Lalina held up her new button proudly and shoved it in her big sister’s face. “Look what I got, Ndia! Auntie bought it for me today at the festival. You should have come. They had basketballs for sale.” Lalina’s older sister loved basketball — she would try out for her school’s junior varsity team in two weeks. Knowing this, Lalina did everything she could to make her sister feel bad about not coming with them to the festival. After all, isn’t this what a seven-year-old sister did?
“I don’t care about that festival, Lali. I had some rounds to do and layups and sprints. While you and Auntie were at the festival, I got those done. What else did you get besides some old tired button?”
Lalina adored her button. It said exactly what she felt everyone should do in life — “Do What You Love”. It amplified her feelings about swimming and ice skating. While her sister loved playing basketball, she had a gentler touch regarding sports. She wanted the button for their mother, who had been working double shifts for two months; an almost feeble attempt at making ends meet for the three of them.
“The button’s for Ma-mah, Ndia. She works so hard. She’s always tired. The button is for her. I don’t think she loves what she’s doing. I think she just has to — for us.”
The pressing thickness of the air between the two sisters got thicker. Ndia knew her kid sister had a big heart, but this moved her to a place she hadn’t connected with in a few years. After their parents’ divorce, the thirteen-year-old rebelled — fighting her mother’s rules and constantly bringing up their father’s absence. It wasn’t a peaceful time for any of them, but Ndia was a “Daddy’s Girl”, and everyone knew it.
“I’m sorry, Lali. That’s really sweet of you. Ma-mah will love it. She will. You’re a good kid, Lali.”
Melba plopped her beaten body onto the faux leather couch. She let out an exasperated sigh and kicked her right leg onto the couch’s head. She was just about to lasso sleep into her world when her youngest appeared before her weary eyes.
“Ma-mah, look what I got you!” Lalina flashed the button in front of her mom and waved it from side to side as if she was displaying the finest item one could ever lay their eyes upon. “Look what I got, Ma-mah!” Melba raised herself up on her elbows and steadied her shaky frame. She blinked twice before tears filled her eyes.
“What’s this you have here, Lali? Where’d you get this?” The tears filled again as soon as she wiped them — she had been overcome with so much emotion and overwhelmed by her baby girl’s gesture.
“It’s a Do What You Love button, Ma-mah! Auntie bought it for me at the festival so I could give it to you. Do you like it? I think you should do what you love, Ma-mah. You’re never happy. I can tell. And you’re always tired.”
Melba sighed a heavy sigh, wiped the spittle from her lips, and pulled her youngest daughter into the tightest bear hug her exhausted frame could muster up. She held on for what seemed like hours. Then she pushed Lalina in front of her gently and gave her little pajama’d body a thorough review.
“Lalina, what a sweet girl you are. Thank you, baby. Thank you so much. I will wear this every single day, okay? I will.”
She hugged her again, wiped the salty tears from her eyes, and patted Lalina’s head.
“I just want you to do what you love, Ma-mah.” And without missing a beat, Melba whispered into her youngest child’s ear, “I am, baby. I am.”
©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt
Originally published via Simily.