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Dear Josephine Patience,

Josie. Josie Bean. Jo. JoJo. I have started this letter to you over and over in my head for several weeks. Months. From the moment I finally had you to myself as we were cuddled in a hospital bed, wheeled up from the delivery floor to postpartum almost (as I now actually write this) a year ago.

I had a slight fever. You had the most spectacular eyebrows, the envy of any adorable old man.

It has taken nearly a year to process your birth, the incision on my lower abdomen that still makes me cringe for fear it will burst open, and how lucky your daddy and I are to have been given you as our little girl.

As I’ve navigated through the city streets and underground tunnels, I have had many stories to relate, to retell, to want to share to the world in my own words run through my head as fast as I run to catch the train after work so that I can see you a minute sooner.

I miss you even when you are asleep (but please, don’t take that as an invite to wake up at this moment. You need it, Bug, and Mama needs the break). Can there be one favorite memory from this past year? As far as I can tell, each day has held something new and precious (and terrifying or testing), sort of like when you insist on holding onto the subway pole during our morning commute to daycare. It’s the most adorable thing ever seeing you trying to already fit into the adult world, but it also churns my stomach at the thought of who held that pole before you and where those hands have been.

You are such a lively spirit, a sprite, almost. You simply grin and wave at a stranger and they carry the smile with them as they move on. Your daddy and I have seen it happen, repeatedly. If there was ever such pure good in me, you took it with you when you left, and I’m glad for it. It suits your eyes of mysterious color (they are brown, really, but I still hold onto hope of a shade of forest green some day).

On August 1, 2012 at 5:47pm you were born, turned around and pulled out feet first via C-section. I bet they were pointed feet, or at the least modern forced arches with splayed toes. I don’t know what you looked like right away. I’m not even sure when my memory kicks in because I was so drugged up and in pain from the surgery and its side effects. Even when Daddy was holding you next to my face, the hillside of towels wrapped around my head to keep the shivers down prevented a real first look. I hate that I wasn’t the one who held you first in life outside of me. I hate that it had to be a doctor, then a nurse(s), and that it was probably well over an hour or so before you were physically placed in my arms.

Hate is a strong word. I don’t want to hate; It makes me unhappy. I hate nothing about the day you came into our lives.

And so, it is why when at daycare the teachers tell me that they can feed you breakfast there in the mornings after we drop you off, even if it might make the mornings all around less chaotic and easier as you transition, I decline. You see, I already feel like I’ve missed too much of your life. I can’t get back your first breath, but I can feed you at the start of each new day, and it feels a little more complete.

One. When did I blink? It certainly feels like I’ve yet to have a full night’s rest since the hospital stay. You were 8lbs. 4oz. swaddled (sort of, depending on who did the swaddling) heavy in my arms, and now you let go and stand on your own two articulated feet, balancing precariously between infant-hood and independence.

One year has completely made me reevaluate who I am and the 34 years I had to create myself. Sometimes I believe you see a truer side of me than I see in the mirror. I am lost, found, undone and reimagined all in you, your deep guttural laugh, your see-saw wave, your insistent point of the finger, your faux hawk of brown hair and those mouse ears I just want to nibble.

This is getting sappy, and I dislike adding sentiment for the emphasis of effect.

Before we went in for our 20 week ultrasound, I had sworn you were a boy. It is one of the few times in life I am overjoyed to have been wrong.

(This brings up a good life tip: Whenever you lose, lose graciously. It’s becoming a lost art, and you actually gain more by doing so than if you had won.)

Josephine. Your name alone sings my heart.

Happy Birthday.

Love, Mama

Twenty-three

March 28, 2013

Life Without You

The slippers she finds have been buried under years of discarded trinkets. The garments form a tangle of sweaty dance-filled nights, squint-eyed mornings, mundane afternoons….A string of lackadaisical expectations is found wrapped tightly round the stitching to a button. It creates a delicate balance between the opening and closing of secrets.

I am safe now she thinks I am eager.

