Only a Mother

Despite what were once hopefully good intentions, experiments go awry. The spanner of an unpredicted finding falls headlong into a carefully constructed protocol. An irregular finding collapses a hypothesis. Meticulously collected data are rendered useless by a rascal-finding. Do scientists then discard their long and lonely years of research? Do they pull the plugs? Do they turn off the switches?

Or, can they perhaps just ignore such tiny and insignificant outcomes? Surely those outliers must be spurious. Variance can’t be of such importance, can it?

But in this experiment, the scientists do not need to worry. There are no anomalies, no glitches, no outliers and no rogues. There is nothing unexpected. All is in perfect order.

We are seated in our usual places.

Eight M.O.M.s on the right.

Eight mothers on the left.

The children are absent, as usual.

No fathers are here, never have been.

We M.O.M.s wear our navy skirts, all a standardized size, our spotless starched white shirts and our flat black shoes. It is almost a uniform, but not quite. We are told we do have some degree of choice, within negotiated limits. Oh, I yearn for the wild swirling of a scarlet scarf or the mischievous ruffling of a frivolous frill.

The mothers wear an assortment of straight-trousers, shift-dresses, A-line-skirts, and low-slung-sandals. Even though they are permitted, they don’t wear anything other than their depressed grays, creams, charcoals, beiges, and faded-denim-blues.

We are in the Updating Room, and this is the final of the annual updates.

The scientists, Dr. Joseph and Ms. Eddie, sit as intent as referees, one at either end of the two paralleled rows. Over the last year, Joseph’s hair has thinned until a few whips now strangle down the long and lonely length of his forehead. Age has sketched dark rings under his eyes and exaggerated the down-turning of his mouth.

Ms. Eddie, on the other hand, has fought with age. Wrinkles, which last year fanned out as white-worms along her tanned face, have been ruthlessly eradicated. Skin that sagged so slightly below her chin is now as taut as tugging on ropes.

Before each Updating, the scientists scan our brains: Are our emotions embedded shallow or deeply in our temporal lobes? Are our limbic systems firing appropriately with our smiling and sighing and laughing and crying? Is there equal or unequal synaptic modulation? Is neuron-myelination imbalanced? Are M.O.M.s changing more than mothers? Are mothers changing more than M.O.M.s? Are there unexpected findings that could disrupt the carefully constructed hypothesis?

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Laura Campbell

Laura Campbell is a writer and physician. Her stories revolve around fundamentalism. She grew up as a Catholic in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. She specializes in palliative medicine and holds workshops, such as Write to Right, to facilitate healing through writing. She finds energy in her roles as wife, mother, and lover of nature.

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