Mama, can you iron this?
I'm busy right now but she lives in this moment. Only this one. And she wants to hold it in her hands. That's something I can understand.
I turn on the iron and wait for it to warm. Too much heat and I'll ruin what she made. Not enough and the pieces will separate. The ready light turns green. I slide the iron across the beads. They melt just enough.
It turns out.
I press my cheek against the top of her head. She warms my skin. She doesn't know it yet, but a fire burns within her.
I only have to angle my neck slightly to tuck her entire skull under my chin. Her bones are solid, shielding from the world the map to who she'll become. But they're also so fragile: still soft, still separated. For now, she is incomplete without me.
I cup my hands around her flame, wings against the world.
She was the littlest. I carried her a lot. She sat on my lap. I stroked the soft skin on the backs of her hands. I breathed deeply into her hair.
Overnight everything changed.
Now she holds my hand. Sits next to me. Close but separate.
She smiles a lot but she also pushes hard. She's looking for her place. And there's something within me that pushes back. I feel singed and raw. She is fire when I'm craving snow.
But tomorrow it's supposed to rain.
I'm so mad at you. I'm never talking to you again for the rest of my life. Her tone is serious. Cutting.
I raise my eyebrows and pause to swallow. Once. Twice. Both sad and snarky boil in the back of my throat and it takes me a second to separate logic from emotion. I have to pry it loose, strand by strand.
I'm sorry to hear that. I have to say something or she tells me you don't even care. I'm feeling my way through the dark.
By the time she's a teenager, maybe I'll be able to see shadows -- the outlines of shapes, of roots exposed -- before I catch my toe on a corner and fall flat on my face.
Are those your regular jeans?
Wow. You look great! You're lucky.
Lucky or not, this is just how it is for me. My pregnant form fades easily. My body is elastic.
Except it's not.
I'm in the dark, in bed, lying on my back. I press my fingers into my abdomen and feel how the muscles are separate, a valley that starts and my navel and runs up to my diaphragm. I know I've come undone in ways that cannot be stitched up.
But there's something behind my naval, too. A fire deep inside my belly. It might be flickering right now but it hasn't gone out. And it can be stoked. It can always be stoked.
I know how.