In the Shadow of Narcissa | There is a woman in my house who takes care of things.
I’ve awoken with so much sleep in my eyes that I can’t open them. I’m convinced I’ve gone blind. I’m nearly 3. Terrified, I slip out of bed and run down the short hallway to the kitchen. I can almost see. My eyes are crusty slits. But she’s there. Sitting at the counter, drinking her tea. “Mommy! I’m blind!”
“You’re not blind,” she says. Her capable hands, those hands with the manicured fingernails, gently pull open my eyelids. She smiles. “See? You can see. It’s just from the sandbox yesterday. Don’t let your brother pour sand on your head.”
* * *
At the Pick ‘n Pay supermarket, she still lets me ride in the cart even though I’m nearly 3. In the coffee aisle, she pours roasted beans into the grinder and then pours the ground beans into a small sack.
“That smells good, Mommy.” She lets me smell the ground coffee in the bag before she closes it. She smiles at me. “You like that? It smells nice but I don’t like the taste of it. Your daddy likes coffee,” she explains. “I drink tea.”
Home from grocery shopping, I play on the driveway with a little girl from across the street. She demands that I give her one of my toys, but I refuse. She claims that she’s going to tell my mommy that I’m selfish and that my mommy will spank me.
I’m struck with fear. I’m too young to understand that a spanking does not mean to be tossed around, to be shaken and screamed at; to have, the stuffing slapped out of me, as if I were just a thing and not a little girl who’s nearly 3.
I run into the house, screaming. “Mommy, please don’t spank me! I didn’t do anything!”
My mother is always home. Always cleaning. She’s alarmed by my tears and by what I am screaming at her as I burst in from the driveway. She grabs me, hugs me. “I’m not going to spank you,” she assures me. “Don’t cry.”
* * *
My brother plays exuberantly with his toys in the small living room. He’s making a mess. Disrupting things. I beg him to stop. Things are always supposed to stay tidy in the living room. We are never to disturb anything. Soon, it is too late. My mother swoops in and grabs him. I start to cry. I want to save him.
“You sit on the couch right now, missy, and don’t say a word,” she says methodically. “And stop crying. And don’t move.”
I can hear the screams coming from the nursery. My brother is helpless. My heart is breaking. But I’m not allowed to move, or to cry, or to make a sound.
In the empty living room, I sit alone on the couch. It’s Danish-Modern. It has perfect lines. It is so easy on the eye. The couch fits perfectly in the Mid-Century Modern living room.
* * *
My mother reads to me all the time. Brand-new books from the Dr. Seuss Reading Club. They arrive by mail and they smell so good — those brand-new books.
My mother is trying to teach me how to read as she reads to me. But I’m a very slow learner. I’m more of a dreamer. I rock back and forth all the time. I live in my head. I don’t like to be touched. They worry that I’m autistic. But I love to be read to.
Today, she reads to me from our brand-new book, Are You My Mother? A baby bird is trying to find his mother. He eventually does. I understand this book, deep inside me. It speaks directly to me because I am adopted.
I have another mother somewhere who is not this one. I feel like I remember her. I want to meet her. Even though I am not yet 3, I’ve decided that I will find her; I want her back.
Text © Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Marilyn’s Previous Contribution To Edge Of Humanity Magazine