A Memoir By Annie Marhefka
At the science museum, my daughter falls in love with a moon. In the interactive gallery with the half globes representing planets and moons, she runs her hands over the textures of their foreign surfaces. Mars: “So bumpy,” she says. Europa: “I like this one. It’s good.” And Titan, moon of Saturn: “This one is special to me,” she declares. “This one is mine.” She leans forward and lays her cheek upon its ridges, closes her eyes. She studies its curious roundness with her hands, the way my fingers had traced my belly with her body inside, knowing nothing and everything of its inhabitant. Mine, mine, mine. She watches the model orbs hanging from the ceiling, observes how they appear tethered to their planets, the way her body was once harnessed to mine. The moons orbit their mothers, making dizzying, invisible circles above us. My daughter grabs my hand, squeezes it into the stickiness of her palm, motions for me to raise my arm. I duck down to a squat and lift my arm as she orbits me. Around and around she goes; she tugs, I pull. The tension between a daughter and a mother caught up in intertwined fingertips. Stay. Go. Stay. Go. When she asks where my mother is and I tell her she is dead, she does not ask why. She does not ask if I fled her, or how. She only asks if I miss her. “Always,” I tell her, which is mostly true. Around me she races, and my squatting legs grow tired, the weight of the backpack strapped to my shoulders a gravitational force of its own. It is filled with crayons and spare leggings and wadded up tissues and hand sanitizer: I am weighted down with all the things I have brought to protect her, to feed her, to clothe her. I feel as if I could tumble out of myself, be swallowed up by the museum flooring, be erased by my daughter’s momentum. My hand strains to hold her grip as she spins. Eventually, she will let go. Eventually, she will fly.
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Annie Marhefka is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland whose writing has been published by Lunch Ticket, Pithead Chapel, Reckon Review, Literary Mama, and others, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Annie is the Executive Director at Yellow Arrow Publishing, a Baltimore-based nonprofit supporting and empowering women-identifying writers. She has a degree in creative writing from Washington College. Follow Annie on Instagram @anniemarhefka, Twitter @charmcityannie, and at anniemarhefka.com.