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  • Marie Smysor Watson

A Good Mother


Reader note: No, this isn't about you... carry on!


“Did you see who liked my picture?”

Jen Jackson, affectionately known by her friends as JJ, said, phone sandwiched between her ear and her shoulder as she loaded the breakfast dishes into the new dishwasher. A Miele dishwasher. Purchased used off of Marketplace, but still, a Miele. Ex-pensive. She’d posted a picture of it on Facebook. Instagram too, although she linked it back to her Facebook page. She got over three hundred likes and dozens of comments on it. She had lots of friends online, more than anyone else she knew. People always liked what she posted.

It was a picture of this very dishwasher (and her too, hair perfectly disheveled) that she was referring to. On the other end was Millie Moore (known as MM) her best friend.

“Oh, I saw it. I always check to see who likes my posts too,” MM said with a snarky tone.

The who in question was Karen Krans (or KK), the former third member of the Double Initial Posse, or so they had tagged themselves. They were both on the outs with her because of her heartfelt post last week, about people being more kind to each other rather than tearing each other down on social media, or some such bullshit. There was no doubt in either one of their minds who that particular post was aimed towards. Them.

As she talked, Jen’s youngest child, a boy she called Lukey, played on the floor in the adjoining living room with his trains (her other two children – four year old twins, a boy and a girl, were finally in all day pre-K). The downstairs had been recently remodeled into an open concept, so she could keep a better eye on the kids (her Facebook video of the big reveal also garnered 397 likes – her most to date!) It was a beautiful space, magazine worthy, in her humble opinion.

“I’ll bet she was just pissed about my last post about tank tops,” JJ said to MM, rehashing events for the umpteenth time in the past two days. The offense in question was this post: I only want to see wings like this at KFC! Along with it, JJ posted a picture of the lady standing in front of her in line at Target, flabby arms hanging out for all of the world to see. A little snarky, fine, but funny for chrissakes. She’d cropped the stranger’s head out of the picture, so it wasn’t really hurting anybody. And anyway, she had gotten 182 likes from it and lots of comments, so obviously she wasn’t the only one that thought this way.

But apparently it had struck a nerve with KK. Probably because she had a tendency to run to fat herself, although JJ would never say anything as mean as that – she was a nice person! – but she had noticed.

She’d inadvertently started a small-scale Facebook war with her innocent little post. Several people, no more than fifty, people she thought were her friends, sided with KK. JJ was even called out by one of them, which was totally unnecessary. People could be so mean on the internet.

JJ and MM discussed the incident at length while Lukey played quietly on the floor. He was such a good little guy.

“I’m not going to unfriend her or anything drastic, but I am hurt,” JJ said, placing the last of the breakfast plates into her beautiful new dishwasher.

“You’re doing the right thing!” MM said comfortingly. “She’ll come back around eventually. Although, I’m not sure I want her to with the get-up she wore to pickup yesterday,” she added with a laugh. “She looked like she’d gotten dressed in the dark. Drunk.”

JJ laughed out loud. It was good to have close friends. Although Millie could be annoying too. She didn’t keep her eyebrows well-groomed at times either. While JJ was too nice to say anything, she couldn’t help noticing.

Lukey started to whine. His interest waning, he began to bang his trains together loudly. JJ walked around the island with its stunning marble countertop (she was still making payments on it but it was soooo worth it!) to push Lukey’s other toys closer to him. She smiled at him as MM droned on about the ah-maze-ing deals she’d scored at The Children’s Place. JJ had just seen MM’s post about the very same thing. Honestly, she didn't think it was very great at all. MM’s kids were rather homely, unlike her own, who could all be child models. She was told that often, especially when she posted pics of them. In contrast, MM”s son had snarly teeth and her daughter had eyes that were too close together, like a ferret. Too bad; they were nice enough kids, but unfortunately the world judged you on your looks.

JJ made her way back to her perfect new farmhouse sink to soak the roasting pan from last night’s boeuf bourguignon (which she posted as soon as she took it out of the oven with the caption Channeling my inner Julia! It had 142 likes as of this morning).

She steered MM back to the KK conversation as she was filling up the pan, giving her friend plenty of leverage to say something uncharitable about KK (which she did) and for JJ to get in a few unkind (but funny!) remarks of her own. They each laughed over the delightful things that the other said, the kind of deep belly laughter that only true friends share.

Then, a truly terrible thing happened. As JJ laughed at MM’s comment about KK’s tragic lack of decorating style (which was true), she dropped her BRAND NEW iPHONE into the roasting pan she had just filled to the brim with water.

“FUCK!” she exclaimed as the phone sank like a stone to the bottom. She reached in quickly and rescued it, but the screen had already gone dark.

“Rice, rice, where’s the fucking white rice!” she yelled, a little too loudly, causing Lukey to burst into tears. Big, fat tears that ran down his chubby cheeks. Cheeks that were usually photo worthy, as her Facebook page clearly showed.

But not now. Now he was blubbering, full-on, and she had to find the rice.

Ignoring her son’s cries, she located it behind a half-eaten box of Cream of Wheat, gone buggy with neglect. She spilled some of the rice, her hands shaking like leaves in the wind as she poured it all into a gallon Ziploc bag. She threw her phone in and prayed. It was the newest model; she’d just signed a two-year upgrade to her contract. Besides the money though, she needed it. She tried not to panic as her mind raced through the what-ifs.

Lukey continued to cry as JJ made her way, stunned, over to her tablet. She set it up on the kitchen counter (pacifying Lukey with a few animal crackers on her way by) and FaceTimed MM. She explained her horrible dilemma; her friend was equally horrified but tried to offer her some solace. JJ would have to wait until her husband got home to go to the cell store. She wasn’t even going to think about taking Lukey in the state he was in now. MM agreed. They commiserated for a few more minutes, as to what life without a phone would be like before they hung up.

After she said goodbye to MM, JJ had an idea. She picked up the bag of rice and Lukey too, who had begun wailing in earnest, this time over a broken animal cracker. She posed all three of them – a crying Lukey, herself and the bag that contained the rice and her phone in front of the computer (making sure to smooth her hair first) – and snapped a pic of them with the tablet, making sure her face was scrunched up just so before clicking the button.

Sitting Lukey down on the floor (still crying) and the bag down on the counter, she quickly cropped the pic so that no one could see any of the detritus of her daily life in the kitchen and posted it to Facebook with the caption Even Lukey is upset about it! ☹,” followed by the hashtag #iphonesandwaterdontmix. She patted the bag lovingly, straightening it so that the phone had maximum coverage. She sighed, a deep and bone-weary sigh. It was always something.

She looked down at the tablet - already she had twelve likes on her photo. She smiled, suddenly hopeful that things would turn out just fine. She bent to pick up Lukey. He was thankfully no longer crying, but still sniffling hard enough that those sweet and chubby (and definitely photo-worthy) cheeks of his quivered with residual sadness.

She carried her youngest child into the living room, leaving behind the bag on the counter for the moment. She would play with Lukey and his trains for a few minutes before she went back to check the tablet. Because she was a good mother.


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thanks

Elegy