“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Trading Mommies, a short story



Trading Mommies
By Mary Pat Bielecki

Little Joey was in a LOT of trouble with his Mommy. The kitchen was very messy because Joey had thrown all of the pots and pans on the floor, spilled all the milk out of his cup, and crumbled up his snack into little bitty crumbs.

Mommy said, “You are not being a very nice little boy, Joey.”

Joey’s eyebrows went down and his mouth bunched up. This was his very angry face.

“I don’t love you,” said Joey. “I wish I had a NEW Mommy.”

Joey’s Mommy was quiet. Then she got down on her knees in front of her angry little boy and put her hands on his shoulders.

“I know you don’t mean that, Joey,” said Mommy.

“Yes, I do,” he said, “I really, really do.” He made another bad face at his Mommy.

Mommy smoothed Joey’s face with her hand. “Don’t make that face at me,” she said kindly. “I know you don’t want to be mean to me. I know you would never want another Mommy.”

Joey would not say he was sorry to his mother, and she did not ask him to. At bedtime that night, he still had not spoken to her. As Mommy helped him into his pajamas, she said, “Did you think about what I said before? Do you still want a new Mommy?”

Joey frowned. He wasn’t sure about any of this at all. His mother was all right, but maybe a new Mommy would not be so angry if he made a mess in the kitchen.

“Go to sleep now,” she said. She still was not upset. “Maybe you will have an answer when you wake up.”

Mommy leaned down, kissed Joey’s nose, and tucked him into his bed. “Snug as a bug in a rug,” she said. Joey did not smile like he usually did. He was too busy thinking about getting a new Mommy.

He was so busy thinking that he did not say good night, he did not notice Mommy leaving the room, and he did not even know when he fell asleep.

When Joey woke up, it was not morning. It was not night, either. Joey could not tell what time it was. When he looked around, he was not even sure he was in his own room! Everything seemed bigger and different, and there were lots of strange people all around. Everyone was talking at once, and it was so noisy that Joey had to cover his ears with his hands.

Suddenly, a short, round little man with wings in his back tapped Joey on the shoulder. Joey had to uncover his ears to hear the little man speak.

“Have you decided on a Mommy?” asked the little man.

“What?” said Joey. He was confused. How did the little man know about the talk that Joey had with his Mommy?

“All the children need to choose their Mommies by the end of the hour,” said the man importantly.

Joey looked around. He had not noticed before, but now he saw that all of the noisy people around him were actually little boys and girls just like him. They were shouting out names of ladies that Joey did not know.

“Who are you?” Joey asked the little man. “Where are we?”

“Oh, you forgetful ones always frustrate me,” grumbled the little man. He was holding a long list, and he began rolling it up into a tube. “I am Andrew, Angel of Children. We are in the Waiting Room. This is where all the children who are waiting to born decide who their Mommies will be.”

“But I am already born,” said Joey. This was getting more confusing every minute. “I already have a Mommy. Her name is Mary Pat.”

“What’s that you say?” said Andrew. Two little boys were tumbling by and yelling at each other. It made it hard for Andrew and Joey to hear each other.

“I want Mary Pat!” shouted one boy.

“No, I chose her first!” yelled another. The arguing went on as the boys pushed and shoved away from Andrew and Joey.

Joey was so surprised. The name the two boys were yelling about was his Mommy’s name.

“What’s that you say now?” repeated Andrew. He was unrolling his list and checking it again.

“I said I am already born,” said Joey again. “I already have a Mommy. But I was thinking about getting a new one. Maybe that’s why I’m here.”

“Ooooh,” said Andrew. “Trading Mommies is a very serious business. Who is your Mommy now?”

“Her name is Mary Pat,” said Joey. He thought of the two boys who had been fighting over this same name, and felt nervous saying it.

“Oh, we know all about her,” said Andrew, smiling. He ran his finger down the long list until it landed on Mary Pat’s name. Next to it were lots of other names, some with stars, some with big Xes next to them. At the very top was Joey’s name. It was circled.

“What are all those other names?” asked Joey.

“Lots of children are waiting for Mary Pat,” Andrew explained. “She makes cookies, sings songs, and tucks her little boy in every night. All of the children want to be ‘snug as a bug in a rug.’”

“She’s not SO great,” said Joey. “She was mad at me today.”

“All Mommies get mad sometimes,” said Andrew. “But not all Mommies make you ‘snug as a bug in a rug.’ And your Mommy gives lots of love and hugs and kisses every day, and works extra hard at not getting too mad too often. Did you do something wrong to make your Mommy upset?”

Joey swallowed and looked at his pajama feet.

“I made a big mess of the kitchen, and said I wanted a new Mommy,” he said quietly.

“I see,” said Andrew.

“I didn’t clean up my mess,” said Joey, suddenly realizing that he had not been a very nice boy.

“I see,” said Andrew.

“Mommy always cleans up her messes,” he said. “Mommy always cleans up ALL the messes.”

“I see,” said Andrew.

“Mommy takes care of everything,” said Joey. “She takes care of Daddy and me, too. When my tummy hurts or my nose is sniffly, she lets me snuggle against her shoulder and she sings me songs.”

“I see,” said Andrew. “Well, like I said, trading Mommies is a serious business. BUT--if you want to trade your Mommy, it should be pretty simple.”

Joey was surprised. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” said Andrew, “since so many other boys and girls are wishing for your Mommy to be THEIR Mommy, it would actually help us out to send you somewhere else.”

Joey was quiet and thought hard about this. He definitely did not want to let these other boys and girls take his Mommy away.

“You know,” said Andrew, “you were here once before. Do you remember?”

Joey shook his head.

“When you were here, you cried every day to have Mary Pat be your Mommy. You promised a hundred times that you would be a nice boy if only you got to be ‘snug as a bug in a rug’ every night. That was why you were the boy we chose for Mary Pat.”

“I chose my own Mommy?” Joey asked.

Andrew laughed. “I think you’re catching on. All the children in the world choose their Mommies. You were lucky enough to get your Mommy on the first pick.”

Joey smiled. He was lucky. “I don’t think I want to trade Mommies after all,” he said to Andrew.

Andrew smiled back. Then he pointed to a nice soft-looking pillow nearby. “Why don’t you rest on that pillow a minute?” said Andrew.

Joey was feeling a little tired. He thanked Andrew and went over to the pillow. The minute he put his head on it, he was asleep. When he woke up again, he was back in his own bedroom in his own house and it was morning.

Joey could not wait even a minute. He kicked off his blankets and jumped out of bed. He ran down the hallway and into the living room. There was Mommy, folding laundry and singing a song. Joey went right up and put his arms around her neck for a big hug.

“I don’t want another Mommy,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. “I just want you.”

“That’s good,” said Mommy, hugging him tightly.  "I just want you, too." 

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