It’s Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. Time for letting go, time for leaves to fall. Time for shedding what is no longer needed.
As I start this new year, in a new body, with a new baby, in a new house, so much about me is different.
Some things are the same.
What do I need to let go of? My skin? My pre-mom self?
To be honest, I’m feeling pretty broken today. I miss my mom. I wish we could go down to the river together and throw pieces of bread into the water to take our regrets from the past year away. Maybe we’d ride our bikes in the cool fall air.
I feel something is just out of reach, some core thing that I keep forgetting. Or maybe it’s just one of those days. Maybe I should lean into it. Let go.
My baby is strapped to my chest in his carrier. We took a walk and looked at leaves. We played on the floor. He’s quiet, binky in mouth, looking up at me sometimes as I type. I think he will fall asleep any minute so I’m rocking back and forth in the chair.
He smiles so big when he sees me after we’ve been parted. Whether it’s morning and he’s seeing me for the first time that day, waking up and I’m right there waiting for him; or he’s been with his Nana for a few hours; or even if I’ve only left the room for a few minutes– he’s so happy to see me. We have a tether strung between us. I know I will feel him with me anywhere I go for the rest of my life. Even when he’s grown and off on his own adventures I will feel him in my heart like a physical pull. I just know this. My mom must have felt this way.
She wrote this poem:
Anna is leaving me again,
over and over.
Just like I left her so many times,
by choice and not by choice.
Teaching me to tolerate longer and longer absences:
Stretches of not hearing her voice
doing homework with a friend on the phone,
Or the sound of popcorn crunching along to a favorite movie.
I took her to her first movie when she was eighteen months old.
She ate my entire tub of artificially butter-flavored popcorn.
that she didn’t choke
and awed by the intensity of her concentration.
She says, “I love you” each time she laves.
And I am trying to photograph her face, her smile,
every time in my mind, afraid of having
so much less to take for granted.
I walk outside see the birdhouse
made in eighth grade shop class.
A father’s day gift for her dad–
she looks so much like him.
I stare at the birdhouse as a light rain
begins to kiss the back of my neck.
I am not cold, and I do not feel the wetness of it.
I realize that she is forcing me to grow up again,
to accept losing what I want to hang onto.
I hate that.
That birdhouse sits on the stump–
It’s maple stain color darkened by the moisture,
and my tears add salt to the raindrops.
When I read this poem I cry. I was fourteen or fifteen when she wrote it, and I don’t remember where I had gone. Maybe on a trip with some friends. Sometimes I regret every time I left her because that’s time with her that I lost. I didn’t know the time was finite. At fourteen everything seems forever, even if your grandfather and pet guinea pig died when you were eight and so you know that everyone dies. It just didn’t enter my mind then that my mom could die. But I also know that we both had to live our lives which meant leaving each other again and again.
When will Giles leave me? How many times? Will I have to leave him? Will he still smile at me when we come back together? Right now his sleeping face is pressed into my shirt, long lashes closed, gentle breathing only just audible. Sweet baby smell.
My pieces are all over the place. My childhood, my heart, my legs, my soul, my art, my drive, my love, my hunger.
I don’t know where I am.
I’m in our house. On our street. In our town. In the autumn of the year 2016. My mom has been dead for three years and five months and 16 days. My baby is just two days shy of being five months old. My feet are inside my slippers. My head is inside my favorite knit cap.
It’s the new year. 5777. The Days of Awe.
This photo is from 2011, in the ER waiting room. I had fallen and hit my head pretty hard so my mom insisted we go to the hospital to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. They gave me an ice pack which I tied to my head so I didn’t have to hold it there. We both thought it was pretty funny, so my mom took a picture. Turns out I didn’t have a concussion. I was okay. Not broken at all.