In Another World

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her daughter who died, Marika Warden, with a tessellation of puppies in the background.Right away, the old mother was drawn to the girl at the end of the table who sat clutching a stuffed animal, her mascaraed eyes staring straight ahead.

How could the mother not be reminded of her own beautiful daughter? From the million images tessellating in her head, one arose of her daughter sitting up in a hospital bed, clinging to her stuffed puppy as doctors announced, “You’re eighteen. So you’re the adult in charge.” And now, here was this unknown almost-adult girl seated across the table, hugging her stuffed animal and looking dazed. Why was this girl here?

“ …When my mom died,” the girl said, shortly after. Then something inside the mother burst. “My mom won’t be here for my graduation, or when I get married, or when I have kids,” the girl continued, and the old mother remembered for the billionth time that her own daughter would never get to graduate college, get married or have kids.

She had watched her daughter suffer and wondered why she herself hadn’t been the one to get cancer. Maybe in a different dimension of existence, in an alternate reality or some parallel universe, things were different. In another world her daughter might still be alive. But here, in this world, at the other end of the table was a daughter who lost her mother.

Suddenly the girl sat down next to the mother. The girl’s eyes were even more radiant up close, with a familiar hint of opalescent eye shadow and perfectly painted waterproof mascara. There was much the old woman would have liked to say to the girl but she couldn’t find her words, couldn’t begin, and now the girl was so close, smiling and crying at the same time. Tears ran down both their faces.

“I’m gonna get a tattoo with my mom’s name,” the girl said.
“I have a tattoo,” the mother said, peeling off her sweater to show the girl her shoulder tattooed with her daughter’s name. “Can you read it?” the mother asked. “Yes. That’s right. It’s Marika.” The girl beamed.

“And who’s this?” the mother asked, already knowing, pointing to the stuffed animal the girl clung to, thinking of the stuffed puppy she’d given her own daughter at birth and now kept on the mantle in the middle of her house (and kissed goodnight most nights). The girl held out her fuzzy stuffed dog.
“My mother gave it to me,” she said, turning it over to show the stitched-on tag that spelled LOVE ME.


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2 thoughts on “In Another World


    Seems we’re doing a lot of leaning these days. I feel grateful to have good people around to be able to lean on here and there. Because of privacy issues, I wrote this post in the third person point of view and didn’t include any information that could reveal the who, what, where, …. These two things make the story seem not quite real or rounded out in details – dreamlike. I did this once before when I wrote about receiving a message from my deceased daughter. In this way I am not quite owning up to what I’ve written. Writing something in third person makes it “come out of the mouth of someone else.” And thereby fuzzies any claim to truth or reality or some belief that may not be popular with all my readers. This is the closest I can venture towards writing fiction. It is the truth. But if told through another’s point of view, I may not be held accountable. Does this make any sense, Elaine?

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    So poignant and powerful, Robin. It feels as much like a dream experience as a waking experience. Must be the tessellating images–a word I had to look up. If in the waking world, I can only imagine how comforting it would be for a young woman whose mother had died to sit close to you and feel your love. How good it would be for both of you. Grief is hard and persistent. Seems the best thing we can do is to lean into each other.


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