Copyright © 2019 Christopher Hiedeman. All Rights Reserved.

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The phone rang incessantly on the nightstand. Sarah checked her phone – it was Gwen, her mother. She decided not to answer the call and just let it go to voicemail.

Her mother tried calling and texting her a few times a month, but Sarah found this quite annoying. Her mother always wanted to schedule time to see her, but Sarah had so many things she would rather do with her time. When her mother would ask her about a certain date, she would simply reply “I don’t know if I can, I will let you know when I know for sure.”

Sarah’s mother grew to expect this response, but never-the-less was silently excited inside for the possibility of them spending time together. She fantasized about the fun new memories they would make together, and even though she only received a “maybe,” began planning their time together.

The date was getting close. Sarah didn’t want to cement her plans with her mother because there was a chance she might get to go out with her friend Lexie that day. She didn’t want to say no to her mom though – she didn’t want to spend that Saturday by herself either.

It was Friday night. Gwen sat by her phone on pins and needles, hoping for a phone call from her daughter saying they would be spending Saturday together. The phone rang and Gwen answered quickly. It was Gwen’s close friend Megan. Megan asked if she had any plans the next day. Megan was looking for someone to go shopping with her. Gwen explained to her friend that she might have plans with her daughter, so she would have to pass. They said their goodbyes and hung up. Gwen continued to sit by the phone, waiting for her daughter to call and give her news either way.

Morning sunlight shined on her face and woke her. Gwen had fallen asleep on the sofa with the phone next to her. She picked it up quickly to see if she had any missed calls but there were none.

 

Gwen picked up the phone and called her daughter. She got Sarah’s voicemail. With hesitation, she decided to leave a message.

Beep

“Hi Sarah honey. It’s Mom. I was hoping to hear from you last night. I didn’t know if you were planning on spending time with me today or not. You know sweetie, it’s ok if you don’t want to spend time with me, just tell me. I know that going through old photos, having lunch and coffee together is probably not on the top of the list of things you wanted to do with your Saturday – but someday you will know why times like this are so special. There will come a day when…”

 

Gwen started to tear up a little.

“There will come a day when I am no longer here. There will come a day when I won’t be able to just call you – a day when you won’t just be a phone call away from me… You have much more time left on this earth than I, and if you have time, I would like to spend as much of my time left with you as I can.”

Gwen trembled with the phone in her hand. “Love you sweetie! OK, bye-bye.”

While her mother poured her heart out into the voicemail, for the fourth time that week, Sarah spent the day with her friend Lexie – shopping for more clothes she didn’t need. Sarah heard the voicemail ping sound on her phone. She checked it to see if it was another one of her friends, but when she saw it was her mom, she ignored it. She could listen to that some other time. Sarah and Lexie went about their day of shopping.

Gwen set the phone down, happy that she had finally told her daughter how these actions made her feel. She hoped that it would be a turning point in their distant relationship – but unfortunately, like many of her daughter’s messages, it was lost in the sea of incoming notifications that she ignored.

Easter was just around the corner and Gwen wanted to have all of the family at her house. She sent out her invitations and heard back from most everyone - except for her daughter. She found this somewhat disappointing, but loved her with all her heart. She let her heart get excited for the time she hoped to spend with her daughter anyway.

Gwen went out and purchased special linens for the table and ordered flowers to make the occasion even more festive. Because of the large crowd she would have, Gwen had to buy extra chairs for the table and quite a bit of extra food. Everything was ordered and the holiday was just around the corner. Gwen looked at her progress – happy with how things were coming together. She was mostly happy to do something fun for her family. Family was the most important thing in her life to her.

Saturday night caught up to her fast. She hadn’t heard yet whether her daughter could make it for sure. She decided to give her daughter a call. To Gwen’s surprise, Sarah answered.

“Hello?”

“Hi Sarah sweetie!” Gwen exclaimed with delight.

“Oh, hi Mom.”

“So honey, can you make it for Easter? I would love it if you could join all of us. Uncle Kevin is going to be here as well as a few of your cousins.”

The phone was silent for a second. “Sure Mom, that sounds like fun.”

Fireworks burst inside Gwen's soul. “OK Sweetie! I can’t wait!”

“Cool. See you tomorrow then.”

“OK hun, Love you!”

“Yep you too,” Sarah replied.

Gwen set the phone down and looked at her home. The decorations made her home festive, but what made the holiday special was the family she would get to spend time with.

The alarm clock went off early Sunday morning. Gwen usually found this sound annoying, but today it was music to her ears! She was so excited to see her daughter and the rest of her family that she had a hard time sleeping. She got dressed in the special clothes she had set out and put extra care into her hair and makeup.

She started the oven and began preparing the food. She ran between the food and the table, trying to get everything set up and ready. She wanted the day to be absolutely perfect. After a few hours, the doorbell rang. Gwen bounced to the door and opened it with excitement. It was her brother and his two daughters.

“Come on in you guys! Happy Easter!” she said with a large smile on her face.

“Something smells good!”

“Thanks!” she replied. “The ham is cooking in the oven and the potatoes are on their way!"

Her sister walked in. “Oh your table is absolutely gorgeous!”

Gwen blushed. “Thanks!” she replied with a smile.

“Is Sarah here yet? The girls couldn’t wait to spend time with her.”

“Not yet,” Gwen replied. She gestured for them to take their seats in the dining room and help themselves to the Easter candy that sat in little decorative dishes next to each plate. “Food shouldn’t be too much longer,” she said.