She moves on and kneels amongst the smell of musty old books. She indulges in the forgotten fairy tales. The pages, yellow and brittle, tremble slightly between her fingertips like bones longing to settle and wade in the light of a perfectly setting sun. But she does not let them crumble. Page by page she reads as if the life in her hands were not her own, feeling haunted by a vague creature of her childhood bedtime. This lacks reason and sensible notions of safety, but she continues to believe. These stories, these novellas of songs and memory, like the garments she sorted through, no longer fit. Yet, she is desperate for that fight.

The slippers lay before her unwilling to be ignored. Tentatively, one foot then the other find their mold in the grooves and depressions. She wiggles her toes and sighs, kicks off the layers of discovery and takes a step. She plans a walk, the distance undefined but it doesn’t matter the length of her travels.

The waiting has been the hardest. The waiting for when she can be rid of them ole slippers and the backpack of books, those tales thought long forgotten.

It is a wonder what can be found in the misplaced.

“What would life be without you? What will life be?”…

I am eager now she thinks I am ready.

Twenty-Two

May 13, 2010

Spots of deep green, dark brown, black met with pops of yellow, orange, and purple color his vision as the bike’s pace increases down the country road. Trees, flowers, the warm black rubber from the bike’s front tire, pointy roofs of the old, small town houses, all of which belong to people whom they know and love, blur together. He knows that if he were to abruptly stop the bike and take a look around, everything would be as they knew it to be. That, he was confident in. He felt her presence behind him as assuredly as he did when facing her on their wedding day.

The tandem bicycle they were riding was a wedding gift, possibly the only practical wedding gift they received. It was sky blue, a color you could get lost in, and the two of them were known around town for their adventurous means of travel.

Delicate rays of sun trickle down from between the leaves overhead. While he is pumping away in the lead, she is coasting in the back seat smiling, the heels of both hands resting on the single handlebar as one hand paints the nails of the other. He vaguely smells the fumes from the polish. It was almost as if she weren’t paying a bit of attention to him or the fact that they were on a bike. However, he knew that when he couldn’t navigate over every rock or dip in the road, that she would look up at him sweetly, but then quickly peak past his shoulder to see what was coming for herself.

He peddles harder, moisture bursting above his eyebrows, so that her hair would blow back from her neck and trail after them like the tail of a comet. Something ever good to wish on.

TWENTY-ONE

April 13, 2010

It was warm for April. 80 degrees, sunny, slight breeze; the perfect type of day. They sat on the roof deck, Manhattan spread out in front of them like cream cheese on the bagels they were eating. Two dark haired women wearing Lucky jeans and brown leather flip flops. They ate matching Everything bagels with tofu cream cheese and drank coffee out of tall mugs sweetened with soy creamer. It was an unusual day for both despite the weather — they should’ve been at their respected jobs, but were not.

The moment was bittersweet for the woman with the shorter and more brownish hair. She was happy to be there with her friend, enjoying such a surprise of a day, but knew that if things had gone according to plan (be it God’s plan, nature’s plan, or just the plan we all make for ourselves), she and her friend would not be sitting on the empty roof deck sipping their drinks and sighing. Her friend, the other woman with the gorgeous draping mane of blackish hair, looked much better today than she had two nights ago. Despite the recent heat wave, her friend had been wrapped fiercely in woven blankets on the couch, curled into a tight ball of pain as it happened. She had had no choice but to accept and let go. Today the long, dark haired woman was still learning to let go, but she was also healing. Passing and healing simultaneously moment to moment, as continuous a cycle as breathing.

“Oh! There’s a ladybug on my chair!”
“Wait, mine too! Actually, there are quite a few.”

There were more than a few. As the women looked, several little orange and black speckled beads appeared. Some crawling from the other side of the wooden chairs, others flying to land on their shirts, bare arms, and hair.

“Aren’t these supposed to mean good luck?” asked the blackish haired one.
“Yes,” the short haired friend responded, smiling. She loved ladybugs and believed in omens.
The ladybugs became an army (who knew something so small could be so aggressive), and the women decided to head back downstairs. They stood up, gently brushed Lady Luck from their shirts and appropriately named jeans, and gathered their dishes. But the ladybugs would not be deterred. They followed the women all the way to the stairwell, like a fate one can’t escape.

