It was one day, somewhere around your fourth grade year, that I finally decided to take our dream from imagination to reality.
Janie: “Mama? Why is there a hole in the middle of our house?”
It perhaps wasn’t the best place to put a coffee shop, set right in the middle of our front porch. But, we couldn’t afford to live the entirety of the dream, at the time (that is, to build a second floor and live above the coffee shop).
But a small dent in the front of our house-just wide enough to fit a counter, a cast register, and a coffee machine-was enough for the both of us. I remember, you were so excited.
Janie: “THE COFFEE SHOP??? IT’S REALLY HAPPENING?!!”
Janie: “Are we going to have easels AND craft tables? Because my friends for sure what there to be craft tables, so they can do their art.”
So excited. It was strange. I knew why I loved the idea of sharing this dream with you, and I knew that you at least liked the idea of a coffee shop-you would be able to talk to all the people you wanted, like the outgoing little butterfly you are, and would be able to read books while helping out. But this level of excitement…
“I’m just glad to be doing something with my best friend, mama!” You were such a good kid, Janie. I nearly teared up at that, let me tell you.
“Also, my friends say it’d be super cool if we owned a place where they could come hang out. There’ll be a kid’s section, right?” Well, a decent kid, at least.
You went to school the next day and told all your friends. You brought home books from the library, all about coffee and types of roast and the best baked goods to sell with a latte versus a macchiato.
Janie: “Mama! This book says that light roast goes best with chocolate chip cookies!”
Janie: “Mama! This book says that tea is way better for you than coffee. We can’t sell tea! It sounds gross!”
Janie: “Mama! Did you know that croissants sell better than regular loaves of bread?”
Janie: “I know, right? I had no idea that blue repressed appetite! No blue in our coffee shop!”
Janie: “Mama! Have I told you yet that I think we should loft the dining area? That way our customers can see the view better!”
It made my heart happy, to see you so dedicated to something. Like I keep saying, you were a good kid, and you had plenty of friends, but you were lacking a bit of… direction.
Jane: “Janie, love, have you done your homework yet?”
Janie: “I’ll do it later! I’m talking to Samuel!”
Janie: “I’ll do it later! I’m taking a nap!”
Janie: “I’ll do it later, I have to make dad stop pestering Samuel!”
Janie: “I’ll do it later, I’m reading a book!”
We were starting to get calls home from your teachers.
“Janie just doesn’t seem to be applying herself.” “Janie is such a smart child, if only she’d turn in her work.” “I just think you need to get on her a little more, make sure that she’s getting her assignments in on time.”
Jane: “Love, is that your homework, still sitting on the table?”
Janie: “Yeah. I’ll get it done later. Probably.”
I don’t know if I ever saw you doing your homework. You just didn’t have much of an interest in it. But I understood. School was challenging enough for you. You weren’t learning anything from that homework, not anything important anyway. No, through your extensive reading, you were teaching yourself! And that, to me, was far more impressive than you getting an A grade in school.
Your father disagreed. About most of it, in fact.
We tried to keep up appearances for you, darling. I don’t know how well it worked, but I do know that we never truly fought in front of you. Not in the way we wanted to, at least.
Jalen: *speaking loudly* “You know, Samuel, since you can’t get Janie to do her homework, I sure hope my wife finally decides to do something about it!”
Jalen: “You know, honey, Jimmy and I agree that if you spent less time writing and building a freaking coffee shop in the middle of our house, our daughter would be better off!”
Jalen: *whispering* “This nonsense has got to stop, Jane. When you’re not writing, you’re working on that damn coffee shop. Stop it! Now!”
Jane: *whispering sarcastically* “As you wish, my liege.”
To be fair to Jalen, I was working quite a bit more. When you and I weren’t conspiring about the coffee shop, I was throwing myself into my writing. The only way to afford the coffee shop, of course, was to make more money! And I was really starting to get somewhere with my royalties, earning 1,000 simoleons or more in a single day! As those royalties began to increase, I only started to work harder, to get more determined. I was so close to being a top-rate author! And I still had so much to say! My ego wanted the recognition, the attention, something I lacked for so long. And my muse wanted to keep churning out books.
Jalen: “Are you coming to bed soon, honey?”
Jane: “In a minute, love. I’m still working on this book. I want to get it done before I sleep.”
