Holding Ella close, I’ve never felt a love like this, warm and glowing, like being flooded with liquid gold from the inside out. But within a few minutes, the spell breaks and she begins to cry. I try to nurse her. She latches on and pulls off over and over again. As her cries fill the room, my jaw locks tight and a sour taste floods my mouth. What kind of mother can’t soothe her own baby?
At the crest of a steep hill, my daughter pauses, scents the wind, raises her arms overhead, a brave silhouette against a massive foreign sky. I trudge onward, count my breaths, in, out, forehead and cheeks hot with exertion, blood pumping near the surface. My feet and toes are numb. I am hungry, sticky, and tired and I have never felt better.
It’s a discussion we bring up often. Are we going to have more kids or are we done at two? It’s impossible to come to a decision. Because it’s not just from day to day we are back and forth, it’s from hour to hour, minute to minute, even second to second.
My crying only lasts a moment, and then I steady my foolish heart. She doesn’t shed a tear, though. Not one. You don’t need to cry over the small hurts, I’ve told her before. They aren’t worth it. There are so many of them, you’d be crying all day long. Like a piece of gravel trapped in your shoe.
I’m a practical woman and a rabbi. I’ve always preached that there’s enough mystery in the here and now not to waste much effort worrying about what comes after this life. Yet now, in the silence of my home, I wonder if I, too, have begun to detect the echoes of distant heartbeats. I wonder if I believe in ghosts.
The craft had, for decades, given my 90-year-old mother a solid sense of pride and accomplishment. The repetitive motions of wrapping and pulling stitches have a calming meditative effect, and the mathematics involved in structuring a garment is good exercise for the brain. Even with the dementia, it was the one skill she had been able to hold on to. It was an anchor that kept my mother from completely drifting away.
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