A to Z Challenge — Before — #AtoZChallenge

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Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Lois consulted her list and glanced at the clock on her SUV’s dashboard. She blew a frazzled breath of air through what her daughter Claire called her “pufferfish lips.” If she caught the green lights, she could make it across town, collect Claire, swing past the church to drop off the donation items for Saturday’s charity bazaar. Then they could rush it home in time to make family dinner before creating the cakes and cookies she promised for the bake sale in the morning.

As she pulled into the school parking lot, she groaned and slumped into the seat, wishing she could disappear. Too late. Sylvia Plachett was already waving, motioning for Lois to park next to her shiny red sports car. Sylvia’s daughter, Ava, and Claire leaned against the red fender with heads bent over their phones.

Dear God, I hate that woman. Lois jabbed unmanicured fingers into her unruly brown curls, attempting not to appear as if she had just rolled out of bed. A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed her hopeless situation and revealed more good news–smudged mascara.

Smartly dressed, as usual, Sylvia’s appearance was flawless. She wore her coal-black hair pulled into a neat bun, and her makeup looked freshly applied. Lois glanced down at her rumpled T-shirt and black yoga pants as she pulled up next to the girls and rolled down the window. I’ll stay in the car. Sylvia’s smiling face appeared in the open window.

“The girls asked to stay and watch soccer practice, and I thought we could grab a cup of coffee. They’ve got the concession stand open.”

“Ah, well, I need to drop the donations at the church.”

“Please, mom?” Claire cupped her phone between her palms and assumed her “Little Angel” expression.

“But the donations…”

“Ava, did you say Justin was going to the church?”

Before Lois could protest, Ava texted Justin, and he arrived to transfer everything to his car.

Suck it up, Buttercup.

Lois slid from her seat, tugging hard on the hem of her T-shirt to smooth the wrinkles and cover the top portion of her yoga pants before joining Sylvia at the concession stand. She fumbled in her oversized purse, packed with a collection of necessary in-case-of-emergency supplies in a futile search for her billfold.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” Sylvia said, handing the pimply-faced teenager a crisp bill.

Lois let h purse drop, the strap dug into her shoulder, and she fought to hold back tears as she accepted the steaming paper cup.

“Oh, hon. What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“How do you do it?” Lois sniffled.

“Do what?”

Lois waved her hand up and down in front of Sylvia. “You. This. You’re always so put together you have a successful business and a wonderful family. Ava is so sweet. I’m an absolute mess. I’m always busy, always running, always behind, and always exhausted.”

“What are you talking about? You are amazing. I can’t believe everything you do,” Sylvia said, leading Lois to a deserted section of bleacher.

“But I feel like I’m going nowhere.”

“Where do you want to go? What do you dream of doing?”

Lois dabbed her eyes with her shirt sleeve and thought for a moment.  Once upon a time, I dreamed of creating beautiful things.

“Before. Before I got married and had kids? Before we bought a house and got buried by all the responsibilities? Before all of that, I was a sculptor.”


“I loved it, and I was rather good too. I won awards, had a gallery show, and I even sold a few pieces.”

“What happened? Why did you stop?”

“There wasn’t enough time in the day. I had all these things to do before I could work.”

“What’s more important than doing what you love?”

Lois blinked.

“Well, there’s taking care of the children and the housework…”

“Yes, yes, we love our spouse and the children, but have you ever seen a gravestone extolling the virtues of the woman who kept a clean house?”

Lois chuckled and shook her head.

“Do you still want to be a sculptor?”

Lois nodded.

“Then it’s time to throw away the list of Things To Do Before you sculpt.”

This time, Lois couldn’t stop the tears. But she still smiled at her new best friend as Sylvia wrapped her arm around Lois’s shoulder.

“I think I’ve just met a Soon-To-Be-Famous Sculptor.”


Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

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