Scene: the living room in the farmhouse on a grey-blue Oregon day.
I'm holding my nephew. My mother is puttering around the room.
"It's funny," she remarks suddenly. "When I look back on old pictures of the girls when they were babies, there aren't hardly any pictures of me holding them. I'm not sure why you were holding them and not me."
My heart lurches painfully against my rib cage. "Well," I reply, cautiously, "you couldn't hold them because of your back. You were in too much pain."
An awkward pause.
"Oh," she says, looking at the stack of papers in her hand. "Right."
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Another day: My mother walks into the room as I coo over the baby. A pensive look washes over her face.
"Did you love your sisters this much when they were babies?" she wonders.
Again, a flock of blackbirds takes wing inside my chest. I breathe in. I breathe out. "Not at first," I respond. "But as soon as they were born, I fell in love with them immediately."
It's true: every time my parents announced another pregnancy, I felt as if I carried all the fury in the world on my person. Why me, I railed silently at the ceiling above my bed. And yet, each time, the rage in my heart melted away in the exact moment that I held one of my sisters in my arms. When their tiny elfin faces looked up at me - helpless, fragile, infinitely beautiful - I was head over heels. Gone.
I feel the same way about them today. Every time I look at these gorgeous women who share my DNA, I feel a surge of hot, fervid pride and fierce, crazy love that threatens to turn me into a puddle on the sidewalk.
They're mine. They're not mine at all.
Twenty years ago, I held my nephew's momma in my arms on a warm June
morning. I was incensed when I found out that she was one the way - another one? I will never escape this place!
- but once her compact body was nestled in my arms, I didn't want to
let her go. She too had a tiny face with ears that nestled against the
side of her head. In the flesh, she was utter perfection. When I look
at her today - tattooed, opinionated, mercurial - I feel exactly the
Here is the truth: I have never had an uncomplicated emotion.
Love + sorrow + devotion + grief arrive on my doorstep in a single package.
I don't even try to untangle them any more.
Today, I am grateful that I get to feel at all.