Momma is curled up on her side in the bed, still wearing the pink blouse Tracy dressed her in yesterday morning. There is a wide circle of chicken broth stained to her bosom, and I can’t stop kissing her sweet keppie*. It smells like green apples. I plant one on the spot just above her brow where a cluster of freckles has sprouted. Summer has roughened her skin the slightest, and my lips welcome the sensation; somehow it makes her more alive that she has all this texture. She’s half awake, a tiny bit giggly. In this morning fog she does not remember forgetting. She clutches my arm to her, caresses it like a baby, and stares at me with bewildered loving. I have just been born and she is in awe. As your baby grows older day by day, week after week, year upon year – do you ever forget that first time you held them to your chest? You made that heart and now it’s beating against you. We are back inside that moment now. Momma knows me. I am her baby, and she is mine too.
What will break this moment? You can freeze something at the speed of sound, and just like that, a crack in the distance hardens her – a truck lumbering over a patch of weathered highway, its load shifting and reverberating into this shadowy bedroom miles away – as she is jolted from the fog that had sheltered us to the immediacy of the inches between us. Now, like being forced suddenly from a deep and lucid dream, Momma is startled to a bustling outer world, and our safeguarding fog lifted. She drops my arm. Her eyes dart around the room. She’s quivering now, and anxious, as she climbs from the bed and begins her daily trace across empty memory’s cloudless, barren landscape.
* A Yiddish word I learned from my Aunt Fay – “a child’s head”
Originally written Late Summer 2014