4. Mother’s Day

sometimes it’s easy to forget it ever happened, to go about life and never have it surface in the forefront of my mind. even when i am reminded by my naked reflection, the now barely-there line of a scar etched below my pelvis, a slight kiss from a scalpel in yesteryears past; the small Bs that were big Cs, before.

In the early years post, I’d think about it all the time. i could still somehow feel it, the mending of many layers of muscle and tissue trying to get back to its uninterrupted form. it’d never be the same though, i learned. even at the young age of 22, my body would always remember, never go back to before. she’d left her imprint.

12 years later, what i have left are memories of an impossibly tiny hand grabbing onto my pinky, of wide eyes looking up to me, 20 photos of a beautiful baby that looks nothing like me, a pile of obituaries, some frayed and faded, containing a poem titled I’ll Never written by a heartbroken me one day before they went to print, and this slit, small and forgettable, but always there.

i’m used to being around people who don’t know. mostly because it’s not something i share very often. occasionally i will get the oh what’s that on your wrist? when i turn my left hand over,  Briyanna flanked in angel wings discreetly inked there. i’ve been among the conversations, comments ping-ponging around me about statistics and what works for preemies and what doesn’t, and “oh i feel so bad for soandso” and “they tried so long just for this to happen” and the good stories too, the surviving and thriving stories. i learned a long time ago to stay silent, to not chime in and mention that i too, know how they feel. i too have been in the NICU for 23 hours a day, leaving only for midday teeth brushing and night showers and snacks. i have learned to bow out gracefully, look away, make an empathetic comment, change the subject. i used to mention her, trying to make my voice as casual as possible, throw in a comment about the pain of a c-section, the way God/theUniverse/Life’s plan is always better than our own in the grand scheme. it’s never worth the awkward and immediate silence, the shocked faces of pity, the uncomfortable I’m so sorries. 

they say once you have a child, you’re always a mother. i don’t feel like one most days. it’s hard to believe i’d have a 12 year old daughter right now, someone with their own personality and opinions and probably a crush on some boy, or girl. i do imagine i’d be more accomplished, more responsible with my time throughout my 20s: i’d have written several books, have submitted that script. time is different when you have another life depending on how you use yours. i’m really good at disappointing myself, at not showing up for myself when it comes to those things; goals, deadlines. i hate doing it to others.

i imagine having a pre-teen right now would make me more like my parent friends who seem to do it all, so focused and determined to make their mark on the world, leave something for the very real legacies they are raising, whom they tuck in each night.

the envelope had a pet name scribbled in his messy handwriting on it, a name i cannot recall today, but something he’d started calling me the first week we met, that had stuck. i opened it as he sat down next to me. i was in the middle of writing a blog post, had just spoken to my mother, told her i’d be over in a bit. i opened the card thinking it was another random “just because” card. he was the kind of guy who took pride in making me happy, the kind that came over with small gifts pretty often, a card paired with my favorite candy just to let me know he’d been thinking of me that day. i expected some dirty joke on the inside, maybe a you made me smile today sappy message, some cartoon animal holding an I love you balloon.

Happy Mother’s Day. the card said in pretty scripted font. “even though she is not here in body, I know she is here in your heart” was written in the same messy writing as the name on the envelope.

i stared at it for 10 seconds before i could even speak, my brain processing the fact that not only had he thought of me on mother’s day, but that’d he’d actually taken the time and gotten a card to remember a child who’d passed 4 years prior, much before he met me.

the tears that filled my eyes and choked my throat when i said thank you and wrapped him in a hug, surprised me as much as they did him. i don’t think i’d ever been moved to tears by anyone before then, and it hasn’t happened since. it was a full five minutes before the overwhelm wore off, before i could speak again.

i don’t actively think about it most days. but every year on Mother’s Day, and on those rare occasions when i notice the small slit in my naked reflection,  i remember the one time someone remembered i was once briefly a mother, too.

