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Happiness is not a destination you arrive at, but rather a manner of traveling.
*Margaret Lee Runbeck*

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FamilyHeart Short Stories

FamilyHeart is working on a collection of our own short stories. We graciously accept your short stories for display on FamilyHeart. Submit your story through the FamilyHeart

We are sitting at lunch when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family". "We're taking a survey," she says, half joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say carefully, keeping my tone neutral. "I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on the weekend, no more spontaneous vacations..."

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in child birth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing heal, but that becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never read a newspaper again without asking "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her.

That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die. I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub.

That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a souffle or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.

I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for child care, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think about her baby's sweet smell.

She will have to use every ounce of her discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that everyday decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonalds will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.

That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years - not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the ways she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is always careful to powder the baby or never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she'll feel with women throughout history who have tried desperately to stop war and prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.

I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real, it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I say finally. Then I reach across the table, squeeze my daughter's hand, and offer a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all of the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. The blessed gift of being a Mother.

Frog and the Princess..The feminist version!
Once upon a time, in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess happened upon a frog as she sat, contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap and said: Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.

One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry and setup housekeeping in yon castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so.

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on a repast of lightly sauteed froglegs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled to herself and thought: "I don't think so."

Real Mothers don't eat quiche;
they don't have time to make it.

Real Mothers know that their kitchen utensils
are probably in the sandbox.

Real Mothers often have sticky floors,
filthy ovens and happy kids.

Real Mothers know that dried playdough
doesn't come out of shag carpet.

Real Mothers don't want to know
what the vacuum just sucked up.

Real Mothers sometimes ask "why me?"
and get their answer when a little voice says,
"because I love you best."

Real Mothers know that a child's growth
is not measured by height or years or grade. . .
It is marked by the progression of Mama to Mommy to Mother.

by Irma Bombeck

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance
in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's".. more "I'm sorry's"... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it...and never give it back.

In memory of Irma Bombeck who lost her fight with cancer.

Here's a cute story for you.
After nearly forty years in practice as a gynecologist, John decided he had enough money to retire and take up his real love, auto mechanics. He left his practice, enrolled in auto mechanics school, and studied hard. The day of the final exam came and John worried if he would be able to complete the test with the same proficiency as his younger classmates. Most of the students completed their exam in two hours. John, on the other hand, took the entire four hours allotted. John tossed and turned in bed that night, dreading the next morning when the exam scores would be returned. The following day, John was delighted and surprised to see a score of 150% for his exam. John spoke to his professor after class. "I never dreamed I could do this well on the exam. But tell me, how did I earn a score of 150%?" The professor replied, "I gave you 50% for perfectly disassembling the car engine. I awarded another 50% for perfectly reassembling the engine. I gave you an additional 50% for having done all of it through the muffler."

A Funny Thing Happened...
Many years ago, in my dark and desperate youth, there was a time when I wanted to be glamorous. I had recently lost a great deal of weight, my first husband was getting ready to graduate from bible college and we were surrounded by very stylish people. As graduation approached, everyone got quite concerned about the topic of What To Wear for the Big Day; me included.

My sister sent me a beautiful dress for this very special occasion. In my tiny new size, it was made of a delicate, sheer fabric, with a white bodice and black skirt. Because of the sheerness of the fabric, the dress was also fully lined. It was a beautiful thing, and I couldnít wait to wear it, with all itís pearl buttons down the back.

Then I decided that what I REALLY needed, more than anything else, was one of those one-piece foundation garments you know, an elastic-y bra and girdle in one, with hook-and-eye closures at the crotch. Donít know why I thought I absolutely had to have one for the Big Day, but I did think so, and got one. They are sold in boxes, according to bra size. So I bought one, sight unseen, not tried on, not taken out of the box even for a peek. Bought it, took it home, and put it away for The Day.

The day before graduation, everyone was rather in a tizzy, making final preparations, greeting out of town guests. It was a big general up-roar getting ready, and I was no exception. My hair dresser came over to do my hair that morning, so Iíd be done by the time our guests arrived and while he was touching up the color I wore then, he glanced down at my hands and said "You arenít taking THOSE hands to graduation, are you?!!" Always swift on my feet, I said "No, Adam, I planned on leaving them at home in the kitchen sink while I wentÖ." So he talked me into allowing him to build me some artificial nails.

I had always worn my nails long but because of a job change, I had just cut them back and I admit, my hands were looking a little shabby. After all the talk about this dress, that necklace, those earrings, this curl here and that curl there, I was focused on ALL the tiny details as if they were a matter of life and death. After all, this was GRADUATION!! So Adam built me these long and beautiful nails. And oh my, they DID look nice. Problem was, though, that these particular nails werenít flexible like a natural fingernail and they were so-o-o-o long I couldnít use my hands to do anything! So all the rest of that day, rushing on final details, I was stupidly helpless with these lovely looking hands I couldnít use at all. I kept asking my husband "Dear, would you put my earrings in?" or "Darling, could you get the toast out of the toaster?" "Turn the key in the lock for me, please?" I was a mess! Honestly, I could NOT grab or pick up anything!

