1. SORTING IT OUT

I woke one morning feeling lighthearted. I stopped to consider for a moment. Should I raise the window and throw a pillow out? That would be a message to the outside world: “Cushion the shock.” But the screen was in the way, and I had heard the February wind outside all night. I decided against it.

In the bathroom I thought about flushing a washcloth down the toilet. No.

I decided to use some of my energy to rearrange the things in the dresser and on the desk, to sort them into new stacks. My life would be completely different now, and everything must reflect the change.

I slipped past the baby’s room without a glance and came down the steps. “Mother,” I warbled. (My mother was bustling around in the kitchen.) “Mother, could you help me sort some things out?”

Mother stopped moving. Then her tight face broke into a smile. She had misunderstood my question. “Of course,” she exclaimed too jovially. “Here, let me get the calendar.” She took from a nail by the telephone the UNICEF calendar I used for keeping up with appointments and engagements. Mother clutched it and moved with tight, quick steps across the room to the place where I stood. I stared bewildered at what I recognized as my own hand-writing in the small squares of the calendar.

“See,” Mother prompted. “Here’s the day you went to the hospital. This is the day you came home. I got here the next day. David was two weeks old yesterday.”

I took the calendar and sat down on a kitchen chair. Two whole weeks. Gone. Two weeks of my baby’s life, those important early weeks, which I had wanted to unfold as perfectly as possible, and I had missed them, lost in my private ecstasies and terrors. I stared at the calendar as if it might magically give me back those lost days.

“Has Stewart gone to work?” I asked my mother.

“Yes, he had to get ready for that wedding at the church. But he’ll be back for lunch. He’ll be so glad you’re feeling better.”

“And is David all right?”

“He’s just fine,” said Mother, with a spurt of artificial cheeriness that made me cringe.

“I’m sorry,” I almost sobbed. Sorry for deserting my post. Sorry for leaning on you. Sorry for giving you this pleasure.

“Don’t worry now,” said Mother. “See what you can put together.”

I continued to sit with the calendar. I decided to settle for mental sorting, since that was the task that had been thrust upon me. But where should I start? I would have to go further back than the night of David’s birth. I looked at what was written earlier in January. In the square for Thursday, January 14, were the words “Childbirth Class.” That would be a good place to begin.

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