Revising Mommy–Part 2
On a car ride home, the streetlight strips of neon outside my window, you ask if you still have your tonsils. You’re nine, and hearing you say the word “tonsils” is like seeing you in a pair of my shoes when you used to play dress up. It doesn’t fit, but it could some day.
“Why do you want to know that?” I ask, glancing at the shadow of you and your twin sister in the rearview.
“Frankie had his tonsils out, and I was wondering if I need to have mine out.”
“But why? Why do you want to know?”
“I just do,” you insist.
I ask about Frankie, about the surgery, about his mom, his brother, his house, his car, his favorite movie, favorite song, what kinds of clothes he wears to school. Anything to pass the time, because the truth is–I’m buying time. I cannot, for the life of me, remember if you have your tonsils.
You were three when they put the tubes in, and the doctor did say and do something else. What was it? I think it was adenoids, but now I’m not so sure. Could it have been tonsils? I was working on my MA, I remember that clearly because I got zero sleep for the two to three weeks following the surgery and a draft of my thesis was due that month. We brought you to the hospital in your pajamas because the doctor suggested we do so for your comfort. We woke you up before dawn cracked and pulled you from your bed. Samantha recovered faster, Penelope needed more care, longer in the recovery room being coddled by the nurses. That I remember.
We pull into the driveway and the two of you slide from the backseat arm in arm, your movements are identical, even the way you move is twinned. I grab my cell phone and sneak downstairs into the garage, hold the phone in my hand and contemplate calling my mother. My mother would remember. She would remember because mothers should remember these things. When you ask me about lost teeth, infancy milestones, surgeries, birth times, I should hold these things in a jar inside of me and easily be able to pluck them out. The thought of calling my mother to ask when and if you’ve had your tonsils out is embarrassing.
Then I remember the blog, my blog. The blog I share with-according to my last stat check-almost 4,000 followers. The blog I share with everyone I know and everyone I don’t know. The blog I write mostly about you.
I spend almost an hour combing through the archives, until finally there it is. Staring at me through my computer screen. January, 2010. You had just turned three. You had a set of tubes put in and your adenoids removed. Tonsils still in tact. I lean back in my chair, and suddenly remember everything about that day- the hospital gown that was too big, the kind nurses, the weird smell of your breath for hours afterwards. I remember the sleepless night, playing the Beatles to sooth your cries, and I remember the press of you against my chest once you were brought back to me-post surgery. How could I have forgotten?
Then, I realize something. It is possible that almost 4,000 strangers knew about this moment. If only one tenth of them read the post and cared enough to remember any of the details, that would still be 39 more people than me who remembered something so significant about my children. Just to test my theory, I called my best friend. Yes, of course, they still have their tonsils, she chided me.
I write about my twins often, probably more than I should. In fact, I share so much of them with the world through social media, that often times when we run into someone in real life, they greet my girls by name and say something to the effect of “I feel like I’ve watched you grow up.” I write about the cute things they do, the wonderfully smart words that come out of their mouths, and how lucky I am to have them. But I also write a lot about my shortcomings as a mother, as I’m doing now. Because I believe that motherhood has become a sacred space reserved for those who are doing it perfectly. I’m not, and it’s important to have an imperfect voice in the chorus.
I used to worry that it might be too much. That the world shouldn’t know the type of surgery you had when you were three, and that secret, our secret, should be known only by your mother, the gatekeeper of your early life. I still worry about you as teenagers, reading what I have written, the positive and lovely posts, but also the posts in which I question my abilities. What effect will that have on you as young women? Will you doubt your own maternal instincts? And why am I allowing everyone in my life a front row seat to your lives when you haven’t even realized it nor given me consent to do so? Am I crowdsourcing your childhood?
I think, as with anything, the answer lies somewhere in between. I write about being a mother because that’s the voice I have found and that’s the life I live. If one truly believes that writing is art, as I do, they will agree that the art comes how the art comes. But I’ve learned to temper some of the information I share with the world. No more bath time photos, no more filming or photographing moments that are just ours. No more sharing cute videos of you saying something funny or incorrect, no matter how adorable it is. And when I do post things about you, my girls, I imagine you seventeen, twenty-two, thirty-eight reading it over my shoulder. Will it destroy you? Will it make you cry? Will you wish I had kept it locked inside of that jar in my belly? That’s the litmus test for information. Because now, you have a voice. And my job as mother is to hear it.
I was grateful the night I found the blog post and was able to tell you that yes, you have your tonsils. Tell Frankie that you have them, that you may never need them out, but that if you do, I will be there-without my computer or iPhone. I also found a previous post in which I lament that it was my putting you in daycare so that I could attend graduate school that caused the earaches that necessitated the surgery. But a mother’s guilt is large and looming, and is a topic I would need a whole novel to cover.
Our columnist Amye Archer has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut memoir, Fat Girl, Skinny, was published by Big Table Publishing in January 2016. Amye is the author of two poetry collections: Bangs and A Shotgun Life, and is the creator of The Fat Girl Blog. Amye lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Tim, and their twin daughters, Samantha and Penelope. Follow her at @amyearcher