I spent this past weekend across the country from home, about as far west as I could travel before hitting water. I was visiting a friend from college, a best friend. She's just had twin boys, and I didn't think about whether I'd go. I just pulled from my next to nothing savings, called on family and my wonderful husband to watch my own babies, and struck out west.
The girls asked me why I'd leave them to take care of other babies. I told them that every mother loves her babies as much as I love them. So, when I love someone that loves a baby, I go to her. They understood this.
I swaddled the two perfect forms, held them, listened for their cries, fed them milk my friend had pumped. I spent hours studying and tracing their perfect faces and, by the end of the weekend, realized I knew their contours and promised to never forget them, the foreheads, the lips--although I know that I certainly, sadly, will.
The forgetting of small faces is something I've learned well. All mothers know it--we promise to lock these moments in our brains forever--and every one drifts away like sand imported by wind, smoothing out the divots just made by rain. But when you have a baby whose newborn face is all you'll every see of her, you learn about forgetting the hard way. If I can forget her face (give her away to false imaginings)--and I have--I will forget everything.
Not until I left did the grief-joy swallow me whole. Not my own, not this time. But the single intake and release of breath of all mothers, in unison. My friend, and all her pain, and this little hope in her eyes now, with these perfect crying little god damn glorious things. My other friend, and her pain, because her baby has died--and I couldn't save her. She'll visit her with flowers when they bloom, fed by first warmth and organic things. My other friend, a best friend, who lives with one growing, wildly brilliant black bonneted twin boy, while another sleeps away forever. So many friends--I know them and I don't know them--but I know them. Each of us crippled differently, but giddy batshit running full gale, or getting there.
My own little girl, just one of three, with her thick head of mussed black hair, and I envision her standing in the latest bright white winter wind that stings her cheeks and the black twine gets stuck in her snot and tears. I imagine her blue eyes that stand out today. And I feel hopeful too. I gasp at her beauty and wonder if my imaginings of her shoot up into the air like Wifi or sit in the universe like abandoned text files, and if each one I create waits forever on the hard drive of the world. No different from my living girls standing on a hill, staring at me, all strong and blonde and extraordinary. Does this exist in the cosmos too?
And so, tonight, I conjure up those new twins in my brain. I spin fibers like long, thin strings of clay data, and stack them into baby faces. One rounder at the bottom, another wider at the forehead. The eyes, the way their hands made those wild red strikes on the world. I feel the naive hope I'll remember this, and all things, if I meditate them every day. And then I study faces in photographs, pretending that's the same. And I trace my childrens' silhouettes, real and imagined, on turbulent plane rides back east.
And I weep for all the wrong I've ever done, all the things I've forgotten, and I forgive myself, and promise to remember.