Friday, November 4, 2011

Out of the Box

It has always been clear to me that you adored your folks and sister. That your life with them was one of faith, love, and charity. But then your sister went away. In sickness, not health. Her leaving left a pockmark on your insides. A small but permanent, life-will-never-be-the-same nick.
            God holds your tears in a bottle. You know that, right? In my mind’s eye I see it. It looks like a cordial glass carved out of amethyst Swarovski crystal.
            So I thought, as writers often do, what if? What if the “H” family had one more daughter? No, that’s not it. What if Mr. “H” walked out on the front porch to fetch the Sunday paper and there was a baby girl. Freshly hatched. In a lightbulb box, swaddled in a khaki cardigan.      
            Wait a minute. There has to be backstory. How exactly did this infant come to be?
            Well, my birth mother was a young thing, and unwed. Her father, all Magic Marker eyebrows and flailing hands, accused her of wantonness. She insisted she was merely putting on weight. Consumed huge quantities of Wonder bread slathered in Parkay margarine to make it seem true.  Every day she wore her father’s scratchy, mud-colored sweater. Tugged at it constantly to make her stomach seem more corpulent than expectant.
            When my time came she made her beau bring me into the world. In the back of his dad’s car. She’d brought towels. Rubbing alcohol. And a library book on midwifery. He had a flashlight.
            The windows were rolled up and steamed. My birth father said surely the folks closing up inside the hardware store would hear her screams. She didn’t care. “Get it out of me!”
            “Now what?” he said. His face was pale and slick with sweat. He held me in his arms, but not close.
            My mother wouldn’t look at my face. She cracked the window to release the scent of my beginning.
            “Cut the cord,” she said. “My sewing scissors are in my purse. The outside pocket.”
            My father’s face blanched as he balanced me on his knees and leaned to fish for the scissors. They rattled against his class ring. My mother struggled to sit up.
            “Here! Give ‘em to me! I’ll do it.” She snatched them from him. Pinched the cord and severed it. I cried my first cry when the cold of the stainless steel fingerloops brushed my belly. 
           My mother made him drive to your house. Because she knew, was positive, that Mr. and Mrs. “H” would do the right thing. They did.
            We three girls grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Most of the time we could finish each other’s sentences.  Every Monday Becky would pass her lima beans to me under the kitchen table and I’d lean forward and stuff the whole handful in my mouth and chew, chew, gulp. We watched The Brady Bunch every week on the living room floor and fiddled with each other’s hair. You were the only one who knew how to French braid though.  Sometimes late at night in your all’s bedroom, we took turns kissing a handmirror, so we’d be ready for the time when Daddy let us car date.
            Almost every evening at supper, he’d stare at each of us for a moment, and then he'd nod.
            “Yes, indeed. Three is surely a charm. The good Lord knew what he was doing with our family.”
            But then after college, your sister— our sister passed. And once again, back in our childhood home, you and I huddled under the covers. Only there did we dare to say, why and if only. We sobbed until we were ugly and had the hiccups. Finally the exhausted slumber of grief consumed us.
            At the church, we sat thigh to thigh. In blue dresses because blue was her favorite color. You gripped my hand and blotted my face every now and then with a handkerchief our grandmother embroidered decades before.
            “Hand me your purse,” I said (Lord knows I never carry one). “I think I have to throw up.”
            “Breathe deep,” you whispered as you traced circles on my leg. “Remember what Daddy said. She’s absent from us but present with the Lord. And surely we’ll see her again one day. When the roll is . . . When we . . .”
            I let out a raggedy sigh. “I know. But now three's not a charm." 
           Your breath stirred my hair. "Even so, God still knows what he's doing, right? Right?"


writingdianet said...

Honestly? I don't know where all this came from. Was it me not wanting you to be an only child? For the rest of your life? Or was it me craving a girl sibling? Because I never hand one? Perhaps it was just me thinking the best thing ever would be if we were sisters. For real. Happy Birthday, dear friend.

Sara said...

This is a powerful read. I can't tell if this is memoir or not. Whatever, it grabs my heart and tugs HARD.

What a gift to give to someone.I loved what you said in your comment..."Perhaps it was just me thinking the best thing ever would be if we were sisters."

Your story makes you sisters in your hearts:~)

writingdianet said...

I'm starting to look forward to your comments, friend:) Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback!
This is NOT memoir. The story idea started out with me writing my friend as my mother. Then I thought it would be better if she were my sister and I started over.
That whole backstory on ME was fabricated. Just poured out of my pen. I confess, I thought it was pretty cool too. Glad you agree.
The hilarious part is, the gal I wrote it for, hasn't read it yet.
And you're right. We are heart sisters:)


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