Blanche wrapped the guilt quilt around her shoulders. Every patch held a worry or a wish and it was stitched together by her fears for her children. She rocked quietly in the corner of what used to be the nursery. Many little ones had come and gone through this little corner of her home. Every one of them had left a little piece of themselves behind. The ethereal forgotten pieces of childhood were stacked neatly on the shelves. A whimiscal elephant that was missing one eye that Sammy had carried around for her entire babyhood. A bird hotel built by Johnathan as a class project. A marble scale that Henry had treasured during his mad scientist phase. Glow in the dark stars tracked across the ceiling from when Joanie was afraid of the dark. Blanche just rocked and rocked. Her Mother Bear days were over. Her cubs were all grown. They’d found homes and lives of their own. They all piled into her house on Sundays to devour six pizza pies and their mother’s homemade cookies.
When they left there was an emptiness. A wild thing stalked the silences in her home. A longing that had nothing to do with diaper changing or house wrangling sat deep inside her heart. It grew. And grew. It grew without bottle feeding. Soon it learned to walk, with no input from Blanche at all. It scared her how this longing grew. After raising four babies she had the rhythm of helping another grow to their potential. But this thing in her heart broke all the rules. She could feel it doing backflips in her chest when she wandered the aisles of the grocery store. It made it hard to sleep at night as she laid in her big bed alone. She talked to her daughters more. She visited her sons for lunch. Nothing stopped the growth. Nothing slowed it. Soon she felt as if her skin was too tight. The wild thing whispered to her at night. Forgotten dreams. Lost ideas. She turned the music up while driving and tried to drown its whispers out.
Then one day she found herself in the school supply aisle of the grocery store. She bought a coloring book and crayons. When she got home and was unpacking the groceries she laughed at the whim that had inspired her to get it. But later that night as sleep refused to come she opened the book and colored a picture of a giraffe. The voice of the wild thing was silent the entire time she colored. Within a week she had filled the entire book with color and ordered several more to be delivered to the house. Then she upgraded her cheap crayons for fancy pencils and it delighted her the way they scratched across the paper.
By Autumn the wild thing in her chest was almost silent. Except when she walked past the old nursery. On one beautiful fall day she opened every window in the house and began to deep clean. She reached the Nursery and she sighed. The wild thing howled at her. She took a deep breath and dragged everything out. She gathered up her children’s lost toys to be dropped off to them. She dragged a table and a chair inside. Her favorite stained glass lamp was settled into the corner of the table. Blanche gathered up her pencils, paints, coloring books, and sketchbooks. She tucked them all neatly into a side table and stacked her current work on the table. The room took a deep breath and let it out. It felt lighter. Autumn forgot about cleaning and spent an hour doodling instead. She stood up to stretch and went to leave the room. As she reached to turn off the light, she smiled at the transformation of the tiny room. All traces of her children were gone, except for a few glow in the dark stars. Tiny spots of light scattered across the ceiling. The wild thing in her chest was gone.
The prompts for today’s short story: