I’m in third grade, crooked teeth and crooked bangs. My mother, a nurse, works nights so she can be home to greet me and my siblings when we return from school. This is one of the many sacrifices she will make throughout my childhood but I don’t even notice. I’m too busy crushing on my teacher. Miss Rinnard is young, blonde, and mini-skirted; everything my mother is not.
On that sharp bright spring morning, the lilacs at the side of our house have bloomed. I ask my mother for scissors to cut a bunch of blossoms. My mother is stale and weary from the night shift. Still, she wets the stems, wraps them in aluminium foil, and deftly binds the bouquet with ribbon, too tired to care about her rival. I can still feel the sharp edge of that foil, digging into my palm as I walk to the bus stop. Miss Rinnard plonks my offering into an empty paint jar. By noon, the flowers are drooping.
Almost three months ago, my mother fell in her garden while weeding. I flew across the ocean to be with her. During the weeks she remained with us, my siblings and I did many things for my mother. We encouraged her to eat, we sat with her, we championed her cause to the doctors and nurses as she had championed ours for so many years.
As she deteriorated, I fed her, held her hand, told her how much I loved her and said goodbye. But during those seven weeks at the hospital, I never brought her flowers. I recently discovered that purple lilacs symbolise love.
I should’ve given that bunch to my mother.
Damhnait Monaghan is Irish-Canadian but now lives in the UK. Her flash fiction is published most recently in Mslexia, Jellyfish Review, and Dear Damsels. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Flash Nonfiction Funny (WoodHall Press), Understorey Magazine, A Catalogue of Failure and the 100 Voices for 100 Years audio project. She tweets @Downith and is a reader for Flashback Fiction.