Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot...
When I was a very small girl, I am told, I pulled a lamp over onto myself. I have the scar still on my left eyebrow.
When I was a teenager I cut my knee on a metal spike at a carnival. The dark blood ran in a line down my leg. My mother put iodine on it. I thought that nothing could ever hurt as much as iodine.
When I was 6 my new sister came home from the hospital. I ran nearly all the way home before my dad caught up to me and drove me the rest of the way. I can see that small room still: diffused sunlight through drawn curtains, calm and dim, and that magical new person sleeping softly in her crib, on her stomach.
My first pet, a black and white rabbit, chewed her way out of her chicken wire hutch, and we found her in the corner of the basement; little baby rabbits in the nest she'd made. From then on we called her "Mama."
I am a young girl at school and it is my birthday. I tell the principal: "it's my birthday today!" At recess he gives me a small gift: a little tub of ice cream with a flat wooden spoon. I am elated.
I am 17 and it is the day after New Year's. On a winter walk with friends, I take the hand of the young man who has a crush on me, and I fall in love.
I am 20 and it's a Monday morning. My boyfriend's mother phones to tell me he has died. He has had cancer the entire time we were together.
In university I find myself skipping lectures often. Nothing feels better than that freedom when I escape in my car.
I meet my future husband in one of those lectures. He is tall and quiet, but wears a white shirt with black skulls all over it occasionally.
After 22 hours of labour, with 3 hours of pushing, my son comes into the world, pale as ivory, with the cord wrapped around his neck. I feel no alarm--only pain and exhaustion. I can't imagine anything that could hurt more.
My mother urges me on during the labour. She holds my hand and I'm so grateful she is there, because she is so strong of will and spirit.
I am wheeled into the intensive care unit, and parked beside the calm baby who is my son. His little fingers curl around my finger. I softly say "hello," and he turns his head to stare at me. It is indescribable and surreal. Snow falls outside.
After 10 hours of labour with 2 hours of pushing, no drugs and no epidural (not by choice), the doctor employs the suction cups and with a tremendous WOOSH my daughter arrives in the world. My mother has been there again, and I cried when she arrived.
At 5:00 AM that first night/morning after Ella is born, I give up trying to get any sleep, or put her down. She will not lie in her bassinette. She will not lie beside me on the bed. She will not lie on a pillow between my legs. She will only accept being in my arms. "Okay," I tell her, "you win."
Just before her 86th birthday my grandmother dies. At the graveside, unexpectedly, 3 small Polish women--like fairies--begin singing together; a beautiful lament in a language I do not understand.
11 months later my mother dies: 13 days after we found out she has stage IV cancer, 5 months after I have finally moved back home.
While in the hospital, the pussy willow sticks in a flower arrangement, have sprouted roots. I planted them in a sunny spot behind my house, and they quickly flourished and became a small, green bush. I will wait for them to bloom in the spring, along with the yellow tulips and daffodils; a small corner of the garden in remembrance of my mother.
It is New Year's Eve. I have been on this planet for 38 years living this strange, horrible, joyous, sad, beautiful life. I am going to be here for this new year, and many, many more, and I am thankful.