Illustrated by Cait Maloney
Whitney held up the next flashcard and waited for her son to reply. Patrick’s face transformed into a wide grin as he smiled back at her. He straightened his spine in a proud stance and confidently pointed to the top of his thick head of blond hair, hair that would need a trim soon. “Head, this is my head.”
“Correct,” she said. “You are right!” Whitney flipped the card over and placed it on the stack of spent cards that were lying face down on the floor.
“That was an easy one Mom,” Patrick exaggerated with a roll of his eyes. “What’s the next one?”
Crossing her left leg over her right in an attempt to get more comfortable, Whitney shifted on the carpet before holding up the next flashcard for Patrick to see. As she waited patiently, her stomach rumbled. She could smell the Lasagna cooking in the oven and hear her husband who was working at the kitchen table. Let’s hurry up and get through these, little man, she thought to herself. I’m hungry. She watched as frown lines and a pout formed on Patrick’s face as he studied the card. She could tell that he was struggling to figure it out.
“Do you know this one Patrick? It’s a little harder than the last one.”
The boy pondered for a moment. “No, I don’t know that one Mommy,” he finally said. “What is it?”
“Well now, don’t give up so easily. What is your head sitting on?” she asked.
“Okay, that’s right, but what is your neck sitting on?”
Ugh. He is technically correct, Whitney thought. “Well, yes. Okay, but what are your arms connected to?”
Come on little guy. “Look at the flashcard again Patrick. What letter does this word start with?”
“Right. Now sound the word out. You can do it.”
That’s it. You’ve got this one little man, she thought. Shoulder, she silently cheered him on, a body part that means so much more. Shoulder, as in a soft place to fall at night on the shoulders of my husband. Shoulders that are strong and make me feel secure, protected, and loved. The soft nook that smells of ocean fresh deodorant, and the perfect spot where I lay my tired head before drifting off to sleep.
“Shhh — oo —der. Oh! Is it shoulder?” he asked excitedly.
“Yes! Very good. You got it.” Yeah, finally!
Thaddeus, meanwhile, had been watching his wife and son from the kitchen table and worrying about the upcoming layoffs at work. His job was supposed to be secure. But was it? He had watched through the first round of layoffs as friends and colleagues said goodbye to their jobs which were now being outsourced to other countries. Shoulder, he thought to himself, as is shouldering the responsibility to keep my family a float. Shoulder, as in shouldering the brunt of the financial storm. What will we do if I lose my job in this economy? Whitney will have to go back to work full time. I can’t bear to tell her that. I’m the one who should shoulder that responsibility now that we have Patrick, and after all that she has sacrificed for me to get where I am today.
Breaking through his thoughts, he heard Patrick yell out from the living room, “Oh, buttocks!”
“Yes!” his wife cheered out. He saw that Whitney had been pointing to her own derrière.
Ah, now there’s a body part I like, Thaddeus smiled to himself and chuckled, as he now thought of the words, soft, round, and perfect.