REDISCOVERING HAPPINESS • by Jessica Marie Baumgartner

My memories of her are my earliest. She was the kind of mother you hear about in stories, ever patient. She made my father happy and he adored her.

My sister and I were allowed to jump on the bed, run through the halls, play catch in the living room. She was so young, she has no memories of these things, but I do. I miss our former life.

I miss my father too.

He’s still a good dad, makes an effort to check over our homework, keeps us fed and clothed, but I know he has more to give. He used to laugh, used to have fun. It can’t be easy working to support two kids alone, and I’m glad for all that we have. Despite this, I know there’s something missing.

I remember true happiness.

Yesterday was my birthday. We celebrated well enough. It still hurt to miss my mother even though we’ve been through a lot without her.

After everyone went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. So I opened my computer. Finally old enough to get on most social media sites without getting in trouble, I played around a little.

There was so much to see. I lost myself for a while. Finding my friends online was fun. When my best friend logged on, we messaged back and forth.

Your dad finally let you on, my best friend Kia typed.

Kind of, I sent back. I’m old enough for the terms.

That makes sense.

I know, right?

So how was your birthday?

I sighed as shrugged to myself and sent, Same as usual.

I wish your dad would let you have a party.

Me too, but he’s hell bent on keeping things simple. Mom always liked smaller family stuff, said it brought us closer together. That, and he says parties have become too expensive.

Well, I have the perfect gift for you.

What is it?

I hope it doesn’t make you mad.

How could a birthday present make me mad?

I don’t know. Just promise not to.

Tell me what it is.

Fine, but I warned you. You remember how you talked about wishing you could see your mom just one more time?

Yeah. I sat back, nervous.

Staring at the bright screen, Kia sent me a link to my mother’s old facebook page. I wondered if my dad would be okay with it. He’d avoided social media for as long as I could remember. Said it only wasted time. I loved him dearly, but missed my mom and that took over any worries I had.

I made sure to send Kia a, Thank you, and then clicked the link.

My mother’s page sat as if she had never died. The header showed one of the last pictures she took. I’d seen it so often. Looking it over again, I started to cry.

My father lay buried in leaves while my sister and I covered him. I had little memory of that day, but it was captured perfectly. My sister and I had played in the yard as our parents raked and gardened. We looked so happy.

My mother’s profile picture was beautiful as always. I’ve often wished that I could look as good as her in photos. She’d seemed like a fairy tale character to me over the years, or more like a Goddess, always part of my life, but not really with me.

Tonight I page down same as last, absorbing her timeline and clicking on all of her posts. I wonder if my dad even knows they’re still here.

“Goodnight kiddo.” He pokes his head into my room.

“Goodnight dad.” I sigh. As he disappears, I call him back, “Dad?”

“What’s up?” He walks in, eyes alert.

I turn my laptop towards him. “Did you know this is still here?”

“I guess I never had it taken down.” He comes over and sits on my bed. The look on his face makes me want to cry. There is so much love there, but pain is also present.

It’s hard to share his sorrow, but sweet because I want to know love the way he has someday. I hope I don’t lose mine the same way, but it’s nice to know how deep some bonds go.

I page down for his sake and he laughs, stopping me. “I remember that day. Your mom was determined to finish that 5K without walking.”

“And she did?”

“Don’t you remember?” His eyes gain something as they watch me. “I guess you were kind of young. Yes, she ran till the end. Always did.”

His smile makes it easier to talk to him. “You’re not mad at me, are you dad?”

“No.” He seems surprised that I would ask. “I shouldn’t have avoided it all these years. I had a page once myself.”

“You?” I’m so astounded my eyes go wide without trying.

He nods.

“I miss her a lot.”

“Me too, do you think we should share this with your sister?” He looks back to the computer.

“Definitely.”

I smile as he calls out, “Cecelia, I want you to see something.”

The rich tone of his voice reminds me of the days when we were a family of four. He’s regained a little of that old joy and I’m ready to hear more.


Jessica Marie Baumgartner is a member of The St. Louis Writer’s Guild. Her stories have been featured by “Fiction on the Web,” “Down in the Dirt Magazine,” “Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine,” “Aphelion,” “Postcard Scripts,” “Hellfire Crossroads,” and others. She has a Paranormal Romance novelette titled “Tale of Two Bookends” through Cobblestone Press LLC, and a children’s book about religious diversity and acceptance titled, “My Family Is Different.” You check her out at www.jessicamariebaumgartner.com.


