1. Time: That which is always lacking. That which my own parents lavished on me, but which I can never wrest enough of, to be generous enough, to stop hoarding and make more of—see #2
2. An Effort: Trying hard. Like when I draw out letters for you to copy in purple marker, but you scribble over the page, rip it to shreds, and leave purple-colored scraps scattered around the living room. You must know I’m doing my best to ensure your life won’t turn out—see #3.
3. Bad: The kind of mom you call me when I make—see #2.
4. Good: The kind of mom you call me when I’m on the phone and let you start dinner with chocolate ice cream and sprinkles that you shake on yourself, because I’m on a work call, or a personal call, and I wish I were making more—see #1, because what I’m really feeling is—see #5.
5. Sorry: When I think of how you don’t live in a home with two parents, how little I give you sometimes in terms of—see #1, and that makes me afraid you won’t see this home as—see #4.
6. Love: Watching you sleeping in the bedroom you share with your brother and me in our apartment, with your mouth parted open, hair splayed on your pillow, legs longer than they seemed to be a week ago, which is also when I feel—see #7.
7. Fear: The feeling that your childhood will be harder than my early years with a mom and dad and comfortable house in the suburbs. The feeling that you will notice the hours I am working, or on the phone, or only halfway present, that I have not been generous, the feeling that when you rip apart those purple letters, you are expressing some deeper brokenness I cannot fix. The cost of—see #6.
8. Anger: The feeling I get when your teachers tell me you don’t want to practice your letters, that you’re distracted and have stopped listening. When they pause and ask gently if things are all right at home, a feeling that is based in—see #7. Please forgive me for not making enough—see #1.
Lauren D. Woods is a Virginia-based writer of fiction and CNF, with work in Hobart, the Offing, Forge Literary Magazine, and other journals.