For her, motherhood was spent smacking tags on clothes in the store & plush animals at home, on spinning pennies & Minnie Mouse by the tail, on “crashing the checkers” of Connect Four, only for the tray to be filled up again with what she called gold coins & pepperonis. Though such activities became repetitious, the payoff was in her smile that lit up her face like a gloriole & with the laughter that filled a room with mirth.
She taught her daughter about Dreamland, Tomorrowland, & Never-Never Land that was always, always there. She taught her about the Land of Shuteye Town, of Oz, Narnia, & Wonderland, & the Queendom of 40 Winks. She taught her practical magic & made realism magical, which came from the imaginations of those under the Heaven that was beyond imagination & surpassed all understanding.
There were oohs & aahs over the goos & gahs as the parents & grandparents gathered round in fascination with this new life, bearing pink, plushy presents, while the little child who had preceded this life stood back & watched in the cool shallows, thinking her star had dimmed when it had only matured, not understanding that her co-existing co-creators had wanted this life, in part, because her ever-so-wonderful life had come first.
Christal had grown up as the replacement child, the third of Mr. & Mrs. Lord, for their first had been taken & given back to God. When Christal broke that barrier & turned back time to have a chance to rescue the girl whose death had given her life— she saw her own life floating away before her eyes & drown out of existence. She thought of all the memories that would be wiped out, even her very existence, but in that last second, she knew it was better to save a life by curing a death, even if it meant preventing a birth, & so she pulled the girl whose face she knew as well as her own, but whose face had remained frozen at the age of eight, from the dark waters that now engulfed them both. Flooding in tandem with the memories of living in her dead sister’s shadow, Christal had lived, in another life & dimension, in her living sister’s light, where she was no longer the replacement child, but the surprise one.
The frazzled, second-time mama, whose nerve endings were frayed, grieved for the time she robbed from Penny to spend on Polly, for the times she snapped at Penny because of Polly, & for the times she did not even hear Penny because of Polly, whose color of hangry ranged from tomato red to beet purple. As the principal of Sally Jane Richards’ Homeschool for the Housebound (& wife of the dean) cradled her colicky cuddlebug, her other hand reached out to reassure her doodlebug— this shiny new piece of change who had come into her life without a heads-up & put her into a temporary tailspin— that Book Club & Reading Club, Math with Monopoly Money, A.M. & P.M. Bingo, Wheel of Fortune-inspired Hangman, & Alphabet Soup & Word Salad with Bananagrams, had to wait for the not-so-secret formula to do its disappearing noise magic trick.
She didn’t yet have a name, but she had a job— to someday watch over the sister, whom she would never outpace in age, after their parents had returned to Heaven; to watch over the sister who some saw as a cute little dot on a wide spectrum— this blitheful child who wrote in smileys & spoke in echoes & laughed at movement, not jokes, & whose dreamlike gaze noticed the page numbers but not the words. But as the mother looked at her rapidly expanding belly that contained an entire universe of being, she wondered if this unknown quantity would outpace the one outside her body; for every parent’s worry about their child whose needs were different than most was Who will love them when I am gone?