how we hang on

Not very long ago, I called my mom to tell her I was coming home for the weekend.

She said, “Now, I have to prepare you. We got new stoneware, and I threw out all the old stuff. You’re not going to cry, are you?”

She said this because I am a nostalgiaholic.

Peel off those sentimental Band-aids real nice and slow. Pull on every little emotional hair. Make it sting.

She said this because I used to cry when we got rid of family cars.
I save ticket stubs and wine corks, sure.  But also my first (and now outdated) A.P. Style Guide because it was my first. And the Mead composition book that has the notes I took in Intro to Statistics during my sophomore year at Northwestern.

Because I took that class with David and it reminds me of when we were 19. Buddies. How he used to call me “Torres,” and how that really annoyed me. (“I’m not on you’re team!”) Staying up late on nights before quizzes. Falling asleep on his dorm room floor as “Eternal Flame,” and “Lady in Red,” looped over and over through his roommate’s computer speakers, a soundtrack for boys who were more sensitive – and nostalgic – than they usually let on.

So, yeah, my mom was teasing me, of course. But I bet I could work up a tear for the old stoneware. (Old, chipped stoneware of my youth. Of my mac-and-cheese and ramen-noodle afternoons…)

I’ve learned to keep it all under reasonable control, though.

Still, the stuff of life matters to me.

I cling.

I am hardwired for baby books.

Thank God, a place to tape the I.D. tag she wore around her ankle for two and half days and a scrap of the receiving blanket in which the nurses swaddled her.

Somewhere to record the names of the songs we sing and our favorite places to take walks.

Alice rolls in a Graco travel system - thanks Blount family!

What we were wearing and what we watched on television.

Turn over enough pages, though, and you get to “First day of kindergarten.”

And even though it’s not written there, you can’t escape that somewhere in the space between “first smile” and “first tooth” will be the heartbreaking “last gummy grin.”

Alice still seems to have most of her newborn reflexes – instinctive responses inherited from long, long ago babies for whom the ability to hang on to one’s mother was survival.

When her body tells her she might be falling, she throws her arms up and clutches at the air with outstretched hands.

When you press a finger into her palm, she wraps her hand around it Palmar grasp reflex.

She is hardwired to cling.

But those reflexes fade. The instincts that compel her to hold tightly to my fingers will be replaced by a will to let go.

But not for a long time, right? Becuase I think I’ll cry.

Into-the-mouth reflex


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