Cards and Cookies
"Yes, dear?" She wiped her eyes before turning to her child. She was doing what was right, looking at her daughter she knew it was worth it. Her girl was a glowing child of four years, just about ready for schooling. She caught one of the girl's blond pigtails and twirled the end about her fingers.
"What is it sweet heart?"
The little girl chewed her lip.
"Momma, do I have a daddy?" Her fingers froze on the girl's hair but only for a moment, then she sat down and hugged her little girl.
"Why do you ask darling?" She had known that one day the child would ask, one day she would have to answer. Why did it have to be now? Her heart ached.
"This other girl at Deanie's says that ever'body has a daddy an' mine musn't have liked me if he ain't still here." There it was.
"Oh Lu there isn't a thing wrong with you and don't you let anybody tell you otherwise. You here me?" She squeezed her daughter closer. "You had a daddy once, but he had to go away. Some daddies do, but you still have me and I am never going to leave you, I promise. Okay?"
Lu nodded and buried her head in her mother's shirt.
"So. Do you want to bake some cookies with mommy before I have to go back to work?"
Lu poked her head out and nodded emphatically with a great big toothy grin that lit up her mother's whole world. They baked Lu's favourite cookies, ginger snaps and chocolate chip and peanut butter... It seemed to Lu that they made mountains of cookies and she felt it was only right to share. After they had cleaned up Lu, with cookies in one hand and a firm grasp on her mother with her other hand, trotted over to the neighbours.
Her mother put on a brave face at each house. She could almost feel their pity radiating from them as they accepted a cookie or two. Their eyes searched hers and offered them a cup of tea, maybe some milk for Lu? They'd ask. She had to refuse.
She had to accept the clothes for Lu when she couldn't afford them - like the mitts last month and the jacket just last week - but while she could do without she would. Her jobs paid the rent and they had food enough to bake cookies once a month, sometimes twice, just for Lu, and enough to keep them going the rest of the time. She could make it, they would make it.
They went home and Lu went off to her room with a cookie, probably reading one of the books Mrs. Dina had leant her or going to play with the doll she had got last Christmas. She always got Lu something nice for Christmas. Always. But next year, with school coming, she didn't know how she was going to do it.
She went to her room and began to get dressed for work. There was always that money she had saved up for a new pair of shoes for herself. She didn't really need those shoes, not yet. And if she could scrape a little from...
That was always the way her thoughts tended as she set for work. She would welcome Mrs. Dina in, a neighbor who looked out for Lu when she had night shifts, and think of ways to improve their life. Mrs. Dina, for her part, always managed to sneak a little something into the house. A loaf of bread, a can of beans. She was a wonderful babysitter.
That night when Lu came out to say ‘bye to her mother she showed her a card she had made for her. She nearly started crying and hugged Lu so tight the girl thought she would pop.
"It'll be okay Lu, I promise. Soon, momma won't have to work two jobs, you'll see."
And she went out that night with a refreshed determination, keeping the card in her pocket and fingering it often. Years later, when Lu was in grade six or so and her mother owned herself a little bakery uptown, the card sat, framed, on the back wall.