I had hoped for an easy Saturday, but our toddler started yelling at 5am again. My husband Hyun and I dragged through the morning, playing a groggy game of bumper cars in the kitchen as coffee dribbled into the carafe.
Hyun coaxed Ju-Yung into his booster seat and I scooped yogurt into a child-safe plastic bowl with a child-safe plastic spoon. While they ate breakfast, I sat back and breathed into my coffee.
“You want to get out this morning?” Hyun asked. He chewed his toast and blinked an invisible kiss across the cluttered table. “I’ll play with Ju-Yung.”
“Really?” I lifted my chin.
“We’ll be fine.”
I wiped yogurt off of Ju-Yung’s pajamas. Cold sunlight filtered through the curtains. After handing the wipe to Hyun, I pulled a sweater from the laundry pile and left with my keys in my fist.
Eucalyptus trees waved around the park. I sat on a hill in the lee of a large memorial. With solid stone at my back, I pressed my hands deep into the grass. My jitters calmed. I was perfectly alone, with no soggy crumbs to wipe or footie pajamas to fold.
A finch landed on the memorial, backlit by a blinding patchwork sky. The clouds imprinted their glowing outlines on my mind. I tilted my head back and closed my eyes, letting the silver lining hover behind my eyelids. The finch chirped above my head; its wings fluttered.
A thick, wet drop landed on my forehead.
The finch flew away. Wipes. The wipes were at home. If I could just get this off without touching it — but there was no time to think. It dripped into my eyebrow. I flicked gloop off with a finger and rubbed my hand in the grass. I scooted away, my back sliding against the memorial, and nuzzled my sleeve with feline desperation. I wished I could scrub my skin off, but that meant going back.
At home, three piles of laundry engulfed the living room, overlaying puzzles and trucks and stacking cups and board books. The mystery foods in the fridge needed tossing before Hyun tried to eat them. Wrinkled peas edged the kitchen laminate.
I pulled out my phone and stared at the screen; a digital clock glowed above a picture of Ju-Yung’s toothy smile. I had a half-hour left. This was a rare opportunity to be free, to be alone, to be lonely. Even though I didn’t need to think about home for the next half an hour, my meditative peace was gloop in the grass.
My heart thubbed. I buried my face in my sweater sleeves. My cheeks and nose thawed as my breath warmed the polyester blend. The clouds’ imprint faded, leaving darkness behind my eyelids.
My Hyun. He would be playing with Ju-Yung instead of worrying about things like dirtied outfits. Collateral damage be damned, he was probably helping the kid dig mud-pits in the backyard. I imagined filthy shoes, wide grins, and a hose on full blast. I should’ve been wreaking havoc with them, soaked, exhausted, and laughing. Leaning back against the cold stone, I texted Hyun.
A moment after pressing send, a familiar text chime blew past my ear. I looked up. A dark-haired man and a toddler climbed the hill.
“Sure, why not,” Hyun called. “Bananas were green, so I got apples.”
“How did — uh — you went to the Korean Market?”
“We checked the sales.”
He held the diaper bag over one shoulder and offered Ju-Yung a hand, but the toddler charged ahead and made it to the top first. His shoes were clean and his hair was combed to the side.
“Umma, clouds moving,” he said. He plopped down in the grass next to me. His chin tilted up until the back of his head touched his spine.
Hyun stood in front of us, squinting at the dissipating clouds. The sun was growing brighter and warmer. “Want to go for a walk before we head back?”
“Totally,” I said.
Ju-Yung’s cloud gazing lasted eight seconds before he hopped up and tromped around the monument, dragging his fingers across the names to find U for Umma and J for Ju-Yung and E for Elephant.
Sarah L. Yoon is a freelance writer with a novel, a picture book, and several short stories in the works. She writes with a kid trying to climb into her lap, asking for her to read another Dr. Seuss book. She reads a lot of Dr. Seuss.
Happy Mother’s Day from Every Day Fiction!