Waiting to be Brought to Life

September 6, 2013 by Donald E  
Published in Motherhood

Its baby-roundness, somehow held the long, elegant face she’d carry
through the world. I felt as though there were recognitions in me that
I’d never known of, waiting to be brought to life, that I’d always
known how these faces looked years before I had been born, and I was
even a bit embarrassed that I needed to be reminded. The other
pictures around that one opened up to me: my mother, at six or seven,
in a pair of underpants standing under a sprinkler and laughing.

its baby-roundness, somehow held the long, elegant face she’d carry
through the world. I felt as though there were recognitions in me that
I’d never known of, waiting to be brought to life, that I’d always
known how these faces looked years before I had been born, and I was
even a bit embarrassed that I needed to be reminded. The other
pictures around that one opened up to me: my mother, at six or seven,
in a pair of underpants standing under a sprinkler and laughing.
Where was that part of her now, where had it gone? Augusta in a
stroller – a clumsy thing, built as if babies weighed fifty pounds –
looking to me like her present self trapped in the body of a toddler,
thinking What the hell am I doing in this contraption; that made me
smile. “Look at you,” I said.
“I’m not exactly the Gerber baby, am I?”
I turned a couple of pages backwards; there was a young
woman with her hair piled on the top of her head in complicated
braids, wearing a high-necked white blouse with the tiniest buttons
down its front, her hands clasped in front of her formally, a tentative,
asked-for smile on her face – was this a graduation picture? Surely she
was on the verge of something. I knew that look, I had been in her
place, but I didn’t know her; she was too far back. “Who is that?”
“My mom.”
That made another jump inside me, a different one because
even knowing who she was I couldn’t make the connection; there was
no bridge in me between this girl and my grandmother, who had been
born old as far as I was concerned. Or never born at all; simply arrived
from the country where grandmothers and grandfathers came from,
into my child life, to be old and know everything and get older and
die. How old was this hesitatingly beautiful girl, not even a woman
yet, who could not imaginably become my grandmother? Eighteen at
the most? I could see in her eyes – not a thought, just knowledge – that
she would never age, that she would stay in the country of the young
forever, and knowing the end of the story was cruel, as if my looking at
her from after her death sent her a premonition no one would want –
cruelest because I was she, because by looking I had to bear that lesson
myself.
“Really something, isn’t it?” Augusta said, and I nodded. “I
think that was even before she got married.”
“I should hope so, she looks about seventeen.”
“She married young,” said Augusta, in a tone which seemed to
mean, It can be done. “Could be she gave Dad this picture when they
were courting, I don’t know. Maybe he had it taken. I doubt her family

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