My New Essay: The Fortune of All Womankind
Thrilled to let you know I have a new essay out in the lovely online journal, Dorothy Parker's Ashes. It’s an essay about my mother’s pre-Roe abortion and the many ways she has repeatedly overcome loss and reinvented herself. It comes out on the eve of my mother's 89th birthday and I'm happy to say she is a role model for aging well. In fact, she ran a one mile race last weekend with all three of her adult children!
The essay begins:
It is not quite dusk, not quite winter. The highway, sky, trees, even the occasional other car, all shades of gray. I am perhaps 25. Mother, perhaps 50. There is a quiet ease between us, the hum of the car the only sound. Then my mother runs her hands through her hair and says, “Did you know I was pregnant again after Sue?”
I re-grip the steering wheel and glance at her. She is staring straight ahead, out the window, decidedly not looking at me. Her profile is sharp against the dusky sky. Her hair has been short for several years now, but I still feel a little jolt when I don't see the classic French twist she wore throughout my childhood and my college days, the style she abandoned after my father died, after she sold the land they had purchased with her small inheritance: the sixty acres, the house, the pond, the two horses, the tractor. All gone.
When you begin again, there is a long tender period when the entire body is nothing but raw flesh. It is a painful process. To survive you must retreat to a dark, shallow place. Head for still waters. Warm, but not too warm. Nutrient-rich. You need calcium to regrow your outer layer. To harden up. If the water you swim in is nutrient poor you may never form that all-important new shell that will hold the new version of you. Each time you molt, you emerge forever a little different. With luck, you grow into it and it becomes your skin.
She moved into town to try out living in a regular house on a regular tree-lined street with a sidewalk and neighbors, to become a regular person, somebody less solitary. Each time I return to visit her at this “in-town house” I feel disoriented. Each time, her hairstyle is a different version of short. She hasn’t settled on the new version of herself yet, but she is getting closer. If she is gradually remaking herself, she is also remaking our understanding of her, of her life before and during her marriage to our father, the life we lived with them, but hadn’t really seen or understood, in the way of children, I suppose. But this?
“Pregnant?” I echoed.