abandonment

Touch, Memory by Shannon Drury

My most powerful childhood memory is very simple, like all the deepest recollections are: as my mother leaned against the sink of our butter-yellow Minneapolis kitchen, I barreled into her and squashed my face her soft belly. I could have been no older than five, for my head reached no higher than the motherly bulge that bumped out below the high waistband of her 1970s-era jeans. I luxuriated in the warmth that lay there as I wrapped my arms tightly around the back of her legs. I felt at home. I was safe. Did she hold me in return? Did she ruffle my hair? Did she have any idea of the comfort I felt in that moment? I tried to tell her about this feeling much later. I was twenty-eight, and I’d just given birth to my first child. Afterwards, I saw that my body was different. I told her that I had the pooch under my belly button that she had, too. I understood now that the soft place I had loved was the place was proof of her motherhood: we were connected by the physical proof that we’d carried children. When I told her this, she squirmed. “I’m fat,” she moaned. “I’m disgusting. You’re making fun of me.” But I remember hugging you there, I said, and how important you felt to me. I remember how soft you were. You felt good. She looked uncomfortable. I knew then that my hair hadn’t been ruffled. She had a different interpretation of the moment we shared; while I remember the safety of a mother’s body, she felt embarrassment and shame, perhaps blaming me for calling attention to what she saw an imperfection. Soon it would not only be her motherly body that was imperfect: mine would be too.

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