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All Done

nursing

“Mama. Mama.” Tiny mewls.

“Shhhhh. Mama’s right here.”

Mike nudges me softly.  “She’s in the other room.”

“Huh? Oh.” I wrench myself from sleep. My body weighs a thousand pounds as I drag it from the bed, across the room. Her door so close to ours I’m opening it as I’m closing mine.

“Mama. Mama.”

“Scootch over.” She wiggles and I realize she’s halfway down the bed. I pull her up towards me and I can practically hear her smiling as she smacks her lips. Her feet are like ice.

“Let’s pull up the covers. Are you okay?”

“Yeah.”

I pull the covers over us as she presses her cold feet into the tops of my thighs, squirms into my arms and latches on. It hurts. She nurses like someone drinking who hasn’t tasted water in days. It’s a starving kind of pulling and tugging. Her strong-still-small hands knead at me the way a kitten kneads its mother-cat.

When she was newborn her little feet wriggled against my soft belly, toes digging into my new-mother body. Now her feet reach down to my knees. But here we are still, mother and child, nursing in the early morning hours.

She’ll be two in two weeks. And then we’re done. With this, this part of our relationship. We – I – have to be. She doesn’t understand yet. I’ve told her, again and again, but she has no frame of reference for this.

“Mama is taking her milk to New York City and leaving it there. In Central Park, at Bethesda Fountain. When Mama comes home, the milk will be all gone.” I show her the calendar. “See? This box is today. This one is tomorrow. Here is your birthday. And here is the weekend Mama takes the milk to New York City.”

She stares at me, enormous indigo eyes, her serious face framed by wild, golden hair. “Mama mee-oke? Eva need her mama-mee-oke,”

“I know baby. For a little while longer,”

“Mama take her meee-oke to New Yoke City. Put it da Def-da foun-ten.”

I have so many feelings about this. All the feelings. This has been her main source of comfort her entire life. It’s our go-to for security, safety, nourishment, love.

Think about that. Think about something you’ve known and loved and cherished your entire life being taken away from you. Permanently. Without your consent. You’d grieve, right? Feel angry and heart broken. I am steeling myself for this. For taking this from her. My first betrayal as a mother.

When we nurse, she is, again, a newborn in my arms. My tiny, perfect babe. But she’s not a newborn. She’ll be two in two weeks. I don’t want to breastfeed a preschooler. I just don’t. So I’m being selfish. Taking my body back. No more. All done.

She suckles and squirms. We’re curled on our sides, belly to belly. She pulls her feet from off my thighs and drapes her legs over my hips. Her long, strong legs. I wrap an arm around her waist, stroke her back, breathe deep the sweet smell of her head. The sun is making the night sky pink as we drift back to sleep.

Thursday Night Family Dinner

family party 2006

A family gathering, November 2005

One of the reasons I am so excited to move home is because finally, finally after three-and-a-half years, finally I get to participate in Thursday Night Family Dinner. My mother always spends Thursday afternoons with my niece, and then my brother and sister-in-law come over for dinner, and often times, at least when I’m in town, most of the other siblings and their partners and various off-spring come over, at least whoever is free that night, and we all sit around the dining room table and eat something wonderful and talk about our day and what’s been going on lately, and sometimes we end up reminiscing and telling family stories, and those are my favorite times of all.

Other times we have a big family fight and someone stomps out of the room and everyone whispers in hushed tones and the person who said something to make the other person mad goes upstairs to apologize and then the mad person and the apologetic person come downstairs and we all eat ice cream. Or graham crackers with peanut butter and honey.

When I was growing up, my parents and I sat around the dinner table every night, ate a meal my mother cooked, and talked about our day. Which usually led to us talking about other things, like something great that happened, or something that was bothering us. Dinner time was our time to reconnect as a family. When I was really little, I would get sleepy listening to Mama and Papa talk and I’d crawl into Papa’s lap and lay my head on his chest and the deep rumbling of his voice would lull me to sleep.  Later he’d carry me upstairs, say my prayers with me, and tuck me in. In the mornings Mama would wake me up singing, she’d fix me breakfast and pack my lunch and Papa would walk me to the bus stop so we could spend a little extra time together. In the afternoons I walked home with the other kids and Mama would be waiting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and we’d sit and have snacks and visit and then I’d do my homework while she cooked dinner and when Papa came everyone smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged and then we ate dinner and talked about our day. Family dinner made my childhood better.

Mike and I eat dinner together at the table every night we possibly can, which for the last year and a half has been nearly every single night. I adore our dinners together. Next to when we finally curl up at the end of the day, dinner is my favorite time of day. Dinner is when we reconnect, talk about our day, the great things that have happened, something that’s bothering us. It’s our one guaranteed hour of quality time in the day. It’s a gift from one to the other.

When something is bothering me I need a little time to warm up before I can talk about it. I can’t just pin Mike down at the end of a busy week and dump my heart out. I’ve got to spend a little quality time with him, talk about the weather, the dogs, something stupid, anything. I’m slow to warm. Which is not to say I don’t feel safe with Mike, because if there is anyone I feel safe with, it’s him. That man has known me through some of the ugliest moments of my life and he has always stood next to me, arms open and ready to catch me the moment I fell. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that open and honest communication is the only way to have a solid relationship. And open and honest communication only comes when you are able to communicate on a regular and frequent basis, because communication = human connection. Therefore family dinner = human connection = happy marriage = happy family.

I was not at all prepared for the loss of connection with the people I love the most when I moved to New York. Of course we’ve all made the best of it, found ways to connect through social media and lengthy emails and photos and regular visits. But it’s going to be so much better when I’m not so far away! And also more annoying, probably. There is nothing like seeing someone on a regular basis to make you feel like they’re driving you crazy. Even that considered, I’m really excited to go home and take part in Thursday Night Family Dinner. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s day, what’s on their mind, what’s going on. I can’t wait to be a part of their lives again, and have them a part of mine. I can’t wait for everyone to get to know Mike better, and for me to get to know his family better. And also? I can’t wait until the day we get to bring our own off-spring to dinner, Thursday nights and every night.*

*That’s at least twenty-two months away,** so don’t get excited.

**Not that I’m counting or anything.