When my belly swelled in my third trimester, feet expanded to Flintstone-sized, you said something so astounding I gulped for a response. "I loved pregnancy. At times, after you were born, I wished I could still carry you that way, safe and cushioned inside." Suffering from sciatica, hip pain and shortness of breath, I could not fathom what you meant.
Memories of joint aches fade, I now realize, and while I still don't think nostalgically of pregnancy, I occasionally pine for those baby days, when my Kung Fu Panda could be cuddled for hours and his troubles were more easily assessed and solved.
Now I am the one sitting poolside, watching an instructor stretch my son's arms forward, push him towards a crawl stroke. First crawling, then running, the movement always away.
Going through your jumbled house, I had hoped to find more writings, tangible proof of your thoughts. Instead, I found hundreds of paintings and pastel drawings, many of them based on photos I had taken. Me, the girl who learned to hold a camera because she could not draw like you. I thought of when we went through Nana's dresser drawers so many years ago -- when you were the age I am now. We found a trove of cards you'd sent her, bundled together with string. "She did love me," you exclaimed in wonder.
In my dreams, I will call you on a spirit phone to tell you about the DNA you gave me. According to Ancestry.com, I am 42 percent Western European (in my case, German, Swiss and French); 20 percent Great Britain (mostly English but also Welsh); 19 percent Eastern European (Polish); and 9 percent Irish. So very close to the percentages you wrote in my baby book, adding up to "100 percent girl." What's more, my genome has matched me to more cousins, whose family trees often share surnames from your side -- Hampton, Hinkle, Gwiazdowski. Already one such cousin has written me to see if we can suss out our exact connection.
Those common strands, I imagine, may carry traits that you possessed. Do these distant cousins befriend strangers while waiting in line? Do they rejoice at planting, weeding and the harvest? Do they enumerate the colors in sunsets, or point out the many shades of tree bark (not just brown, you showed me, but gray and moss green and chocolate and tan)? Do they find, like I do, that playing music helps them work harder?
I hope that's the case. If it is, I will continue gathering the threads -- through DNA and family line -- harvesting your story, your traits, all the better to carry you, soft and protected, within me.
My partner is one of my favorite writers, baxaphobia. You can find her entry here.