had muttered to the mom before falling asleep in such a fashion that he drooled over her otherwise immaculate travel hoodie. Every few beats, he exhaled deli-enhanced breath in her direction. What’s more, he snored.
Despite all, the mom spent the flight contemplating how to urge bikers, hikers, and would-be divas of the cyberworld to assemble in support of her town’s soon-to-be frozen hedgehogs. It was already late October. Soon, many furze-pigs would suffer from numb limbs. She needed Champions!
When the landing chimes sounded, the lady’s seatmate woke and fastened his seatbelt. However, he neglected to restore his table tray to its upright position. His snail mail, a scattering of grape seeds, plus a few of his business cards rained upon her. His horrified look spoke the answer to her fundraising dilemma.
Her travel companion was a writer of some journalistic prominence. Mastering heretofore unknown depths of maternal guilt, she successfully urged him to invite his readers to share her journey of personal growth and self-development, i.e. to help her fabricate or to pay for other people to create winter garments for her neighborhood’s wee, prickly creatures.
Truth be known, when they deboarded, the man had brushed her off as a nuisance with whom he would never again have to contend. In spite of this, as he was mostly illiterate in the ways and means of convergent media, that columnist had lacked the prescience that the mom might try to blackmail him with a YouTube video of what it was like to fly seated next to such a slob.
He could not have imagined, as well, that in answer to his defenders, she would baldly write in, on the comments section of his serialized work, that she was not manipulative, but enlightened, and that her intent was not coercion, but rescue. In the end, the man’s protectors passed on sheltering him and chose, instead, to use their rhetorical repartee to address the problem of the ever-increasing skirt lengths seen on televised dance competitions.
Unfortunately, all of that sawing did not build an electronic platform from which the mom could better the hedgehogs’ plight; all she gained was five minutes of Internet notoriety. When she at last returned home from the ecological conference, her entire family, save for a daughter encumbered by chickenpox, met her at the arrivals gate without fanfare.
No one among them asked about how they, too, could help save Albania’s dust mites or volunteer for forays into New York City’s hidden habitat. None questioned how the mom had been able to afford her trip and registration fee nor where she stayed and what she ate.
Rather, her kin pelted her with questions about the writer with whom she had briefly traveled. His father, it turned out, was a significant contributor to the first cathode ray tube amusement device and his mother, her family’s research had revealed, had been a burlesque dancer of no small fame.
There would be no joining over the trappings of her Help the Hedgehogs drive. Whereas her boys and girls, and less so her husband, feigned concern for her green exploits, they had little investment in such goings on. What her family sought from her in the past and continued to seek from her, in that airport arrivals lounge, was snippets of her passions and glimpses into her ability to articulate experiences.
They could not care less if they couldn’t find homes for concepts of hers that remained beyond their ken; used bubble gum, stuck beneath random park benches was measurably of greater interest to them. Her dear ones would continue to fail to provide her with aid. She had left behind, before undertaking her adventure, piles of alpaca hair waiting to be teased into miniature finger wraps and pattern papers printed with designs useful for a range of paw sizes. All the same, no blood relative cared a pittance about her prickly wards or about the personal evolution that undergirded her pastimes.
To wit, once home, they gifted their dear one with: a tiara, a tailored suit of light blue material, and a few necklaces repurposed from the baby’s snap together beads. After they helped her pull her hair carefully into a high ponytail, and placed their family’s youngest, complete with sodden diaper, into her arm, they released the door to their home’s basement.
An eclectic press corps spilled forth from that depth. Those photographers and stringers recorded, for posterity, the mom’s imperfections, that is, her lack of prophetic radiance. Only after those reporters’ words and images traveled around social media sites, were tiny mittens and gloves sold on the web; aspiring entrepreneurs smelled a profit-making opportunity.
Later, during warmer months, that mother took a much needed vacation to Antarctica. It was her impression that the Emperor Penguins needed snowsuits. She meant to investigate.
Copyright © 2014 by Channie Greenberg