They handed you to me, a stranger to everyone but yourself. You had no say. Who is this imposter, you must have wondered. You are as frail as a twig, yet as stubborn as the wind. I took you away from the familiar to new sights, sounds, smells. All foreign, all fear inducing. Cries, screams, pinches, bites and vacant stares are your welcome gifts to me. Immense responsibility in an instant, earned only through piles of signed papers and ink-stained fingers. We are family. We are strangers. We struggle to find something in common, something to bind us together, something to get through these first days. You reach out to touch me. I kiss and caress your creamy skin, the first time. Fifteen months worth of firsts in random, rapid moments – smiling, standing, laughing, giggling, crawling and crying.
Each day our map is redrawn and we begin our journey anew. We dance to the Beer Barrel Polka seeping in through the walls. You giggle and we sway nearer the thumping bass. We glide in the water, drops dripping down our faces, splashing each other’s bodies. Your fingers raise red star stickers to my nose.
You lay beside me restless from change. Your smell invades my space; my size invades yours. You cling to me with brute intensity, my skin scarlet from your need. A scream escapes you. I hurry you back to my arms. We are melded like steel scraps, your parts and mine.
You take back your firsts in fits and tantrums. You sense my incompetence; you are old enough to know. I will learn. I must.
Sidewalk pacing, a rhythmic stride to soothe you at night. My voice is weak as a tune bleats out. You lie on my heart, snug in its hollow. Sleep sidles up to us, and we grasp it whole, strangers no more.
Cindy Mundahl writing has previously appeared in The Bookends Review and 1000 Words.