The weather persisted through the weekend to Monday afternoon, snowing Brookes and his mom in. Under normal circumstances, that would amount to a memorable time together, but since Friday, the two of them entered a sort of unspoken agreement to give each other space. The school’s verdict arrived in his mom’s inbox by lunch, and she had read it aloud as they sat at the kitchen table. Brookes would serve a type of academic probation for the indefinite future, necessitating he receive at least a C+ in not only math, but every one of his subjects. If he failed to accomplish this in any of his classes, he would not be allowed to continue playing hockey until he finished a semester with the required grades. This probation was contingent upon Brookes playing hockey, and stated that if he didn’t want the strict grade requirement, he could quit, and it would no longer apply to him…


There was one more piece to the email. Brookes was assigned an essay that he had to turn in to his math teacher by the end of the week. This wasn’t an ordinary paper; Brookes was required to write the essay from his math teacher’s perspective. He had to put himself in his teacher’s shoes and write about how it would feel to have someone accuse you of something you didn’t do. With the snow nearly up to the windows, and nothing else going on, Brookes began the essay. As he wrote, a mix of emotions began to surface. On one hand, Brookes was disgusted at his own self-centeredness and lack of empathy in his actions. On the other, writing his thoughts down felt strangely good. His hands worked faster and faster, as Brookes allowed himself to put his honest feelings on the page.


With the essay complete, there was one thing left to do. Brookes could hear muffled typing coming from his mom’s office. What could he do to even begin to make it up to her? There was nothing in the world worse than not being on good terms with his mom. A piece of Brookes wanted to carry on like nothing had happened, and let the past stay there. He knew that if he did anything special, attention would be drawn to the fact that he indeed needed to do something special. But that was the easy route, and part of Brookes’ unspoken commitment was to truly listen to that little voice in the back of his head. No, he had to do something…and a dish of mac and cheese simply wasn’t going to cut it this time.


Shoveling the driveway wasn’t the ultimate act of atonement that Brookes needed, but it would allow him some time to contemplate. And the bitterly cold air felt incredibly good on his face. By the time he finished, his fingers and toes were numb, but he unfortunately wasn’t any closer to discovering that perfect deed. As he stomped his snow-covered boots on the front step, he surveyed his handiwork. What next? Both bathrooms cleaned, floors swept and vacuumed, and his bed actually made – Brookes sat at the kitchen table, tired and unsatisfied. He couldn’t think of anything that would truly make it up to his mom. Just then, he heard her office door creak open…he was out of time!


Brookes sat silently as his mom curiously poked her head into each room. He shifted anxiously as she caught sight of the rapidly forming puddle by the front door. “It sounded like a group of contractors were traipsing around the house all afternoon. You wouldn’t know what that was about, would you?” Brookes blushed, and unsuccessfully tried to hide his smile. He still hadn’t found that perfect act, but his mom didn’t seem to still be angry with him. She walked over and kissed his head. “Brookes honey, there’s no amount of bad or good deeds you can do to change the way I feel about you.” Deep in his chest, he felt a wave of relief. There was unknowingly a tight web of tension, that unraveled with her words. How did his mom not only always seem to know what he was thinking, but also exactly what he needed to hear?

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