~*~§~*~ Toque ~*~§~*
May 2001

She had died exactly a year ago, but eleven-year-old Vivian Taylor still missed her dearly. Viv hadn't thought about her too much today, but as she dropped her backpack on the front hall floor upon her return from school, she was reminded. A mirror hung on the front closet door, and her reflection (big eyes, thin lips, and a little nose) stared back at her.

*That hat.*

A red and blue striped, knitted toque sat on her head. She wore it every day, but not to keep her head warm.

*Mom made this hat.*

*And now she's dead.*

Viv turned away from the mirror and headed for the kitchen. Dinner was ready, and she could already smell the cheesy fumes of Kraft Dinner. Her two older brothers and her father had already sat down in the living room in front of their television to eat. Viv grabbed a spoon and a bowl and scooped a small heap of macaroni and cheese for herself (she really wasn't hungry), and started for the living room.

Before she got through the doorway, a sudden memory caused her to stop in mid-step.

*Mom.*

*Standing in front of the stove.*

*Making dinner.*

*Viv, setting the table.*

*The family sitting down to eat.*

*Like a family.*

*What they were.*

Viv slowly turned around to look at the kitchen table. It was covered with mounds of clutter, like newspapers, bills, and dirty dishes. It had looked like this for months. Soon after mom died of throat cancer, the family's tradition of sitting at the table every night began to dissolve into a new habit of sitting in front of the television. Mom had always said that eating at the table was "necessary for us to have conversations, when we can all sit down and talk about our day." But Mom was gone now, and had sadly taken her instructions with her. Viv cleared a space on the table where she used to sit every night and placed her bowl on the placemat. She then pushed away all the dishes and garbage from her mom's place as well. Tears filled Viv's eyes as she sat down at her seat and tried to eat. She stared at her mom's place as well. She stared at her mom's seat, imagining her there.

Viv pulled her hat down further, so its scratchy wool tickled her earlobes. A tear or two splattered into the tiny puddle of cheese at the bottom of her bowl. Viv knew that this was where she'd continue to eat for a long time, even if the rest of her family didn't want to.

*See mom? I didn't forget you.*

~*~§~*~

I wrote this in tenth grade for English class, and the teacher submitted it to a city-county-wide high-school writing contest for a yearly magazine called "The Pluralist". It won second place, and I was as surprised as I was thrilled. I've learned and grown a lot since then, but I felt I should post this because it became a very important part of my life (not to mention a great self-esteem booster :c) ).