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My Mother's Belly
by Jane 

had a map of pale, rutted tendrils, marks of the 60s when she was pregnant all the time. That’s just what you did back then—she said of work, miscarriages, and babies, though the distance now makes those years, she says, seem they happened to somebody else. Let’s say it’s autumn, ‘68. We are 8, 4, and 3. Mom gets back at dawn, after her shift. I watch from the window. Station wagon pulls in. Car door slams. I watch in the kitchen. Side door knob turns. Cool morning air puffs in. No words, but sounds of the morning, stretches and sighs. I wait for her touch. Purse on table. Dad at the sink, rinsing his cereal bowl. Do they kiss? On the lips? The cheek? There must have been words, a sentence or two, how was work, what time home later, kids okay. Dad pats her pregnant belly. Won’t be long now. He has a buzz cut and soft blue eyes shrunken behind thick lenses. Have a good day guys, on his way out. One block walk to the high school to teach classes and plan the afternoon’s practice.


Everything is white, her dress, pantyhose, shoes. She has a new hairdo, a pixie cut with blonde streaks, flattened at the top from the nurse’s cap, which is carried home in her purse. Don’t mess with that, she says when I reach for it. I love the smooth surfaces, the stiff arc of the brim. You’re going to miss it, get going, to my sister pulling on her red sweater and adjusting her pleated skirt like the cap I like to touch, things from the bigger world. She goes out to the corner, where sometimes, when the sun’s out and Mom’s in the mood, we walk along to await the yellow bus, an even larger item of the world, though usually it’s right back to the bedroom, Mom’s thin nightgown, and the laundry basket of toys. She takes her place on the floor, pillow, blanket, her body barricading the door. As she sleeps I enter the dream of that room. Everything high, bed, matching tables, dresser. Squatty phone clicks when you spin the dial and let go. Clock radio with buttons on top and a jar of soft silver gel. Stacks of clothes, folded and ready for the drawers. The slatted, hinged wooden doors of the closet and the dark pod of shoes, studied one by one. I am so deeply inside


that fifty years later I still see it with the same mix of feelings, of wonder, the memory of actual thought—I am alive. I am here. There was nowhere but there where perception flared and grew so acute I could see back, back to where I came from, telescoping through to a time that existed before those scars of my mother and the warmth of her body, the mix of our blood, before even houses were built and rooms arranged, back to when I was a pinpoint of light in the universe of my mother’s belly.

Jane Varley is the author of three books in three different genres: Creative non-fiction [Flood Stage and Rising—U of Nebraska], Poetry [Sketches at the Naesti Bar—Finishing Line], and Memoir [You Must Play to Win!—McDonald & Woodward] with NCAA Hall of Fame fast-pitch coach Donna Newberry. She has a Ph.D. in poetry from the University of North Dakota, and she is a professor of English and head of the Arts & Humanities Division at Muskingum University.

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