“Tell me about the day I was born.”
My child wobbles around with tomato soup in her belly, my child a small bird with dirt in her toes from this morning.
“Okay,” I say to my baby, making sure that all the laundry is done and the dishes are put away before we start. I look for the Hansel and Gretel record she likes. I put it on and spread out the blanket she likes, then I lie down beside her. I snuggle her to my chest and think in my arms, Where should I start?
I whisper into her ear, “What do you remember?” I would like for my child to remember something by herself.
She falls asleep.
I cannot help but pick her nose and clean her ears while she lies motionless. Then I lick my fingertips and wipe down her hair. I wake myself up doing this. Soon, the older kids will be coming home.
My baby stirs against me and I realize that the Hansel and Gretel record has skipped. I reach up and put the needle down again.
“Mom,” my baby says again.
I stir around because I know I should be doing something else. The sun is so bright, the dust in armstrokes across the room. The other kids will be home soon from school, and then dad, and then supper. It’s time to get the rest of the dishes done, the beds made, the toys put away. I sit up and cross my legs, shagging off my dreams.
My child finally awakens and I want to put her back in my belly, the tumble of her hair, her cheeks, her chin. If I could put her back, I would. It would buy me the time I need. I look to the right and left, but no. I have to leave her alone again, this one who is forevermore wanting to come with.
I put the lotion on her skin and lead her into the playroom with a box of Kix. She finds her toddling motion and goes to stand behind the front door because this is how she likes to wait for the older kids to come home so they can slam her fingers between the hinges, her newest trick.
I have gotten up, my straggly bones, my electric carpet and the blanket sending sparks. I go to put my dress and lipstick on. I try to make the house safe for the next five sets of bones that will soon be crossing the doorstep. I look over my shoulder at my three-year-old standing by the radiator behind the front door, waiting for the big kids to come home.
“Mom,” she says, yawning by herself with her blanket, sticking her own fingers in her own ears.
“Yes baby,” I say, heating up a cup of coffee and straightening my hair.
She has forgotten the earlier question of the day.