By Jule Windeler
Melinda is in a hurry. She walks down the street without stopping to look into shop windows or at the people handing out flyers. She is on the way to pick up her son and she is late. Not because she forgot – Melinda would never forget about her son. Daniel. But until ten minutes ago, Melinda was on the phone with her best friend and she was too polite to hang up. But now she is late. While turning a corner, Melinda looks at her watch nervously. It isn’t the first time that she is late and she is probably gonna get into an argument with Daniel’s Kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Johnson can’t stand it if parents are late to pick up their children.
Melinda is almost there now and she can already see Mrs. Johnson standing in the door frame with a stern look on her face. “I am so sorry!” Melinda says before she has even reached the door, “it won’t happen again.” Mrs. Johnson just shakes her head. “Yes, it will”, she says grumpily before she turns around and yells: “Daniel, your mom is here!” A few moments later a little boy with light brown hair comes through the door. With his one hand he is carrying a bag that looks way too big for him, while his other hand is struggling with the zipper of his jacket. Melinda rushes toward him and kisses him before pulling up the zipper and reaching for the bag. Mrs. Johnson shakes her head once more and mumbles something before walking back into the house.
On their way home Daniel tells his mother about his day. He has drawn a farm with five chickens and a leopard. He has also built a castle with Legos and has beaten his friend at chess. Melinda listens carefully to his every word and smiles at the sound of his excited voice. The look on her face says it all: She loves her son more than anything in the world. Daniel is lucky to have a mom like Melinda. As they get home Melinda starts preparing lunch while Daniel is drawing in the living room. He has the picture of his farm in front of him and adds a second leopard to it.
The living room is kept very simple; there is a small table with three chairs. On one wall are several cupboards and beneath the window that goes down on the street is a couch. A few of Daniel’s drawings are hanging on the walls but apart from that there is almost no decoration. Only one photograph is standing on one of the cupboards and it is placed in a way that it can be seen from pretty much every point in the room. The photograph shows three people: a man and a woman who smile radiantly at the baby in the woman’s arms.
As Melinda is done with her cooking she sits down with Daniel and they start eating in silence until Daniel’s gaze wanders to his drawing. “What do you think of the farm?” he asks his mother. Melinda smiles. “It is very beautiful. But why are there leopards on your farm, Daniel?” The child looks at his mother as if this was the simplest thing in the world. “Leopards are strong”, he says, “they protect the other animals – so nobody can hurt them.” Suddenly there are tears sparkling in Melinda’s eyes but she wipes them away quickly and Daniel doesn’t seem to notice anything. “Can we visit Daddy and show him the farm?” he asks and after a short moment of hesitation, Melinda nods. “Sure, why not.” She forces a smile and Daniel beams at her, not noticing his mother’s discomfort.
And I can’t help but feel incredibly proud. Proud of the way she is handling everything. I am proud of how hard she tries to put her own needs aside to be there for her son. Our son. And I smile as I look at Daniel who has started eating faster for he can’t wait to go to his dad to show him the drawing of the strong leopards.
Taking in every detail of the so familiar room, my eyes find the photograph on the cupboard. Almost five years have passed since it was taken and I still remember it as if it was yesterday: Melinda and I and our newborn son; proud parents who were so excited about the change in their lives, oblivious to what the future would hold.
As soon as he has swallowed his last bite, Daniel gets up and runs to get his jacket. Melinda smiles as she pulls up the zipper and then fetches the drawing from the table. As they leave the apartment, she takes her son’s small hand in hers and together they walk down the street like every week. I know where they are going. It has been the same destination for the past three years and I know that it is never going to change. Just like the fact that I am watching over them, every minute of every day, making sure that they are okay – like the leopards in Daniel’s drawing. I watch over them as they visit my grave and I listen to their words, unseen by them – but never forgotten.