Mom Over Miami - By Annie Jones


Subject: Hannah’s online at last!

To: ItsmeSadie, WeednReap

CC: SShelnutt, Phizziedigs

Hey, sisters (and Dad and Aunt Phiz)—

I finally got my computer up and running at the new house and couldn’t wait to share some news and musings.

Musings first. Remember how, starting back when I was five or six, every time Aunt Phiz got ready to leave after one of her visits I used to ask her to “pack me up and fly me away”? Well, I’m way too big to fit into any suitcase now, but I have to confess, y’all, some days around here, I sure do feel that powerful pull to just up and fly away!

I won’t, of course. Not diligent, dependable old Hannah.

Not the woman who spent six years at various and sundry jobs to be the sole financial support of the Make Payton Bartlett a Pediatrician Fund.

Or the girl who invested three years of her life in college, majoring in journalism when clearly she never had it in her to realize that ambition.

Not me, who has given my all to countless well-intentioned, if hardly fruitful, home-extension classes in small-town haute cuisine, low-carb cookery and cake decorating for fun and profit. The last of which left me broken and blue—literally blue—from an ill-advised attempt to do an undersea landscape in frosting and food coloring.

I’m not going anywhere.

But tell me, after all that, what does it say about me that the thing that has finally made me “cool” among my foster son’s pals is my ability to portion corn chips out of a warehouse-club monster bag, then drown said chips in pasteurized melted cheese product?

I’ll tell you what it says. It says welcome to Nacho Mama’s house.

Should have seen it coming when I got nominated as Snack Mom for Sam’s soccer team. Moral: If a woman—wearing jewelry and cologne in the middle of the day, too-cute-to-walk-the-dog-in shoes, with a hairstyle that takes more than thirty-five seconds to maintain—offers you a large glass of iced tea at a team organizational meeting…run away. It’s a trap.

Snack Mom.

It had all sounded so harmless at that first team meeting when Hannah had returned to the applause of the other moms who had managed to nominate, second, vote for and unanimously elect her while she had made a mad, iced-tea-induced dash to the ladies’ room. All she’d have to do was buy in bulk and show up, right?

Ah. How young and foolish she’d been three weeks ago. That was before she’d learned that in the cutthroat arena of middle-class American child rearing, not all the competition remained on the soccer field.

School. Car pools. Extracurricular activities. Even church. All were littered with potential land mines of mommy-one-upmanship. And Hannah had stepped—no, been thrown, really—into the very center of it all.

Hannah Bartlett believed that Loveland, Ohio, was the friendliest town on the face of the earth. And living there was going to be the death of her.

Okay, death might be a bit strong.

But as she stood in the barely broken-in kitchen of her darling new house on this dank late-July afternoon, while a dozen eight-year-old boys who’d been rained out of soccer practice—again—played “quietly” in her unfurnished living room, the term “suffocating” did keep popping into her mind.

She would probably survive the experience of living in the upscale-ish subdivision of this charming, convivial, quaint Ohio town. Perhaps she’d even grow stronger because of it. If she wasn’t killed with kindness first.

Or smothered under the weight of her own powerlessness to tell nice people no.

Or stifled by her need to please and show everyone—i.e., her husband, and cutie pie extraordinaire, Dr. Payton Bartlett, M.D.; her older sisters, who still treated her like an inept, gullible child; and her much-adored daddy—that she could handle anything life threw at her.

Yes, anything. Even volunteering at her small—“small on the attendance rolls, large in the eyes of the Lord,” as her new minister liked to admonish—church. And even learning the ropes of foster parenting Payt’s eight-year-old distant cousin while mastering first-time motherhood at the age of thirty-six. Luckily, at six months, her daughter, Tessa, impressed easily. A game of peekaboo and a lullaby and the girl was eating out of Hannah’s hand…well, or thereabouts.

And Sam, Hannah’s foster son…

“You don’t know anything.” Sam bumped shoulders with the kid sitting next to him.

“Do so.” The boy leapt up to tower over Sam.

Hannah held her breath.

“Nuh-uh,” Sam shot back, his expression the sole province of prepubescent boys—something between a teenager’s I-know-everything sneer and a kindergartner’s you-are-a-big-dummy-head-and-I-don’t-have-to-listen-to-you face.

Sam’s combatant hunched his slender shoulders, obviously working up to