Gwen walked into the kitchen and checked her phone, hoping to see a message from her daughter announcing her departure. There were no notifications on her screen though. Gwen looked at the ham and potatoes that were pretty much done cooking. She decided to give her daughter a call. The phone rang a few times and then went to voicemail. Maybe she’s driving, Gwen thought. She went back over to the stove to stir the potatoes when she heard her phone make a ting sound. She walked eagerly over to her phone and opened the message.

“Hey Mom. Can’t make it. Had to work.”

The fireworks that burst in her heart were transformed to rain. She got choked up. She walked into the dining room and said, “Dinners ready” with a forced smile.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Sarah?” her sister asked.

“Sarah just sent me a message saying she can’t make it.” Gwen responded with sadness.

Her sister paused for a moment, then said, “I was surprised you had said she would be here – Sarah told me there was a concert she wanted to go to today. I thought she might have gotten the days mixed up when you told me she would be here.”

Though her daughters absence upset her, the lie she had told hurt her the most. Why did she promise to visit if she knew she wouldn’t make it?

They all sat down to eat. Gwen stared at the empty placemat next to her where her daughter was supposed to be sitting. She burst into tears as she thought about how much her daughter must hate her. Her sister got up and comforted her. “She’s just a kid,” she said. But Sarah wasn’t a kid, she was in her late-twenties. Gwen’s tears dried and she pushed it out of her mind so she could enjoy the rest of her time with the family that wanted to be with her.

The weekend was full of so many laughs and wonderful moments. Her nieces took tons of photos, creating a tangible memory of the beautiful times they all shared together.

A year passed and it was time for Gwen to host her annual Easter dinner again. She went through the list of family she invited each year and paused by her daughter’s name. She loved her daughter, but didn’t want to invite her – knowing Sarah didn’t like spending time with her. So, she skipped inviting Sarah this time. If Sarah called, asking if she could join them, Gwen would gladly accommodated her. But Gwen was tired of inviting Sarah just to have her make up an excuse not to visit time after time.

That Easter came and went. It was less stressful for Gwen, not having to worry about how many guests she would have. Everyone that accepted the invitation to her Easter dinner came to it.

Gwen’s phone rang, and she answered. It was Sarah.

“Hi Honey! How are you!”

“I’m good Mom. Um, I am going to be driving by your place later today and was wondering if I could stay overnight?”

“Sure Sweetie! I can’t wait to see you!”

“Yeah. Ok, see you later.”

“Ok hun, Bye,” said Gwen with a smile.

“Bye.”

Gwen hung up the phone. The feelings inside her were bittersweet. She knew the only reason her daughter was visiting was to save her money on the cost of a hotel, and if she wasn’t heading through her town, she wouldn’t be seeing Sarah. Gwen pushed these thoughts out of her head and got excited for her daughter’s arrival.

The afternoon turned into evening, and Gwen heard the doorbell ring. She opened the door and it was her daughter Sarah!

“Sweetie! I have missed you so much!” she said.

They embraced in a warm hug, then Sarah continued on inside. She stopped in front of the photo album that rested on the buffet.

“When was this?” Sarah asked.

“Easter,” replied Gwen.

Sarah stood quiet for a moment. “Why wasn’t I invited?”

Gwen took in a deep breath. “Honey, you know you are always welcome. I have invited you for many holidays and weekends. You always are busy or have some excuse of why you can’t make it.”

Sarah got ready to interrupt, but Gwen gestured for her to let her finish speaking first.

“I know spending time with your Mom is not cool or fun, so I decided, if you didn’t want to spend time with me, I would stop making it awkward for you by not inviting you anymore. I don’t want to make you come up with excuses all the time – I decided if you really want to see me, you will call me.”

Sarah looked at her mother, unsure what to say. She thought about arguing that her excuses were valid. She thought about telling her Mom that she takes holidays too seriously.

Gwen looked at Sarah, and with sad eyes said, “If one of your friends said they would go shopping with you, and every time the day came they wouldn’t show or would make up an excuse of why they couldn’t make it, how would it make you feel?”

“Well, they probably wouldn’t be my friend anymore and I would never make plans with them again.”

After these words left her lips, Sarah thought about them. She began to understand how her mother felt by putting herself in the same situation. She saw the frustration.

“Mom, I’m sorry,” she said.

Gwen’s eyes welled up with tears. She walked up to her daughter and gave her a big hug. Sarah smiled, for this is the closest she had felt to her Mom in years.

They stayed up and chatted. Sarah and Gwen laughed harder and smiled wider than they had in a long time.

Morning came and Sarah and Gwen said their farewells. Gwen was unsure if anything would permanently change between them, but was hopeful that they would be closer now.

Easter was just around the corner again, and Sarah promised she would be there. Gwen was hesitantly excited for her visit, unsure if it would happen. She and her daughter had conversed more than they ever had throughout the year, but this was the true test.

It was Easter morning. Like usual, Gwen got up early to start cooking and setting the table. Before she got the ham out of the fridge the doorbell rang. Gwen jumped, almost dropping the ham onto the kitchen floor. She rushed to the door and opened it.

“Happy Easter Mom!”

Gwen's eyes welled up with tears. Sarah could not know how much this gesture meant to her mother, and really, the gesture was simple.

She wrapped her arms around her daughter with joy and said, “Happy Easter sweetheart!”

Something Better

Genre: Sentimental Drama

A look inside the minds of those across the table of canceled plans