Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Pregnancy Carol. Part the Fourth.

The scenes stopped, and all I could see was my own ghost, the ghost of my future, standing beside me. I shook my head. “You’ve just shown me all of the worst parts of being a mother. But so what? So I don’t have a perfect pregnancy or birth. But it can’t - it can't - be as bad as you’ve made it look.”

She shrugged. “Sure, there’s joy. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. But no, I have not shown you all the worst parts. There are moments that top those – moments when your children are very sick or when your teenager tells you she hates you. The thing you have to understand is that the moment your precious pink lines appear on the pregnancy test, you don’t start a life of bliss. You start a life of worry. You will always, always, always worry about your children, until the day you die. You need to know that.”

She faded quickly. My eyes readjusted to the darkness of the bedroom and I could hear Brian breathing softly beside me. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of the quiet. Knowing that a baby’s wail wouldn’t wake us was, I now realized, a luxury we wouldn’t always have. I supposed I’d always thought my babies would sleep through the night like we did.

Abruptly, the ceiling fan above me began to morph. Its five blades lengthened, then shortened, then stretched again into two arms, two legs, and one very familiar-looking head. It was me again.

“Did you forget to mention something?” I asked. She shook her head with a smile and detached herself from the ceiling. “I’m your past self,” she explained brightly. “The second of three ghosts to come!” On the bed next to me, Brian stirred. “Honey, be quiet. You’re talking in your sleep.” He rolled over to face the wall. Above me, my ghost giggled. “Brian is such a pain, huh? You can’t even scratch your ear without waking him up. What a pill.”

“Be quiet!” Brian’s voice was gruff as he pulled the pillow around his ears.

“Shh!” I frowned at her. “If you’re here to show me something, can you take me somewhere else? I want to let him sleep.”

“Sure,” she answered, reaching down to me. “Hold on tight!”

It was strange to reach for my own hand. When her grip tightened, I was pulled from beneath my sheets and the ceiling parted to make way for our flight into the night sky. As we flew, the world brightened and a mask of clouds assembled over an endless, sandy beach. Below us, I saw two figures running along the water’s edge. The wind whipped their hair and clothing and their voices strained to talk over the roar of the waves. I recognized them. They were newlyweds. They were us.

“Remember that trip?” the ghost asked.

“Of course I do.” My voice was tight. “That was our honeymoon, right after the hurricane hit us in Ocracoke. We could barely see with that wind blowing the sand in our faces. That was the best time of my life.”

“That really was blissful, wasn’t it?” She smiled at the sight below us. “You cared about nothing more than soaking up that moment with your new husband. You knew it was only going to last a week.”

“It went by so fast. I can’t believe it’s been almost three years.”

“It does go by so quickly,” she agreed. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of anticipating something so much that you fail to enjoy the moment. But let me show you more.”

The scene below us changed to a campsite. The creek by our tent gurgled softly and the sun gave everything an orange glow. I saw the two of us roasting brats over a fire in the Tennessee mountains, laughing about the day. “I can’t believe we were that close to the trail the whole time!” I was saying. “You dragged us through that brush for an hour!” Brian’s mouth was full and he shook his head, smiling.

Another scene found us on the couch in our tiny apartment. It was late evening, and the light from the parking lot streamed through the blinds and created stripes on the sofa. Brian was lying behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist as the laptop, sitting open in front of us on the coffee table, played the audio recording of our wedding ceremony. I had tears in my eyes. It must have been our first anniversary. I watched from above as the me on the couch turned her head and kissed my husband.

Again, the scene changed and I saw the two of us parked in the church parking lot. We must have been fighting. My eyes were red, my lips pursed tightly, and I was hurriedly applying mascara. I saw Brian reach over and take my hand. “Honey,” he said quietly, “I love you. I'll always love you. Nothing changes that.” My face softened. I twisted my mascara wand back into the tube and I rested my head on his shoulder. “I love you, too,” I whispered. He kissed my hair.

Watching from above, I saw the scene begin to change again. “Wait,” I insisted to the ghost. “I love this memory." I paused. "I wish I could live it over again.”

“But that’s the thing, isn’t it?” asked the ghost. Her face had taken on a bright intensity. “You can’t live it again. You can’t live any of these things over again. All the moments you had with just the two of you, those may very well be gone now.”

Instantly, she was gone. I was back in my bed, lying beside my husband, by whose breathing I could tell was still trying to fall back to sleep. Slowly, I moved my hands to my stomach, resting them against my skin. Maybe, I thought, with a strange twinge of emotion, maybe I am just late for my period. And then I realized – that emotion was hope.

To be continued!

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