2. Rocket Love

this essay is late. i was traveling for work all last week and foolishly thought i’d be able to write while doing so. i was mistaken. thus, there will be two essays posted this week. staying on task. i started writing this a long, long time ago. probably a year ago. glad this challenge is forcing me to finish what i start.

a female Shakespeare of your time
with looks to blow Picasso’s mind
you were the best…

it starts as a seemingly endless, blissful float. …except with a motor. fast and consuming, like you’ve stuffed 12 days of loving, of touching, into 24 hours each day. you laugh at his jokes generously. he gazes at you like you have the sun itself beaming through your eyes, and it swallows him.

he is all in, as they say.

you took me riding on your rocket and gave me a star…

stars are brighter when he is around. earth shifts just a smidgen when she enters the room. you wonder how no one else stops and stares at the marvel who has decided to cast their light on you. little old you, except you are not little when you are with them, you are big and fascinating and funny and sexy and beautiful.

but at  a half a mile from heaven you dropped me back
down to this cold, cold world…

then, this world alters; things change. for one reason or another or no reason at all,  you notice he sits a little further away on the sofa now. there is only a silent response where your quirks used to split her with laughter. when she makes tea in the morning you have to ask if she’s making yours as well, instead of just knowing you have a cup waiting, two teaspoons of honey, a sprig of mint. you are no longer sure that he walk around, open your door. absently, you begin do to it on your own.

the knowing is gone.

the automation of glee has been replaced with uncertainty, with questions you’d never thought you’d have to ask. never thought you’d have to wonder if he really thinks you’re beautiful, if her endless giggles were sincere. they become an alien, made of brick and plaster and impenetrable glass. never breaking, never bending; unyielding. just there, day after day.

they have morphed into unremarkable. into furniture. you are both now just paint on the walls.

you, little old you, are little old you again. small and plain and not at all fascinating; no glow reflecting upon you from their eyes. and you wonder, where does the love go? does it dry up like a raisin in the sun, descendants of deferred dreams? does it float to the amazon where it is divvied out like slices of light pie, given to monkeys and turtles and colorful sweeping birds? where does it go?

you notice a couple in front of you one day, hands interlocked, smiling wistfully at one another like the future ahead of them is utopia.then it hits you. you realize that you used up your love too quickly. sucked it right out of the tank it is kept in for first loves and forever loves and all those in between, and you think cynically that the people who say love is endless must never have had this love, this Rocket Love. that they must never have experienced the heady fuel that torpedoes one directly into outer space without passing go, and holds you right there until you are rapturously suspended, gravity falling away, leaving only the unbearable lightness of being in Love.

But you, nor he, nor anyone, checked the levels; gauged correctly. the potent fuel that rockets you there is never enough to sustain; the fast burning propellant  that ignites hearts and minds just enough to make forever seem real, and then blares the warning: you are out of fuel. this rocket love, this weightless thing that held your spark, has abandoned you midway, no longer willing to push you to elation.

you panic, press eject, balloon upward, hoping you remembered the parachute this time.

Dirty Thirty

bringing in 30 the right way


Ah yes, the big three-oh. The age when women start keeping track of ovulation cycles and mourning each egg lost during monthly visits. The time when a woman examines her face in the mirror and takes note of each wayward line and makes a promise to her (now obviously fragile) reflection to not laugh so hard anymore, and not be so quick to frown, as to prevent the new concern of the dreaded wrinkle taking the place of your once pleasantly filled in laugh lines. Or perhaps she looks at her barren ring finger, its only decoration the shimmery red polish gleaming from her fresh manicure.

And career. Thirty is the year where everyone looks back on what they planned to do, and measure it up with what they have actually done. When I was eighteen, by thirty, my life was supposed to be the picture of a happily married with two children, successful psychologist with a best-selling book on How To Be Awesome under her belt, and a company car.

With thirty showing up today, I can confidently say that I don’t suspect a company car, and certainly not a husband and two kids, will be my birthday present.

And you know what, I’m perfectly fine with that. (more…)