Graduation dawned sunny and bright. Too sunny and too bright. And far too humid. It was going to be a LONG day as the school had insisted that everyone report in hours ahead of the actual ceremony, but we were so ecstatic we didnít care how long it was all going to take. So we started dressing early; long before sunset, long before the day had a chance to cool.

Imagine my surprise when my husband helped me open the box containing my new foundation garment and it looked to be the size a Onesie for an infant. Tiny!!! We checked all the labels and they were correct. The thing was designed to stretch. So I gamely stepped into it and was able to grab it just well enough to get it up as high as my waist. But I couldnít grasp it firmly enough to pull it up for the bra part. So I asked my husband to give it a good tug for me, from behind. First try, he lifted me right off of my feet! That thing was snug!! After I screamed "put me down!" he tried again, and this time only the girdle went up and I was able to stuff myself into it. Slipped on the dress, he did up the buttons in the back, fixed my necklace and off we went into the late afternoon glare, all set to storm the social scene with style!

At the Convention Center, all the preliminaries were taking far too long, so I decided to visit a ladies room and sneak a smoke while I was at it. Sneak is the exactly correct word as my husband was graduating from a very, very conservative school. So I went off in search of a ladies room suited to my sneaky plans. I wandered far afield in that huge complex and found a ladies room that was the farthest away from all the graduation activities. This one was so far away, in fact, it only had emergency lighting inside and the ventilation system wasnít on. Hotter than Hades in there, stuffy, and dark as sin under itís single red lamp. I pressed on, though, determined to have my smoke, and chose the stall farthest away from the entrance. All the way in the dark, dark, airless back.

Feeling a little, perhaps, like Eve may have felt just before biting into the apple, I struck my match to light up my smoke. Suddenly the match flared, making a rather LARGE flame. I thought to myself "How odd! Iíve never seen a match do that before!" and brought my hand close to my face to see why the match was burning that brightly. Found out, it wasnít the match at all! I had ignited my glamour length artificial thumb nail!! It was blazing! So I shook my hand out, blew on it, smelled the melted plastic-y smell, and lit another match to survey the damage and light that smoke. Turns out, the pretty red nail had melted into a black charred ball on the end of my thumb. And it was glued there nice and tight. I wasnít amused at the thought of attending the graduation like Jackie Horner with a plum on the end of his thumb, but there you go.

I shouldíve stopped there. But no, I had to go on and invent Disaster Number Two. I reached down, carefully, and figured out how to undo those hooks and eyes at the crotch of my foundation garment so I could pee. Have you ever seen a window shade fly up into a tight roll when pulled too hard? Well, thatís exactly what that darn girdle did. I let go of it, and it flew right up into a tight roll, taking the lining of my dress with it and didnít stop until it hit just under my breasts.

I knew I was in trouble then. So I sat down to smoke and think it over. But that bathroom was so stifling hot and humid, I couldnít think straight. Here I was, trapped in the farthest removed, most isolated stall of a closed ladies room in a huge assembly facility miles from anyone who knew me and could (conceivably) be called upon to help. Nobody would ever hear me scream. With my girdle up around my chest and my dress lining caught up with it, I dared not walk out the bathroom door in that transparent dress! Remember it was a CONSERVATIVE bible college. And, if I did find another human to bail me out, what ever could I say to them "Uh, would you mind helping me pull down my girdle, and hooking up the closure at the crotch, as you see, Iíve got these stupid false nails on and canítÖ"

Unthinkable. So I started to struggle in that darn tiny stall. My make-up ran in streaks of sweat. My hairdo started to go limp as the hair-glue melted in the heat. I was also trying to be careful not to snag that fragile fabric of the dress on that rough, melted thumb nail. Didnít know whether to laugh or cry as I worked at it and worked at it, getting hotter and hotter and more upset as the minutes ticked past. Finally got a good grip on the dress lining, and with a mighty tug, was able to yank down the girdle far enough out of its roll to get a firm hold on the thing and pulled it down, managing to hook one hook. Then I ran out of that bathroom, through the deserted hallways of the convention center, following the graduation sounds to find my way back.

I went tearing into the main hall just in time to see my husband step on stage to receive his diploma. I had been trapped in the ladies room so long I had missed the rehearsal, the opening ceremonies, the music, the speeches and every graduate whose last name was anywhere in the alphabet before "W". After my husband got his diploma and left the stage, I sneaked into my seat and plopped down right next to Adam, my hair dresser, who glanced at me, registered a shocked expression on his face, noticed the huge black ball of melted plastic on my thumb and said "What in the world happened to you?!!" I tucked my ruined thumb into the palm of my hand and said "Youíll never believe it, so donít ask!" and proceeded to attend all the festivities with my thumb hidden. In every photo of those events, Iím Nine-Fingered Merme aka glamour puss.

...By Mary El Salunek