We stayed up all night. Not uncommon for either of us, but uncommon to do it together these days. Now, my daughter is an adult, and our lives are separate in many ways. Not that I begrudge her independence, but doesn’t the universe or fate or whoever know that we are not separate? She is part of me. My sixth sense reads her thoughts, her feelings, her experiences even when she is miles away physically. When my children were young, I told them that I have special powers. Because I’m a mother, I do.
That night, my daughter and I scoured the Betsey Johnson website then Saks Off Fifth then Ali Express. I think Ali Express might be China’s alternate Amazon, but I really don’t know. I do know they have styles and prices not seen in the U.S. My daughter says, “Total sweat shop.” This is our adult version of playing Barbie dolls.
We order four dresses and a sweater. We linger on the Asos website over black satin, lace-up, ankle boots. I know I’ll order them, too, before the night is over. I tell her, “I bought us a pale grey, crushed velvet bomber jacket. Because of the color, it looks metallic, like it can work with the whole metallic trend. You can wear it, too.”
“Cool,” she says. “Mom, I saw Katy Perry shoes I think you’d like. And they’re on sale, plus I get my employee discount, another 25% off.” She hugs me.
I don’t want the night to end. Twenty-one years old, still sitting on my lap allowing me to be silly. Both of us playing, sharing something we both love. In this cocoon, at this moment, only the two of us, I growing older, and she growing more like me every second. A snippet of my aura moves within hers. Hard to see where I end and she begins now. She’s an extension of me, my baby, my daughter, the sister I never had.
Like me, she was never a sleeper. Those nights twenty years ago when she still wore feet pajamas, she’d stretch out on top of me as I lay on the couch. Usually, she’d fall asleep on me. I’d quietly get my husband’s attention and whisper, “Can you grab her so I can get up?” As gentle as he was, she’d awaken. Grasp my clothes, grip my arms. She wasn’t going anywhere. I hope she never does. From teen years on, I jokingly have been reminding her that I paid the doctor a lot of money to separate us. She always laughs when I say that. Still, she comes to me and hangs her arms around my neck and says, “I want a hug.” Now, we are the same height.
She’s a grown-up, and I feel blessed that when she is home, she won’t sit in any of the other seats in the TV room. She chooses, still, to sit in the chair I’m in, on top of me. Annoyed when she slides off. Impatient that the varicose veins in my thigh hurt under her slight 113 pounds.
Other than my veins and her height, not much has changed. When she comes to where I’m sitting. I put my book down. I give up on the movie I was watching. She crawls onto my lap and hugs my neck, buries her head beneath my chin. Our usual, mother-daughter tempestuousness disappears. In that moment, she is not a young adult. She is not a career woman. She is not a fashion designer. I am not older. I’m her mother again, still.
Her phone buzzes, but she doesn’t take the message. I love that.
Maureen Mancini Amaturo is still high from her 30-year fashion and beauty writing career, and now writes “Dressing On The Side,” a fashion column she created for a local bi-weekly newspaper. Also, she founded and leads Sound Shore Writers Group, is Program Coordinator for Manhattanville College MFA Creative Writing program (where she earned her Creative Writing MFA) producing literary arts events, teaches creative writing in local arts centers, designs jewelry, cooks, cleans (sometimes), is a mother and a wife. Maureen has had poetry, articles, celebrity interviews, and two beauty how-to books published. She is working on novel, a romantic comedy.
When the books slip from their careless stacks on the shelf, the lights blink out, and the prayers whisper “Amen,” bedtime comes but my boy begs me to stay. “Read me a pretend story,” he says, hoping I will snuggle beside him just a little longer. Daddy says good night and I linger, my head on the pillow beside our little man.
I smile and say, “Okay.”
The stories start with caterpillars who then become butterflies. After a couple of words, I get interrupted because I choose the wrong colors and assign the wrong names.
“No, she’s pink and her name is Abracadabra,” he insists.