It led to somewhat strange hours. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning one night, then sleep until four in the afternoon. Or, I would go to bed early, and wake up six in the morning, ready to write again. Soon, it seemed, my schedule had little to no overlap with Jalen’s.
And my strange schedule and my long work hours weren’t the only things bothering him any more. Now, it seemed, he was intimidated. He had received a small promotion, earning him an addition eight simoleons an hour, but, by this time, I was making far more money than he. Theoretically, I could sit back and not write a word for the rest of my life, and we would still be bringing in 3,ooo or 4,000 simoleons a day.
That was too much, to Jalen. He had this strange idea that he had to be the breadwinner, the money-maker. My success, rather than a success for all of us, he saw as an insult to his manhood. So he grew more and more reticent. More and more resentful. Periodically, he demanded that I stop working. That I stop writing. That I stop trying to build a coffee shop for you and I, Janie. But I was so close to achieving my own success. I was so close to realizing every single dream that I had ever wanted out of life. A best-selling author. The owner of a coffee shop. The recipient of someone’s unconditional love (yours, Janie).
I still don’t know what the right choice would have been. Would it have been better to be selfish, to put my own dreams above the peace of my marriage and the happiness of my husband? Would it have been better to be selfless, to give up everything so that Jalen could be happy, so that I could spend all my time dedicated to the family? Or was I right, in the end, in what I did?
I compromised, Janie. Because your father came to me, one day. He gave me an ultimatum. “Give it up, Jane,” he said. “Stop writing. Stop trying to make this coffee shop work. Stop being so damn selfish. Or I’ll go. Because I can’t live with it anymore.”
I couldn’t see (still can’t, honestly) how I was being selfish, wanting to make our coffee shop a reality and wanting to write. I was fulfilling my dreams, after all. I thought Jalen would be happy for me, regardless of the small inconveniences to him.
The coffee shop was all but opened at this point.
But I couldn’t stop writing. Not when I was so close to being world-renowned. Not when my royalties increased everyday, when my publisher hounded me for new books. Not when people started recognizing me in the street, when I finally felt like I could provide for myself. I had never had nice things. And the coffee shop wouldn’t allow for that. Writing would.
Jane: “Janie, love? I need to talk to you about this coffee shop.”
Janie: “You wanna talk about the color scheme? We talked about this blue, mama. No blue.”
I couldn’t tell you the truth. I couldn’t tell you that I was giving up on the dream, just because your father said so. Because he said he would leave. Because I would be alone. You were amazing, Janie, but… I wasn’t ready to be a single mom. I wouldn’t technically be alone… I would have you! But I couldn’t let him leave me, Janie. And I couldn’t tell you the truth of that.
Jane: “I got another call from your teacher last night. She said that you’re still making all Cs. So your father and I have decided that, until you get your grades up… We won’t be opening a coffee shop.”
You were furious. Furious.
Janie: “But MOM! That’s not FAIR! You’ve never cared if I did homework BEFORE!”
Jane: “That’s when I thought you would make the right choice, do it anyway. But your father and I decided that you’re clearly not as mature as we thought. You’ll get your grades up. Or no coffee shop.”
Janie: “I DON’T BELIEVE THIS! No WAY Dad agrees with this!”
Janie: “You’re the WORST, Mom! I can’t believe you would DO this to me! My friends are going to HATE me now!”
Jane: “…I love you, Janie.”
Janie: “I HATE YOU!”
Jane: “I wish my daughter would come eat with me…”
Janie: “AS IF! I CAN’T EVEN LOOK AT YOU!”
Jane: “Have you done your homework yet?”
Jane: “Thanks for taking out the trash, darling.”
Janie: “I’LL DUMP THE TRASH ON THE GROUND!”
Janie: “I’ll never do my homework. Never ever never!”
Would it have been better to tell you the truth? No. At least this way, you just hated me. But, somewhere, I think that maybe you respected me. Or, at the very least, I had not actively made you lose respect for me-I was not an over-attached coward, in your eyes. And you still had no problem with your father.
Janie: “I love you, daddy!”
Janie: “Daddy, come eat with me!”
Janie: “Be nice to daddy when he talks to you, Samuel. He’s the best. But make angry faces at mom when she’s not looking.”
It didn’t hurt, Janie. I understood, really. It didn’t hurt at all.