I started writing Confessions of a Bad Mother so many years ago I can’t remember when, envisioning the final form as a collection of essays on my life as a (bad) mother. Since I’m always writing them anyway, I’ve got quite a bunch piled up–but I still haven’t done anything to further their development into cohesive book form. Ergo, I’ve decided to start posting some of these essays on my blog. Below is the first, a prelude.
Excerpt #1. A Baby On Each Hip
A moment is etched into my memory like a still in the movie of my life: I am twenty-one, weigh less than a hundred pounds, and am standing in front of my eight-room ranch house, my six-month-old baby girl balanced on one hip, my two-and-a-half-year-old son on the other. Due to a chronic medical condition, he cannot yet walk, and for the next several months I will be toting my babies around in this fashion.
We are on our way to the supermarket, where I will place him inside one shopping cart and put her, in a plastic infant seat, into another. I will push one and pull the other, tucking foodstuffs all around them in the carts. I will then push and pull the full baskets to my car, load the groceries into the trunk and the babies into the backseat. Once at home, I will plop them in front of Sesame Street, haul in the six or seven bags, put the food away, and start dinner.
When I look back at the babies straddled on my bony hips, my arms ache to be wrapped around them once again. I wonder at my lunacy at the time, oblivious to the fact that they would one day grow up, the people they were at that moment lost to me forever.
In hundreds of photos they live on: she in a frilly pink dress, he in a three-piece brown suit, dressed up for their cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. Or on New Years Eve in diapers, their homemade banners proclaiming it 1970. And again as kittens, black and white respectively, for Halloween.
Sometimes I cry when I look at these pictures, longing to hold my munchkins again, this time with the knowledge of their ephemerality, this time alive to the moment, rather than distracted by resentment and a constant sense of breathless hurry. My spirit longs to revisit that house again, to sit on the floor and play with my babies rather than toss them a box of cookies and retreat into my beloved books. I long for this even more than for the dynamic young girl I was, she who so thoughtlessly — it seems to me now — cared for them.
And yet, I would not willingly re-enter the hellish nightmare of those years for all the munchkins in Oz.