Note: This seemed too personal to share at first, but you reconsider. xoxoxoxo ~acb
I ask her what it was like, but she only smiles. At last, she tells me that I chewed on her shirt when I was first born, that the nurse said, “Hey! That’s a shirt!”, that I tried to eat her nose, that I was born with dark hair standing straight up. She does not tell me what it was like to carry me. My father tells the story of how my mother jumped into the sea off the coast of Sweden, eight months pregnant, and how the ocean trembled when her body met the waves. This is the only story my family tells of my presence before I was born, but it is enough. I imagine myself also yelping for joy, alongside her.
I know more of what happened after I was born, when my mother became a mother. My mother worked until she couldn’t any more, and went back to work as soon as she could. There are pictures of me sleeping on my father’s chest, memories of my father picking me and my brother up from school, the conversations we had without her. She came home exhausted and blank-faced for dinner every night and stayed in the bathroom with us while we took a bath, talked to us before bed and read us to sleep. Crawling into bed with her each morning, having her just to myself for a little while. She would brush my hair every morning so hard, braid it back so tight I would cry silently, my back to her. Glistening in silk scarves, rose gold ring and the platinum band on fingers that so hesitantly played the piano late at night. Eating raw butter from the tub, toast and cold tea forgotten by the bedside, the table, the radiator. You knew where my mother was by the tea cups she left behind her. The subway rides snuggled up to her. How she never could spend less than an hour watching a sleeping bear at the zoo, waiting for it to sense that it was safe to be itself as others rushed by. She calls me Bear. She taught me how to ice skate in the middle of Wolman Rink, high holiday season, tourists as many as locusts, holding me from behind as she elbowed others out of the way. She has never really forgiven herself for that.
But we forgive once we understand. My mother loved me before I was born; nine months of swelling and a soul growing inside her, a body buoyant with something a little bigger than it could hold. I try to hold her, now.
© 2016 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.