Innocence

by Gina Gareri-Watkins

 

He knew what he was doing when He gave her to me. 

If not for her smile, my feet would be under the earth instead of on it.

 

Each morning she scales the rails on her crib, swings her slender legs over,

dismounts, and pads across the hall to the edge of my mattress.

 

            “Good morning, Mama!” she chirps. 

            I lay still and take inventory. 

            Stomach nauseous?  Heart racing?  Skin crawling? 

            All three, but her powder scent pulls me to shore. 

 

I take three breaths and dive up.

 

I’m tethered like Gulliver, bound to my bed.

Each morning I search for a reason to break free. 

Without my daughter’s smile I’d never rise.

Or I’d fly off the planet.

 

I wouldn’t mind leaving everyone behind, except for her.

 

She has no idea.  None of them do.

 

My life of late is like earthly, lunar, and solar bodies in misaligned lanes and I’ve grown weary of fighting their pull.  My oldest daughter was five and my youngest daughter was just one when my husband left for the Hill.  Now that he’s back, we’re all a year older but somehow I can no longer get out of bed.

 

I’m facing another move.  Our fourth as a family but my, what?…tenth?…when combined with childhood transfers.  I can’t quite remember.

 

Everything’s hard to remember, lately.

 

Dad laughs when I call to complain.  “You swore you’d never marry a military man because of the moves.”

 

            “Shut up,” I reply. 

            You have no idea. 

            None of you do.

 

I can barely rise.  My sister’s in the midst of an ugly divorce, the neighbor’s baby has just died, and my mother-in-law’s been diagnosed with her fourth (fifth?) round of cancer.  She’s a factory, manufacturing a different model every few years.

 

It’s no wonder I can’t get out of bed.

 

            “Good morning, Mama!” she chirps.

 

Ten years later and I’m again tied to the bed.  I’ve slept through the alarm, the dogs’ whines to be let out, and it’s nearly time for my baby daughter to catch the bus.  I’m facing another move but my, what?…twelfth?…I can’t quite remember.

 

Everything’s hard to remember, lately.

 

Dad doesn’t laugh when I call to complain.  “If I were you, I wouldn’t move.  Your oldest is in college, your youngest is approaching high school, and you’re in graduate school.  Let him stay in New York.”

 

            “Thank you,” I answer.

 

He calls from New York.

 

            “Have you called the painter yet?”

 

This is my litmus test.  If I answer, “No”, I’m irresponsible and uncooperative.  If I answer, “Yes”, I’m the perfect government spouse.

 

            “No,” I answer.

            “You promised,” he reminds me.

            “True,” I concede.

 

I delay because that simple request begins a complicated equation with a calculation stretching to infinity.  I can’t call the painter because I don’t have a color and I don’t have a color because I don’t have the curtains and I don’t have the curtains because I don’t have new furniture and I don’t have new furniture because I didn’t buy carpets and I didn’t buy carpets because I never hired the sander because boxes are on the floors since the girls’ rooms are upended because their things need to be in storage but I haven’t straightened the closets or emptied the basement or cleaned the garage or taken down the Christmas decorations and, frankly, it’s already February.

 

            “Look,” I answer, “my goal each day is to get out of bed and stay alive.”

 

And with that I’ve almost said it, the word and the reason I can’t hire the painter.  It’s as real as if my tongue had tasted, savored, and then rejected it.  The words hang before me, an airborne wave that moves forward and recedes, forward and recedes, each time pulling me closer and closer and closer.

 

            “Good morning, Mama!” she chirps again. 

            I lay still and take inventory. 

            Stomach nauseous?  Heart racing?  Skin crawling? 

            All three, but her powder scent pulls me to shore. 

 

I take three breaths and dive up.

 

I’m tethered like Gulliver, bound to my bed. 

Each morning I search for a reason to break free. 

Without my daughter’s smile I’d never rise. 

Or I’d fly off the planet. 

 

I wouldn’t mind leaving everyone behind, except for her.

 

She has no idea.  None of them do.

~ by mamazoombini on September 15, 2008.

4 Responses to “Innocence”

  1. I had no idea you had to move so much. I thought it was hard to move up the lane, a quarter mile from my childhood home. Keep writing! I am three hours away from my Masters in Education and will never go back to school to complete it, so I really appreciate the hard work you have done to get yours. Your thoughts are compelling. Loved this piece.

  2. “my goal each day is to get out of bed and stay alive.”
    and that, in itself, is enough.
    I love everything about this piece…

  3. Interuptive style gives feeling to the words. Enjoyed it.
    And
    Yes….please do get out of bed.

  4. Very good and very moving –no pun intended. I’ve moved about 17 times in my life, and I ‘ve never been in the military. Neither were my parents. I really enjoyed the style. It’s very unique.

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