The short haired woman noticed one lone ladybug on her friend’s shoulder, perched like an angel whispering into her ear. Rather than brush it away before the two stepped inside, she let it be.

The Beginning (15)

September 16, 2009

“Certainly a cartoon voice has never been as significant to a relationship as it has with you, my dear.”

Theirs was a unique union.

It took years of restrained touch and various shades of black before they even risked holding one another’s hand in the tentative, trembling name of companionship.
The first time she dared grab his hand was in Grand Central. She thought the crowds might cover up her bold actions. As luck would have it, the masses parted at that moment and a spotlight shone down on her boldness, making the sterling silver of her rings twinkle. Her heart leapfrogged from her chest out onto the marble flooring, causing quite a red flush of embarrassment on her face. She left her heart where it was, too afraid to draw attention to the recent actions, hoping the mindless others didn’t slip on the goo. Sigh; her heart was always a messy thing.

But he stopped and ever-so-gently bending down, still holding her hand, he picked the red, beating blob back up. It panted in his palm happily, like a returned lost dog. He slipped her heart into the front pocket of his black trench coat. They continued out of the station, into the bitter cold on the gray end of 42nd Street. They walked west, lights in full glory in the near distance. Her heart warmed him much better than his grandfather’s coat. She never cared if she got it back, and it’s a fine thing too, because after fifteen years of friendship, one should assuredly know the touch of home.

ONE

September 16, 2009

They sat waiting for the bus, not sure when it would come, only knowing that it would.
She was in no rush and leaned back against the bench, though he had a flight to catch and sat forward resting his elbows on his knees. They looked in opposite directions, each taking one side of the road. It was a peculiar place to be, Monday morning just after rush hour somewhere in Jersey, waiting for a bus outside of Ramada Inn. She had an excess of clothing to fit into her overnight bag so she was carrying by hand the overflow of a hoodie and jacket. It was too warm to wear either. Over the weekend True Spring had knocked and entered, leaving them warm in the hungover sun and unclouded sky. The grass gave off of the hue of being emerald green, though there was no reason for it to be so magical. This was not a love story, just a moment. One single moment that he would think nothing of after she left and that she would be left remembering for no reason, almost to the day, a year later.

The two of them, sitting there on a roadside bench. Waiting. Occasionally they managed to stutter out bits of conversation about how much fun they had and how they hope to see each other again soon. It’s always good to see you.

He bounced one leg up and down without impatience. It was just what he did and she knew him well enough to understand that. One hand moved to rest upon his leg. She wanted all motion to stop. But his foot kept beating the pavement and her hand remained where it was on her lap. She had not moved after all.

The bus appeared and a moment later, it was gone.

TWO

September 16, 2009

She didn’t know anyone else at the party, but he left her alone to go talk with his friends anyway. Her, a freshman lamb left in the unguarded woods of college juniors and seniors all dressed up like witches and warlocks and drunk off of unclaimed power, smoking cigarettes he knew she smoked–and therefore, he thought she would be fine. Well, fine enough to leave off alone for a few minutes while he attended to social business. He wasn’t really sure what he was doing, with her or with himself. He wanted a beer, maybe a laugh, to get high and to plain forget. He wanted to forget everything to the point that, when he stumbled upon it again, sober and red-eyed, it would be more than a mere reclamation.

He looked around and saw her, anxious and confused. He left his friends in mid-joke and started following her around the house from a distance. She was ducking in and out doorways, head down most of the time, but eyes always searching. In the living room she found a spot on the couch and watched a magician’s performance that ended in him sniffing quite a long line of coke. She was up and out of the room before the last sniffle and snort. He followed her more closely thinking he should really let her know where he was.

But, not yet. One more moment, give her one more moment to miss him. He wasn’t sure if he was talking about that girl in front of him or not. As if she knew she were being summoned, at that instant the girl turned around and saw him. Was that relief he saw in her eyes? Yes, it quite possibly was. “Come on, let’s go this way,” his head jerking toward the front door. Through the screen one could see Sloppy Jay dressed as the Green Hornet, standing on a parked car and daring the others to test his superpowers.

