Person-who-birthed-me Day Card
Lynn noticed Callie the moment she walked in the store. The girl was singularly focused, clearly on a mission. A difficult one, for which she’d steeled herself in advance. Two hours after Callie had come in, Lynn realized that she hadn’t seen her leave. Lynn finished helping the last customer in line, then set out to find the girl. Callie was sitting on the floor in front of the greeting card rack, two large stacks of cards in front of her. While Lynn watched, the girl picked up a card from the pile on her left, quickly scanned it, sighed sans satisfaction, and placed it in the pile to her right. Then another, this time much quicker, shaking her head in disgust. Then another. Lynn glanced up at the section header to see the holiday that was giving the girl such fits, but she knew what it was before even looking. Mother’s day.
“Finding everything okay?” Lynn asked cheerily.
“Yes,” Callie answered without looking up.
“Hard to find the right sentiment on such an important holiday, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” Callie shrugged. She read another card, added it to the now-taller right stack.
“Apologies for the thin selection. Since the day’s tomorrow a lot of the nicer ones have already grown wings and flown.”
Lynn was a little perplexed, thought it best to leave the girl alone. “All right. You just let me know if you need anything, okay sugar?”
“Okay.” Callie scanned another. Lynn turned to head back to the counter. “Hey, hold on,” Callie called.
“Yes?” Lynn turned back.
“Do you have anything a little less… I don’t know, tender? These are all really sweet and loving and stuff.”
“Oh. Well, um,” Lynn stuttered.
“It doesn’t have to be mean or anything like that. Just, you know, something that maybe if you gave to a complete stranger he wouldn’t necessarily be offended. Or complimented. He’d just react as if you’d handed him something of some sort from somewhere.”
“We… we do have the generic cards. Down at the end here. Since they’re not holiday-specific they tend to be a little more general. That might be what you’re looking for.”
Callie smiled for the first time and Lynn smiled back, then left the girl alone line she’d meant to and returned to the counter. Callie did find one in the generic section. It was brown and green and tan, with a pattern that looked like flowers or vines or vericose veins. The front said, “For you…” and the inside said, “…on your special day.” Callie still thought it was a bit too warm and tender to give to her mother, but was smart enough to recognize that there was no further downgrading unless she just wanted to hand mom a piece of cardboard. The thought made her cringe. Not the cardboard, but the possibility of having to hand the card to her mother in person. Callie made a mental note to pick up stamps on her way home so she could mail the card instead. Then she sat cross-legged on the floor, pulled a pen from her purse, and started to fill out the card like she was supposed to.
To whom it may concern:
I understand that this is an important day for those of the female parental occupation, and so found it prudent to pay appropriate homage to this via this printed card and cheerful bauble.
(Callie intended to include a yet-unknown trinket of some sort with the card.)
While I am understandably disinclined to express gratitude towards you in a personal and emotional sense, I am of course aware that your previous fornication with the man I will refer to as Dale is what led to my conception. And so I do at very least owe you my thanks for the aforementioned activities as I would not exist without them. That is all I can think of to say and so I will leave it at that.
Cordially yours, Callie Fulton.
Callie politely put back the stacks of cards, then paid for the one she’d written in and left. It felt dirty, lying like this. Being so nice. But it’s what society expected of her. She could be nice for one day. Lynn watched the girl walk to her car, then locked up the little shop and wandered through the aisles aimlessly for a while.
Lynn and her mother had gotten into an argument a few months back. Hadn’t spoken since. It had been over something silly. So much so that it took Lynn a moment to even recall what it was. Then she remembered. Her mom had said something critical about the yeast rolls Lynn had brought over for the family dinner at Christmas. In hindsight it was obviously less of a criticism than an observation, a preference for a little more rise and moisture. But her mother’s voice always had a grating quality to it. Could turn a song of angels into the strangling of a cat. Lynn should be used to it by now. Besides, that one thing wasn’t all that bad, relatively speaking. She looked around to make sure there were no more customers in the store that she’d overlooked, glanced out at the now-empty spot where Callie’s car had been parked, then picked up the phone to call her mother.