Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

"Where are her eyes?" she asks. Charlotte is looking up at me with her soft, blond curls framing her truly angelic face.

I point to somewhere low on my belly, somewhere near where I think the bean's face is located these days.

"Here," I say. She reaches out a hand and touches it gingerly, smiling at me, smiling at my belly.

We are in the bathroom at her house, at her parent's house, the house where I spend most of my Sunday nights. She has been potty-trained in the past year and sometimes she wants company in the bathroom, while other times she requires strict privacy: the purview of a three-year-old. I never mind being being invited into the bathroom with her after I've turned on the light or the "air" (vent), because I relish the chance to talk to her one-on-one, even with a toilet between us.

"I'm pooping," she whispers, smiling her I-have-a-secret-smile.

"Good!" I say, "that's a good thing to do when you have to poop."

I am suddenly struck by the fact that Charlotte is 3, that I have known her for her entire three years, that from nearly the moment of her birth, our lives have been connected in some way.

I have been thinking a lot about the stories of our lives, the stories that shape who we are, the facts and the histories that round out what makes us, us. It is something I come back to often, the fact that we all have a story, that there are certain immutable facts that we live through and incorporate into our sense of self.

I first started thinking about it again when I miscarried last year, when I realized that someday, the miscarriage would be a fact of my life, something I folded into the facts of my 30s, the facts associated with starting to expand our family. And lately I have been thinking about it in terms of this little bean, the fact that almost completely independently of me and Matt, this little one will be born in Boston, always a Bostonian, and will say things in college like, "I was born in Boston, my parents were living in a second-floor apartment with their two roommates."

"Does it have ears?," she asks, pulling me back from my thoughts.

"Yes!" I say. "It has ears and eyes and a nose and a mouth and hair."

"Not yellow hair, though," she advises.

"No, probably not yellow hair," I agree.

I am a fact in Charlotte's young life. I realize it at that very moment and it almost moves me to tears. It is an emotional day, and I am 31 weeks pregnant, so there are many things that almost move me to tears. But this day is different. This is the death-day, the day when the facts of my life at 15 came to require that I fold in the fact of my mother's death.

I have written before about how free I felt when it had finally been 15 years since her death, when my mother had been dead for as long as I had known her. I felt some of that freedom this year, but I also knew that it would be different, because every year is different, but because this year I am pregnant.

"After I'm done I get to go downstairs because it's not my bedtime yet," Charlotte assures me.

"But it will be your bedtime soon," I remind her, "and then it will be my bedtime, and mommy and daddy's bedtime, and then the whole world will be asleep."

"And then we'll wake up... and Santa will not have come," she concludes, not unhappily, as though just to remind me that tomorrow is not Christmas.

"That's right, tomorrow when we wake up, Santa will not have come."

She nods.

I look at her and I realize just how lucky I am to know her, how lucky I am to get to be a fact in her life. On impulse, I reach out my hand and cup her beautiful little face, whose features are perfect to me, perfect in every single way. I am so happy right here in this bathroom with Charlotte, her toilet and my belly between us.

In that instant, I think to myself that it's possible, maybe even probable, that my mother didn't dwell on what she was robbed of in her death. Maybe she tried not to think about what she would be missing. Maybe that was just too sad. Maybe she thought instead about all of the moments we did get to spend together, all of the moments and facts of her life that included me, and by extension, all of the facts of my life that included her.

I think about it now, almost constantly, how grateful I will be just to meet this little bean in a few weeks, how lucky I will feel for those first moments, those early facts, and then day by day, bathroom by bathroom, a lifetime.

"Santa will be here in the summer," Charlotte tells me.

"Nope, not in the summer, in the winter. But the baby will be here in the summer. We'll all go to the Cape together and look at seaweed."

"Oh," she says, nodding, incorporating this fact into her life. And then she puts both hands on either side of my belly, gives it a little squeeze, and grins.

I put my hands on top of hers, give the bean and Charlotte a little squeeze, and grin back.

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