FNP Snapshots

Welcome to the Family Narrative Project’s “Snapshots,” 150-word (maximum) flash stories, essays, or word portraits on the topic of family. Remember, at FNP we believe that you define your family, and we welcome stories that explore diversity in family life.

The Returned

by Susan Sklar

He returns abruptly.  3 1/2 years absent.  Missed a daughter’s wedding.

 

No one asks.

 

Reticent and stumbling forward,

Starting in the middle of his multi-limbed ancestry project.  

He explains why Charles Thompson and Mary Hodges (1760 to 1840) fit the missing links in our Family Tree.

 

He takes the ear trumpet and explains to Mom.

 

She opens her eyes and I see tears.  “I never thought I’d see him again,” She, who never shows her vulnerable reachings.

 

Later “I don’t think I’m dying after all,” and she is up for hours of Word Find.

 

From his hot car a dozen eggs are placed on counter. We skirt them.

 

I am relieved when Mama refuses the eggy offering he concocts.

 

Mom is happy to have her homeless boy back in the fold and so we caregiving siblings adjust.

 

No one, but the Returned, eats the eggs.

Lo, How a Rose

by Janine Lehane

I clean and polish the windows. She yells repeatedly, her words indistinguishable. I understand her to mean, “Do it my way. Give me agency again,” but I hear a giant critic, see a movie mantis grown to outlandish proportions, hungry.

She takes years to die. Glorious and prickly, she is dismayed by change, yet elegant in her eventual seismic shifting of opinion. She punctures some outstretched hands, and those wounds fester. Muck and majesty, all of it left behind in the end.

The delivery man bounces up the brick steps and brings the ice cream inside. She motions to him with bent fingers. We've waited all day for his arrival. If only I had lived those moments without wishing to be elsewhere.

She is bedrock, stalwart, key to my existence. She indicates with her eyes, offers me ice cream.

By Susan M. Glisson (Summer 2019)

I'm never sure what to do with Father's Day. Mostly, I skip it and hone in on the anniversary of my daddy's death on June 8th. Forty-seven years is a long time to miss someone you never really got to know. 

But a few weeks ago, I was helping my Mama clean and organize her house. She found an envelope in the dining room hutch she forgot she kept. "What is it?" I asked absently. 

"It's from your first haircut," she said. "Your daddy cut it, and he cried the whole time and insisted we save your curls." She hands me this envelope with these tiny blond curls inside and what must also hold his tears. There is so much I don't know about him, so much I will never know, but this I know and maybe all I really need to know—he loved me deeply. 

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Paternity

by Sebrina Parker

Love and Marriage

by Nancy Swanson (June 2019)

My father-in law’s stories all begin with June. His senior-year annual depicts Bob in flight, feet hovering well above ground, one arm extended to hold the football on his fingertips. June is
toward the back: a sophomore in her marching band uniform. Later family photos show her gazing at him with desire that didn’t mix with an upbringing so strict his parents weren’t
permitted to watch their son win football games.

 

June’s mother, Didi, divorced an alcoholic husband, raised two girls alone, worked days in the mill, and went to nursing school at night. Her impressive apron strings were born of grit more than religion.

 

Regardless, the attraction was such magic that June and Bob eloped before she graduated and spent their first night at his neighbor’s house. Of course, his sisters found out and told their parents, but, by then the deed was done.

After 6 weeks of waiting, the results were finally in just days before my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. It was a much-anticipated gift for my mother to learn what her “Mexican” heritage really meant. We were most intrigued to learn about those DNA ethnicity predictions and see where her people were from. Portugal, Native American, European Jewish, Africa - some quite surprising, others not as much.

 

Two first cousins she didn’t recognize.

 

Three months later an email arrives from one of those matches. The connection is confusing; the details don’t match. My husband makes an off-handed comment about paternity. The next day as I sit in the hospital waiting room during his surgery, we do more digging. My mom’s paternal uncle had tested too. They aren’t matches.

 

Science thwarting family secrets held for nearly 60 years - the truth keepers have all passed.

Sebrina Parker is a certified doula and freelance writer for hire living in sunny deep south Texas with her husband & 3 kids. She is currently pursuing her childbirth education certification and is passionate about helping families transition through each stage of parenthood. You can learn more @sebrinawrites on twitter.

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Paternity

by Sebrina Parker

After 6 weeks of waiting, the results were finally in just days before my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary. It was a much-anticipated gift for my mother to learn what her “Mexican” heritage really meant. We were most intrigued to learn about those DNA ethnicity predictions and see where her people were from. Portugal, Native American, European Jewish, Africa - some quite surprising, others not as much.

 

Two first cousins she didn’t recognize.

 

Three months later an email arrives from one of those matches. The connection is confusing; the details don’t match. My husband makes an off-handed comment about paternity. The next day as I sit in the hospital waiting room during his surgery, we do more digging. My mom’s paternal uncle had tested too. They aren’t matches.

 

Science thwarting family secrets held for nearly 60 years - the truth keepers have all passed.

Sebrina Parker is a certified doula and freelance writer for hire living in sunny deep south Texas with her husband & 3 kids. She is currently pursuing her childbirth education certification and is passionate about helping families transition through each stage of parenthood. You can learn more @sebrinawrites on twitter.

Discipline

By Nancy Swanson (February 2019)

My eight-year-old father stands at the front door of his home in Cincinnati, the top half open so he can watch neighborhood children play while he is on restriction for thirty summer days. He is dressed in his sister’s skirt, hidden by the closed bottom half of the door. He relates the grim story a hundred times during my childhood. I visited my grandmother there once but can only remember that door.

 

A century later, my stepdaughter became a mother. Last week she responded to a tantrum by whispering, “Isaiah. Calm down. Think of something that smells really good. Blueberry muffins. Or bacon cooking.”

 

Although my children, who wouldn’t stay in the grocery cart even for cookies, would have required another prompt, Isaiah turned his head to listen, paused to consider the suggestion, and smiled. It’s a good prescription for our new world: quiet for storms, joy for anger.

Big Mama's

Christmas Tree

By Gayle Worthy (December 2018)

 

My grandmother decided to see if it was true that if you hung a Christmas tree upside down, you could use it again the next year. She told my dad to hang that year's tree from the rafters of her garage. When December rolled around again, she told him to untie it and set it up in front of the French doors in the living room. He said, "Mama, you can't use that tree!" But he did it anyway. Well, you could see straight through it! There were needles all over the floors, but none on that tree. She said, "It will look fine with some decorations to fill it out. We watched her sashay around the stick-tree placing ornaments while we giggled from our spots on the couch. Soon after, my dad brought in a fresh tree to replace the stick-tree and allow it to finally rest.

By Janine Lehane (December 2018)

Granddad curves over the black rubber balls. No bigger than eggs, they disappear in his hands, reappear in unlikely places, as he peers into our faces, putting love there.

 

We are still and smiling. We do not know him well. His kind face surprises me. The old man frees those bouncing balls to run through his fingers, across his wrists, along his forearms. We sit cross-legged on the floor, our heads tilted upwards dutifully, craning our necks to see the show.

I remember overhearing some adults in quiet corridors, murmuring about his failings. Those juggling balls rise and fall like their good opinion. This holiday, Granddad enlivens our evening with juggling and tricks.

 

This big country acts against our growing knowledge of the man. Work and distance, the intervening landscape, broke our contact, eventually broke his spirit.

Juggler