“Ok, Abracadabra,” I continue, “goes down the tree and meets her friend Sally.”
“No,” my son breaks in again. “Her name’s Flutter.”
“So Abracadabra and Flutter crawl to the house and—”
“No, they go in the garden.”
Finally, several minutes pass without my editor making changes, but then I start to drift off and hear myself saying silly nonsense, which prompts a nudge against my shoulder.
“Mommy, keep reading.”
The night is young in my son’s eyes, and he asks for one more story. My burst of creativity lasts long enough for a dog named Cheese to trot out of my imagination. Cheese, the classic “man’s best friend,” is really Lassie with a different name because my imagination is just as tired as my body. The dog has adventures about town and then waits for his boy to return from school. I weave a tangled story, hardly knowing what words my lips form next, when my still-wide-awake child informs me: “The boy’s name is Triangle.”
“Timmy” is saved from the name “Jimmy” as the real storyteller cannot keep quiet a second longer. The story of Cheese will continue as three parts, like a play made up of acts.
“Mommy, part one is only about Cheese. Then tell about Cheese and Triangle, and then tell about Square.”
“Who is Square?” I ask, waking up a little.
His outline helps me tell the first two acts, though I still hope he will fall asleep before I must come up with the necessary climax. But he sticks with me through the walk in the woods, where Triangle slips and falls into the creek. Cheese helps pull him out, and then I pause to listen for any amendments to my story. Since there are none, I take the opportunity to run out of words for the night.
“We’ll hear more about Cheese and his geometric family tomorrow,” I tell him. Or maybe we won’t. Perhaps he’ll direct me to return to butterflies or start a cat story that I’ll mix up, and he’ll be forced to take over again. “I love you,” I say.
“I love you too,” he whispers.
I wait for the steady, soft sound of breathing sleep and then wait just a bit more. Will the story continue in his dreams with his faithful companion, Cheese? Will Circle and Trapezoid join us next time in space, fighting “Dark” Vader? I leave the room, full of anticipation for future night stories told right.
Annie Hindman writes from Idaho where she stays home with her five-year-old son. Her work has been published with The Good Mother Project and Mothers Always Write. When she is not trying to answer questions from her son she might be writing on www.touchingoninfinity.com.
Today the trees are blossoming, little buds making their way into the world. Birds sing, flitting from tree to tree in a dance of celebration. The sun dances its way up the sky, wrapping its strong arms around this part of the earth. I place my hands on my stomach just as you somersault, and I wonder once again what your name will end up being.
You see, little one, in my eager attempt to discover your name, I’ve watched other people speak, hoping it would fall from their lips. I’ve looked at magazines, asking for your name to appear in bold lettering. I’ve even perused books that boast hundreds of baby names, only to throw them aside and admit that you are not Lydia or Penelope or Grace.
When I ask your father if he has a name in mind, he shakes his head.
We are both at a loss. But I tell myself this is okay. Your name is traveling here now from far away, and when it arrives, I will know, my sweet child. I will know because it will fit you just right.
Even though your name hasn’t yet arrived, I am learning about you. For example, I know that you are gentle and fierce all at once. The first time I feel your gentleness, you are eighteen weeks old. You flutter like a butterfly and tap your wings where I imagine you can see light coming through my skin. Tenderness explodes in my chest when you do this, I swear right then and there that I will carve out a joyous passage for you with my boat, and that you will know the dark waters of this world as a safe place to rest.
Two weeks following this, I’m sitting on the sofa with your dad, watching a sad movie when I begin to cry. My tears must move you because soon you are kicking mightily, a fierce warrior-in-training. Your father puts his face real close to my belly, and you kick so hard, he jolts. “That was her?” he asks as though he can’t quite believe it. I nod, proud, the small forest of love inside me continuing to grow.
You are as quiet as can be when I play Diana Krall or Feist. But when I play nature music, you tap your feet with pleasure. I imagine that you hear, as though from a great distance, the rain pitter-pattering its silvery notes, the ocean sighing its soliloquys, the wind chasing itself in play.
