Jeanious: She Was a Good Mom Because She Loved Us.
Jean’s thickly gloved index finger flipped the Liftoff button on the dense black console before her to signal to Mission Control that she was ready to begin her mission to Mars.
“Red Rover okay to lift off,” she confirmed verbally.
“A-okay, Red Rover. Liftoff readiness confirmed. All systems are go. Begin countdown. 10… 9… 8…”
Jean felt the rumbling of the massive thrusters under her seat. Many explosive tons ignited in a rising roar. Her breath came in tight, controlled waves as she forced herself to inhale deeply and as slowly as she could. Images of all the astronauts who had been blasted to smithereens since the space program began flashed in front of her eyes. She had seen the films of every one. She shoved these visions hard, away.
She knew the danger, and had long ago decided it was worth it. A chance to soar weightless at unimaginable speeds, towards the planet she had literally studied non-stop for a solid decade.
But as the famed test pilot Chuck Yeager had once said, “You don’t concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.”
Jean felt her bowels loosen and thought wryly to herself, “That would ‘not’ make a good interview topic, how I shit myself upon liftoff.”
Task at hand.
Task at hand.
Steadfastly Jean brought herself into the present moment and focused on the screen showing the outside of her vessel and the launch pad that held it. It looked like toothpicks holding a freight train standing on one end. Impossible. And yet it wasn’t.
An annoying beeping sound demanded her attention, yet she refused that demand. She felt herself lifted from the ground, g-forces sealing her to her seat, along with the heavy straps across her lap, chest and shoulders. A sob burst briefly from her, which surprised her. She hadn’t had any kind of emotional outburst during the grueling training, at least not in front of anyone else.
Sooner than she expected, the g-force lessened and she felt the wonderfully disconcerting sensation of weightlessness as she cleared the Earth’s atmosphere. The beeping sound continued far away as she drifted off to sleep.
“She’s calmer now. She’ll sleep awhile. Don’t worry, she’s not in any pain.”
The lights on the stage blinded her to the audience, and that was a good thing. Jean had vomited pure bile into the pristine white porcelain toilet bowl just minutes before. Mouth dabbed and lipstick reapplied, Jean took a deep breath, smile blooming like a scarlet rose upon her lips, and stepped into the lights.
She knew she looked beautiful because numerous highly skilled estheticians had been paid very well to make her so. Her famously turquoise eyes gleamed bright next to the brilliant copper curls framing her face and tumbling impossibly downward, gracing the ripe bow of her firm bottom.
Jean’s perfectly manicured, gracefully long-fingered hand delicately lifted the microphone from its stand at the center of the stage, forest green sequins sparkling along her lengthy curves. She sensed, and could hear the excited but respectable murmur humming though the sold-out crowd. Jean opened her mouth and began to sing.
Time disappeared for her, and for her audience. Together they flowed as one, captivated in each other’s embrace, woven together by melody and tempo. Jean felt as if she had turned to pure light. The song she sang was as much a part of her as her own arm. She literally could not help but sing it as easily as she breathed. The same was true for the next song, and the next.
She loved them as one loves one’s own children. Perfect they were, precious, and each unique. When finished, she floated into the darkness offstage to the resounding applause and cheers from her beloved, grateful fans.
It felt so good to sleep that night. She had even managed a snack before bed, her appetite freed by the relief of another performance met and surpassed. Her stomach felt comfortable for the first time in such a long time. She heard the kind voices as she drifted off…
“She was so good, wasn’t she?”
“Yes. She’s the best.”
The broad leaf of the vine before her glimmered in the muted light of the forest. Jean clasped it in her hand and frowned. She had been studying the flora of this particular bit of rainforest for nearly 15 years and thought she knew every tree, bush, herb and grass in it. They became her best buddies as she meticulously compared the folklore associated with these plants with the lab analysis of them.
In the many years of her near constant residency here, she had located more than a dozen plants which contained compounds which could ease symptoms of a variety of illnesses, and a couple that could literally save lives. But this one was new. How could that be?
Weeks later, Jean stood dumbfounded before her boss, and her boss’ boss and her boss’ boss’ boss, receiving congratulations for discovering a new plant species. She would be the one to name it and she chose to leave a legacy of humor as well as medicine. The new plant would be called Jeanious. They had all had a good laugh over that.
Her discovery, along with much opining on social media about the name, made her a scientist superstar nearly overnight. After so many years living in the verdant forest of the Amazon, she now must learn the skill of public speaking. She looked forward to it.
“I wish she didn’t have to leave,” said the young woman as she held her older brother’s hand.
“I know, me too,” he said.
“She was just as smart as dad, you know,” she said, eeling defensive, as if he might challenge her statement.
He looked at her, brow furrowed in puzzlement.
“You never thought about it?” she asked, turning to look into his face.
“What do you mean? She was a good mom…”
“Yes. She was.” The young woman sniffed and blinked hard.
“She knew we loved her… didn’t she?” he asked uncertainly.
“Yes. Maybe. I don’t know.” She shook her head as if trying to shake off flies.
She tried again to get to what she was feeling, sensing.
“He was so successful. She was just a nanny and maid. An indentured servant. What did he really ‘do’ for her? He bought us a nice house, paid the bills, gave her an allowance. And treated her like hired help. Like he was always better than her. But he wasn’t.”
The young man stared down at his sister, bewilderment and a contrary inkling battling for his attention, paralyzing him.
“But… but…” he stammered, “but she loved us! She was a good mom!”
“Of course she was a good mom. Of course she loved us!” Grief and fury scoured her throat. “Don’t you understand? She was a good mom because she loved us, not because she never wanted anything else in her life! Don’t you think she must have regretted it though, no matter how much she loved us? Don’t you think that after all those years of being demeaned by dad, while he got all the prestige, promotions, money and job offers, maybe it wasn’t so great for her? She was buried in cooking and cleaning and making everything great for the rest of us. Don’t you think she ever wished she hadn’t married him? Maybe even hadn’t had us? Because if I were in her position now, I sure would. She was smart, creative, funny, and had such a beautiful voice. She could have done anything.”
Jean stood, paintbrush poised above the canvas, cobalt blue, her favorite blue, coating the tip as she gazed out at the rolling ocean, churning beneath the gathering fall wind. Her long red hair suddenly whipped her face, nearly lashing the wet paint already laid down. Setting the brush onto her palette, she swept the offending locks into a tight ponytail to lash harmlessly behind her.
Her eyes narrowed once again at the horizon, noting texture as well as nuances of color as she reached again for her brush. Her forest landscapes had sold well, but she didn’t want to be one of those painters who translated early success into a lifetime of servitude to a single subject. Excitement rose like a living thing in her chest. The chase was on.
Now she would try to capture the ineffable life of water, and graft it, still living, onto her canvas.
The furious winds slowly died to a sweetly caressing breeze. The sun grew brighter, bigger and bigger, until it filled the entire sky with its white brilliance.
Laura Ramnarace believes that truth-telling is ultimately compassionate, although it may also prove hazardous to the teller. She lives in the high desert of southwestern New Mexico, where she teaches families how to have more loving and healthy relationships. Laura also dearly loves her children and grandchildren. Really.