or — “What do you get the woman from the man who can do anything?”
“Well, look what we have here!” the letter carrier held the package high as he entered the tiny beauty salon. Rows of ladies turned, either startled by something genuinely new to their routine or annoyed by the intrusion into their sacred space.
“Martha! It’s for you!”
The mailman handed the small parcel to her, and she received it with a knowing smile. “From Clark,” she noticed. Of course. “H.M.D!” was scrawled on the top.
Tipping his hat, the mailman admitted he was nearly done with his rounds but happened across that package almost by accident. Couldn’t believe he had missed it before, and wanted to make sure she got it earlier rather than later. She thanked him earnestly.
“He can’t even take the time to write Happy Mothers’ Day properly,” one of the ladies noticed.
“Honestly, does he even call?” another asked.
And another, “It’s the Big City. It always changes people, if you ask me.”
“I don’t believe that for a second,” Martha said. She was almost done, and her hairdresser showed her the final touches.
“Oh, I just mean it’s not his *fault,* you know. They just keep him so busy, over there.”
“Over there and everywhere!” she said, looking at her new style in the mirror approvingly. Her smile was a bit wistful, nonetheless. Being at the salon was certainly as much a treat for herself as it was a secret hope that would it be for her son, too. If he happened to come home. If.
Later, Martha and her friend were walking down the main street, the parcel and some groceries in hand.
“You know, you shouldn’t listen to those girls back there,” her friend said. “Clark is always good enough to send packages, and it’s terribly hard for anyone to get away at this time of year.”
“Oh, I know, believe me. There’s always plenty to keep busy, even in a small little town like this.”
As if to prove her point, Martha placed a coin into a nearby parking meter.
“Martha! That’s against the law isn’t it?”
“Oh, hush! I just had some extra change in my pocket that wasn’t doing *me* any good.” Clink! Another quarter in another meter.
Martha turned to see the meter attendant look up from her clipboard and machine and cock her head in surprise.
Martha and her friend ran down the street around the corner, heads thrown back in laughter.
The laughter died but her friend wouldn’t let Martha go that easily. “You miss him, don’t you,” she said it like she knew the answer.
“Every day,” Martha smiled. “Sometimes a lot, but every moment of every day, it’s still there, just a little bit. That feeling, like a song that’s stuck in your head and you can’t quite place it. It sticks with you.”
The next day, Martha stayed later after church to help the attendants put the chairs away. Then, she delivered a casserole to Mrs. Teague whose father was in the hospital, lent the Rosses her hedge trimmer, and even gave Ms. Sullivan a jump to get her car started, lest she would be late to the family dinner.
She barely made it to the cemetery before the gates would close, so at least she could to talk to her husband before the dusk fell.
“He hasn’t made it back yet,” she admitted to the headstone. “I didn’t want to open it until he and I could open it together.”
She held the unopened package just in case Jonathan could see. “It doesn’t really matter, though. I know everyone says that, but it’s true.
“He gives me the same thing every year. Every day, really. You’ll think I’m silly, but you felt it, too.
“To know that every day the world is a little better because of his presence in it…
“It’s pride. Not pride in myself, no. I’m so proud of him. For him, and the man he’s become. Every. Day.”
She gave the headstone a little pat, but even pride can bring a tear sometimes.
Martha had dinner with the Langs then had time to finish some letters to old friends over some tea. The parcel was still there, on the counter but still in the corner of her eye. It would almost be midnight.
Maybe he wouldn’t be able to be here, after all.
Sighing, she resolved she would open it without him. She cleared a space on the kitchen table and took her time. Each movement was a loving gesture, making sure to only tear the tape, not the wrapping, with all the care of a ritual. She pulled back each corner of the box one by one, then folded over the tissue paper.
Her face softened as she looked inside. “Oh, it’s so perfect,” she said under her breath, softer than the crickets. “Thank you.”
“No, thank you,” he said from the doorway. “Every day.”
Martha hugged her son with the strength of the whole world.