He reached down for her hand and grabbed it quickly, but he hadn’t even had made it one step. Her hand was gone, slid into her pocket with no apology. It was to be the only moment they ever touched. The only moment that he had no reason to regret, but he did.

THREE

September 16, 2009

The woods behind his father’s farm had been untouched for years, or so she liked to pretend. The original farmhouse from the 1800s still stood, though dilapidated and hovering over the ground like a mere ghost of its former glory. She was assured that these woods were safe. He told her not to worry. She was not so worried about stumbling over a dead root or spying a fox as she was about losing this rising sense of possibility inside her. They trampled along through the dried leaves, hopping over fallen, rotted limbs and averting questionable looking foliage. Their eyes met briefly, but those questions were also stepped over. It was neither warm nor cold for being May. They were not quite in love yet, but close.

There was no path to be followed, nor did their uncertain footsteps create any disturbance in the surroundings. The only record of their presence in those woods that afternoon was the one in her memory. The moment she stood still, the sun hitting her face as it filtered down from the leaves obscuring her view of the clear open sky. She stood there balanced on the hill’s edge, a stick wobbled as she pressed it into the arch of her foot. He was downhill a few yards away from her, just out of reach. She wanted to run.

“Click!”

He brought his hands down from his face, as if he had been holding a camera. He told her what a beautiful photo that would make, her standing there like that. Normally she was the one taking pictures, hoping to capture every moment because the days before he left were passing too quickly. She still wonders what he saw on that day before him that he felt wouldn’t remain. Her roots were as deeply planted at his feet as any tree’s in sight.

FOUR

September 16, 2009

We wave at our shadows. He is just learning about shadows and their capability for making funny shapes. He stands staring at the ground as I stand next to him, my hands dancing wildly for his amusement. Feeling tired and no longer silly, I bend down to his height and we smile at each other without thinking about it. It just happens, like a bunny hops. I stand back up, take his soft hand in mine and continue toward the playground.

All of the worms that had come out to bask in yesterday’s rain are crispy and fascinating underfoot. Each fried one we step over, he bends down and reaches with his free hand to pick it up. It is an unexpectedly hot day. His blond baby hair creates sweaty curls at the back of his neck, forming perfect circles he has yet to learn how to draw.

“No, don’t touch that. That’s dirty. It’s a dead worm.”
“itsa dead worm itsa dead worm”
“That’s right. It’s a dead worm, and we don’t touch those.”

Continuing down the sidewalk, a few feet later we repeat the discovery. He points to the dead worms and I identify them as such. Our progress toward the playground is slow. He has not been corrupted by the sense of ticking time yet, and I plan to keep it that way. We walk hand in hand, seeing our shadows and stopping to wave and smile. Our shadows comply by waving excitedly back, though they are incapable of ever expressing such happiness of their own.

FIVE

September 16, 2009

She heard the rain splatting on the top of the next door apartment’s window air conditioner unit. Out the closed window next to her, the rain only hit the pavement and taunted the windows to open. She sat on one end of the futon trying to breathe through the heat. He sat on the other, facing her. Their knees touched. He felt a wild restraint, perhaps due to the Chinese acrobats on TV.

“It doesn’t matter who I was with, I never stopped loving you.”

The humidity held his words and carried them to her like a bouquet of just-opened-to-hold-the-sunshine, orange-and-yellow-tipped tulips. They sat there in silence, hearing the infinite drops of invisible seconds, the rain ceasing outside as one of them tried to form a sentence. They sat on the worn cushions, exhausted from trying to remain apart, too jaded to inch any closer together for fear of breaking, like they already did once, daring time to move forward and take them with it.

With a sudden leap, she flew into his lap. On screen a wisp thin acrobat in a silvery unitard flipped through the air several times and landed perfectly into the open palms of her partner. Eyes fixed to the TV, the boy and girl remained reunited for an indefinite amount of time, observing how one manages a delicate balance in the hands of the other.