One day, your tiny voice will take its rightful place among nature’s symphony, and that’s when my own voice will drop to a whisper. You will test the strength of your cries, and I will sing lullabies, my voice a low croon.
Until that day, we will listen to music together, your movements inside my belly telling me what your preferences are. I will listen, because this is what mothers do.
In one of the ultrasound images I have of you, your eyes are closed as though you are in a dreamworld. Your nose is pronounced like my own, and your hair is already growing, a silken shawl for your head.
My dear child, I have a dreamworld too. In my one dream of you, you are seven or eight years old already, and you are as articulate as a young adult. Your intense eyes are perceptive, and your hair is dark. Your skin is fairer than my own. In this dream, I am uncertain for some reason or other (I am this way in real life), and you reason with me in a way that reminds me of your father. Eventually, I agree with you, and then we stand up, walk out onto the sand where the sun shines down on us. I hold your hand in mine, profoundly aware that you are your own person.
Your name has finally arrived, a gift. Let me tell you how it happens. Your father and I are browsing a local gift store. I linger over hand-carved jewelry boxes, not because I want one, but because I find them beautiful. I peer into one, and that’s when a piece of paper falls into the palm of my hand. I read the tiny print, curious, and I learn about the moon festival in Greece that honors Luna, Roman moon Goddess. The festival takes place in August on the day when the fullest and most beautiful moon graces the night sky.
I walk over to your father. “Luna,” I say, excited. “Luna could be her name.” I am sure my eyes are glowing because inside I am glowing.
“I think you are right,” he says, nodding, pleased in his own quiet way.
On our way home, I say your name again and again, reveling in its lyricism and strength, in how it fights you just right.
My dearest Luna, I hope that you will love your name as much as we do.
It is nighttime now, and my body demands rest. The moon peeks from behind a wispy cloud, and an owl hoots in the beckoning dark. I wonder what dreams will come to me on this magic night, and whether you will be in them.
As I fall asleep, you somersault once again, stretching your newly formed limbs as though you are already reaching for the sun and moon and stars. Just remember, you are also your very own moon, and the glow of your light will always guide you.
Juliana Crespo is an English teacher at a high school in Bloomington, Indiana. She has an MFA in fiction from Indiana University and an M.A. in fiction from University of Nevada, Reno. Her stories are often informed by her Brazilian heritage.
that becoming a mom has made me a boring poet.
Because all I ever write about is you.
All my observations realizations about the world are rooted in you.
I have found that once you become a mom, all other things are gone.
I’ve found that days are simultaneously short and long.
I have found that a grown-up can only see grown-up TV
on mute with the subtitles on.
I have found that even with subtitles I still get lost
and that it doesn’t matter anyway.
I have found that babies are fragile and fearless and we need more of both in the world.
And so I look to you.
I was so afraid of you.
Stopping to feel you
hands on big belly
full of doubt.
Ultrasound silence so long
worrying if your heart beat right
watching to find the beeping light
steady and strong.
Wondering what your eyes would do when you laughed
Imagining if you’d look like me from the past.
Too many questions
Too much maybe
Too much future to get stuck in
To be afraid of
Tomorrow today will be yesterday
No matter what I say
And back then
Back when you were not quite you
I wanted to say STOP
But I found myself in this strange space
Stuck and spinning
Lost in the centrifugal force of forever
searching through darkness
with tiny hands
you were not afraid.
you were not lost.
You were found.
And I find you amazing.
So maybe I have become a boring poet
But every time I write about you I learn things
And every line helps me make sense of what’s happening around me.
Sort of like
Yes you are just like subtitles.
You explain everything.
Cady Burkhart is teacher, mother, and sister living on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She thinks that ‘outskirts’ is a very cool word. Her life has been lived mostly on the outskirts: as a queer woman, single mom by choice, identical twin, and disillusioned daughter. She is happy that every day brings a new beginning.