• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 07
Image by

Mother and Child

Vulnerable swell of belly, hidden hollow of the exposed arch, the unsettling tenderness of a fingernail’s width of exposed scalp. Who can see a child? A woman who will never have one. This is not a sad statement. This is a true statement. They are wrong, those who say: all those sketches, all those paintings, of women and children – a replacement for what she herself would never know, sentimental odes to motherhood. This misses the complexity of the gaze and all it reveals, the hard lines, the shout of the patterns, the child’s arm braced at a hard angle, doing as much to hold herself up as to be held. Books and letters tell me that long before she took up painting, she had already learned what it was to daughter a mother. The weight of a small foot in an adult’s palm. Within months of each other, my sister calls, my brother calls. We are pregnant, they both say. And my heart leaps. But once we hang up, I cry. Not because I feel diminished by their news. But because, at 44, without a child of my own, I think of all I cannot help but see every time I am in the presence of someone else’s becoming, how holding so little can hold me.