IMG_0827On my way up to bed, I stop in the dogs’ room and tuck them in.  Lea winds her body into a tight ball, so I lean over and rub her ears and kiss her on the forehead.  She groans.  On the other bed, JoJo leans back and wags her tail, so I crawl in behind her and lay my head on her back until she settles.  Until I settle.  Then I pretend to sneak out, quietly locking the baby gate into place.

I do this every night.

Last night, I said to my husband, How do parents put their little babies and toddlers to bed and leave them alone in there, all night?

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I’m working on a chapter that begins:  Sometimes I pretend I’m a real mother.

I’m in line at a Minnesota grocery store and the exhausted mother in front of me is wrestling with her overstuffed cart and her 3 young children and out of who-knows-where I say,  It’s okay, I understand, I have three at home.

I’m on a plane, flying home to visit my dying mother.  The young mom sitting next to me is traveling alone with a 2 yr old and a crying infant.  I tell her, Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.  When the 2 yr old needs to go potty, she hands me her baby and walks away.  I am overwhelmed with her trust.

I’m with my stepson at the social security office.  He’s 12, and he’s recently received his little blue card with his SS#, but his middle name is misspelled.  I hand the card to the stern woman behind the metal desk and explain what’s happened, that I’m his mother, and that we need to get this fixed.  I hand her his birth certificate with his correct name …. where I am, of course, not listed as the mother.  I wait, terrified that she will ask me for ID, for proof, that she will send us away, that she will announce to the crowded room that I do not exist.

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1908035_10202134199492852_3671483466727642931_nMy birth father’s youngest brother (wow, what a long title) recently sent me a few photos I’ve never seen before.

There’s this one of baby-me in a white dress against white space.

I think of how I tuck my dogs in at night, how I stop, hesitate, before I leave them, and how I click the lock on the baby gate but leave my bedroom door open so I can hear them if they need me.

I look at the photo of this baby and it’s like she’s been plunked down on the rug.  I wonder who she’s looking at, or for, and who left her there.

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