Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A prayer for Stacey

The message on the onesie read, “Fabulous, just like Mommy.”  There was one to make the Dad happy too - “Handsome like Daddy.”  Next to the onesies was a humidifier shaped like a penguin.  Beside that was a gray swaddle cloth.  A changing pad at the edge of the table was wrapped and the card on top read, “Poopsie!”  And there was, of course, the “Goodnight Moon” book.  These were items placed on the table in a conference room at Stacey’s workplace.  Several blue colored balloons floated around.  On the table was a red velvet cake with a message that read, “Congrats Mary!”  Sporting a light-pink shirt, gray suit and matching pants, Stacey was placing candles on the cake.  She was a 48-year old marketing manager who had a team of five.  As one of her team members walked in with homemade cupcakes, Stacey looked up and smiled.  A friend of mine once mentioned that when one smiles genuinely, their eyes smile too.  He even mentioned the name of the smile – the Duchenne smile.  That is difficult to pronounce – I’d rather call it the Stacey smile.

The rest of Stacey’s team had been tight-lipped about the baby shower.  As a result, Mary was genuinely surprised when she walked into the room to the cries of “surprise!”  With an impish smile, Stacey said, “Mary, now you know why the meeting invitation said ‘must attend’ in the subject!” 

As people settled down to enjoy the refreshments, one of the newer members of her team asked, “Stacey, do you have kids?”

With a faint smile – no, it did not reach her deep hazel eyes – she replied, “No, I don’t.”  She quickly added, “Try the cupcakes.  They are fabulous!” 

As people were getting ready to leave, she said to Mary, “Ping me when you are ready to leave.  We will help load everything into your car.  Why don’t you plan to work from home tomorrow?  We can move our one-on-one to Monday.”

Mary gently hugged her and said, “This was so sweet of you.  I really appreciate it!”

Later that evening, as soon as Stacey got into her car, she took her phone out of her handbag to take it off vibrate mode.  She spent a couple of extra seconds looking at her husband Ron’s photograph.  Ron had been traveling for work.

She texted him: “Hey Ron, I miss you.  Is there a chance that you can come back a little earlier than planned?”

Within a few seconds came a response: “Hi honey, you ok?”

“Oh yes, I am totally fine :)  I just felt like talking to you.  By the way, Mary’s baby shower went off really well.  The kid looked so beautiful today.  So glad that we didn’t have anyone squeal!  Mary was genuinely surprised, I thought!”

“Cool!  Let me see if I can get on an earlier flight.  Ciao!”

Ron was able to advance his return journey and instead of arriving the next day, he returned home late night.  Stacey was asleep on the couch, with her reading glasses still on, and her book on her lap.  He took her glasses off gingerly, kissed her on her forehead and whispered, “Hi sweetie!”

Resting her head on his lap, she asked, “Hey…did you have dinner?”

“I did.  But the steak was as underprepared as my vendor’s presentation!”

She grinned and said, “I am too lazy to go upstairs.  Why don’t we just doze off here?”

He patted her on her cheek and responded, “Sure, let me go upstairs and get some pillows and a blanket.”

A little later, he walked over to their yoga room and squatted on his mat with his eyes closed.  He felt that his short internal monologues which could sometimes be a quiet prayer, helped him unwind before retiring for the night.  It was a routine that he had started around ten years ago following a difficult phase for him and Stacey, one during which visits to gynecologists and fertility clinics were frequent. 

As Ron eased into his posture, he felt blank at first.  And then thoughts around something specific started to traipse across his mind.  What he prayed for that night was...well, that’s between him and Stacey.

Note: Names have been changed for privacy reasons.


Anonymous said...

Such a moving piece...Stacey and Ron both are so sensitive to each others needs...As individuals and as a couple, they are so mature....Thank you for writing about this...May their tribe grow..:)

Anusha said...

I am thinking this would be a better fit on the fiction grid...

Ram Murali said...

Anonymous - thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it.

Anusha - I actually beg to differ. This is a real-life story. If I were to have submitted to the fiction grid, I feel like my style of writing would have been different and not been as true to life as I have tried to be here.

Anusha said...

I understand that.
The reason I said that is because this isn't a personal essay - it is not from your point of view..and even if it is a true story, I wasn't able to place you in it - not even as a narrator or observer.
Hope I wasn't rude!

Ram Murali said...

Anusha - the guideline states, "Basic YeahWrite guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events."

This piece belonged to the last category - a mostly true story based on real-life events. Which is why I thought it merited a place on the non-fiction grid.

No, I didn't think you were rude :)

Helicopter Bride said...

I love when couples support one another through difficult times. Very sweet and inspiring. I like that even though she had been through her own difficulties, Stacy doesn't let it stop her from celebrating the happiness of others.

Ram Murali said...

Helicopter Bride - yes, the last line that you wrote was what never ceased to amaze me about the real-life Stacey. She could find genuine happiness in other people's joys.

Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated.

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Thanks for "re-introducing" some of us to Stacey. Since I'd read one of your pieces long ago in which she was featured I was able to guess roughly where this was heading but sweet surprise at the end !

Trish Tuthill said...

"He even mentioned the name of the smile – the Duchenne smile. That is difficult to pronounce – I’d rather call it the Stacey smile"

This line, in particular, stood out for me. Thank you

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - I am glad you liked the write-up. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Trish - thank you for your comment. Ever since my friend mentioned this smile, I think I pay more attention to how people smile! :)

Sara Siddiqui said...

It's a sensitive topic that you broached here but you handled it deftly.The relationship is so special.

Kousalya Murali said...

Hi Ram
I loved the sensitive way in which you portrayed what for quite a few couples is a very difficult fact to accept; I love Stacy for being not only genuinely happy but taking the extra step to arrange for a baby shower when she has her own sadness to cope with. She did not let that come in the way of celebrating another person's happiness. How I wish we had more people like her in the world. The understanding between the couple is to be emulated by young and old-the love they have for each other and the support they show is amazing.
I know of another couple who are so much like Stacy and Ron. So I hope that these good souls are compensated in some other way. Thank you for celebrating goodness and genuine magnanimity.

Margaret said...

This was a lovely story. So glad for Stacy and her husband that they can support each other, as well as friends. "With a faint smile – no, it did not reach her deep hazel eyes – she replied, “No, I don’t.” She quickly added, “Try the cupcakes. They are fabulous!” Great showing, not telling.

Ram Murali said...

Sara, Amma and Margaret - thank you for your comments. I am glad that it came across as sensitive. That's the least I could do to pay a tribute to the real-life Stacey.

Margaret - thank you for the positive reinforcement regarding the "show, don't tell" aspect. It's an area where I am continually striving to improve as a writer. So, it's nice to see readers calling out this aspect.