Most days Julia Bendum wakes up late. Today, she’s up at 5:30 in the morning, far earlier than her son. She can’t help it.
She showers, washing her dark hair. She looks in the mirror and sees a quiet face – a face that seems beat down by life’s troubles.
She dresses. Jeans and a T-shirt.
And then she opens the door to her son’s room. The boy, Kyle, is only three.
She sits on the floor, calming herself. And just watches him sleep. At 7, he wakes up. When he opens his eyes, there is a smile on his lips.
Julia gets him dressed. He eats breakfast.
It is a sunny day.
They play a bit a home, and then she brings him to the garage and she packs him into his car seat. She puts a soccer ball in the trunk and they head to the park.
It is the first summery day of the year. It is warm and bright. The hope of the day seems to burst through the car windows.
Kyle is enamored. He sits quietly in his car seat, watching the traffic, watching the people enjoying the warmth and glancing towards the sun through the leaves of the springtime trees.
In time, they reach the park.
It is still early and the park isn’t crowded. But there are people playing basketball, people playing in the playground and quite a few folks just walking and enjoying the weather.
It has been months since Kyle has been at the park. He jumps with excitement and eagerly carries the soccer ball his mother gives him.
In a meandering, lazy, sort of way, they make their way to the field. And then Julia puts the ball down.
Kyle has been practicing in the garage, but he’s never scored a goal in his life.
She shows him the goal, and she kicks him the ball.
He dribbles it back towards her. He’s no English kid, his skills are limited. But the ball gradually makes its way towards the net.
He sets up his ‘big’ shot and gives the ball the mightiest kick he can manage.
Julia goes for an imaginary fake.
The ball rolls past her and into the net.
She smiles for the first time in months. She imagines that his father is watching.
Kyle runs to her in excitement and she gives him a giant hug.
The need in her embrace is far greater than he can comprehend, but he meets the challenge.
Julia’s eyes brighten. Kyle thinks she’s sad.
But for the first time in three months, she’s is looking forward not stuck in the tragedy of the moment.
For the first time in three months, her tears are bittersweet.