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Every Day Fiction

  • The story reads more as nonfiction, like a diary entry. Despite the subject matter there’s something dry about it. Perhaps the language? Maybe some description would give the story what to me seems missing. I think some color would help. Then again, maybe it’s the author’s intention to make the reader feel as bereft as the characters? Only problem is I don’t also feel the hope that’s introduced at the end.

  • The story reads more as nonfiction, like a diary entry. Despite the subject matter there’s something dry about it. Perhaps the language? Maybe some description would give the story what to me seems missing. I think some color would help. Then again, maybe it’s the author’s intention to make the reader feel as bereft as the characters? Only problem is I don’t also feel the hope that’s introduced at the end.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Definitely something emotionally missing from this story. I felt like I was on the outside looking in.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Definitely something emotionally missing from this story. I felt like I was on the outside looking in.

  • MPmcgurty

    Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with a piece of fiction reading like non-fiction (to Denbe’s point), I agree with the previous two readers that this felt a bit dry and impersonal. Maybe that’s because the mother has been gone so long, the memories are more about what the mother did and was, and this is the start of reconnecting in an emotional way? If what the author was going for – “everything is going to be okay” – I think this delivered it, but it’s not going to stay with anyone very long.

    Also: “Staring at the bright screen, Kia sent me a link to my mother’s old facebook page.” No.

    • To your last part, why no? Why couldn't Kia send her a link to her mom's old FB page? Or is it how the sentence is written that you have an issue with? Just curious as I didn't see anything wrong there.
      • MPmcgurty
        How it was written.
      • S Conroy
        The grammar books call it a dangling participle. As far as the grammar goes, you would think Kia was staring at the FB page. But as far as the story goes, the subject has got to be the MC. (The MC can't see what Kia is doing.)
        • Good points, both. And I missed the second one completely. Thanks for clarifying.
  • MPmcgurty

    Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with a piece of fiction reading like non-fiction (to Denbe’s point), I agree with the previous two readers that this felt a bit dry and impersonal. Maybe that’s because the mother has been gone so long, the memories are more about what the mother did and was, and this is the start of reconnecting in an emotional way? If what the author was going for – “everything is going to be okay” – I think this delivered it, but it’s not going to stay with anyone very long.

    Also: “Staring at the bright screen, Kia sent me a link to my mother’s old facebook page.” No.

    • To your last part, why no? Why couldn't Kia send her a link to her mom's old FB page? Or is it how the sentence is written that you have an issue with? Just curious as I didn't see anything wrong there.
      • MPmcgurty
        How it was written.
      • S Conroy
        The grammar books call it a dangling participle. As far as the grammar goes, you would think Kia was staring at the FB page. But as far as the story goes, the subject has got to be the MC. (The MC can't see what Kia is doing.)
        • Good points, both. And I missed the second one completely. Thanks for clarifying.
  • I’m giving this three stars, but only because I don’t think it’s finished. Not yet anyway.

    Although it was an emotional story, I didn’t really feel for the characters much. Perhaps the dad some. I’m not sure what was missing, however, and I fear that my critique won’t prove very useful to the author.

    One change I’d make for sure is to end the story at, “Cecelia, I want you to see something.”

    The last line didn’t help the story at all, as he finds joy way too quickly. But leave it at that and it shows hope and possibly the start of some real healing for this shattered family.

    I thought the writing was well-done, and the author has a lot to say. Looking forward to hearing more. Thanks for sharing.

  • I’m giving this three stars, but only because I don’t think it’s finished. Not yet anyway.

    Although it was an emotional story, I didn’t really feel for the characters much. Perhaps the dad some. I’m not sure what was missing, however, and I fear that my critique won’t prove very useful to the author.

    One change I’d make for sure is to end the story at, “Cecelia, I want you to see something.”

    The last line didn’t help the story at all, as he finds joy way too quickly. But leave it at that and it shows hope and possibly the start of some real healing for this shattered family.

    I thought the writing was well-done, and the author has a lot to say. Looking forward to hearing more. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amy Sisson

    I think this makes a brilliant point about how social media is starting to impact the grieving process. It also reminded me how many deaths of friends and relatives I’ve learned about on Facebook in the past few years. And it’s quite a shock when a new post (left by a loved one) shows up on a deceased person’s page.

    Well done.

  • Amy Sisson

    I think this makes a brilliant point about how social media is starting to impact the grieving process. It also reminded me how many deaths of friends and relatives I’ve learned about on Facebook in the past few years. And it’s quite a shock when a new post (left by a loved one) shows up on a deceased person’s page.

    Well done.