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Portraits of a Mother I Could Be

I have a bike trailer and the kid, inside the trailer, has one fist inside a stainless steel container filled with organic dried apricots. We are riding along the lakeshore, me in a pair of performance sport sunglasses, the kid wearing a helmoet decorated with cartoon bugs. It is spring. I’m wearing spandex. The kid is pointing at ducks.

There is a large dog, a fireplace, twin girls wrapped in separate swaddles and then placed side by side on the floor on a blanket. NS, in a tiny rocking chair, is wearing only a diaper, and thumbing through a board book we got online. We live in a house in a small town. M is somewhere in the house. I am on the couch, watching the fireplace, watching NS sneak peeks at the girls out of the corner of his eye. Later, he will have a tantrum and fall asleep with one arm stuck out of his crib, but right now we’re all silent, tired, happy. The fireplace crackles.

NS is pointing at my belly, saying, “A baby?” His eyebrows, expressive since birth, shoot up. He is six, and I am 38, and this new sibling is an accident, but my husband and I just got back from a week in Denmark and when my period was late it was a toss-up between menopause and pregnancy so we said “Fuck it,” and now here we are. I buy my maternity clothes new this time around because now I can afford them. M books a doctor’s appointment to talk about getting what everyone calls “the snip.”

The three of us are wandering through the Museum of Witchcraft in Iceland’s western fjords. I have sold a book, and it did well enough that I can quit my day job. Now I write, and write about writing, and talk about writing. We pull NS out of school for weeks at a time to go on adventures, which I write about and talk about; when he’s older, he’ll rebel by refusing to go, but for now, he has questions about how to use the necropants.

We live in a two-bedroom condo, and we’re trying to make it as boho as we can: the balcony is overflowing with potted herbs, and we’ve painted the walls dusky sunset orange. NS has a tidal wave of toys coming out of his room. We’ve installed bookshelves to the ceiling. Every day, I wake up and picture something like the Apple Store crossed with a church, but in the woods, and meditate on that as I drink my afternoon tea. The city roars around us.

There are four lumps on the couch: me, M, NS, and his brother. We are all absorbed in our first family screening of Star Wars. M has made popcorn, and I made the kids pillowcases, which they use during the trash-compactor scene to hide behind. They will spend the next week talking about Like and Leia and Han Solo, and agree that Chewbacca is the best.

We are at the cottage, on the deck, reading. NS has an Archie comic; so does M. I have an old issue of Lucky Peach. We’ve just had a huge meltdown (too much sun, too much sugar, too much beach), and now we’re ignoring each other in silence that starts out stony and then slowly dissolves into something companionable. My dad is inside preparing steaks, while my mom pushes NS’s baby cousin on the swings across the street.

We are celebrating M’s 50th birthday. It’s been a week of celebrations—a movie night, a fancy dinner out, a family hike—and now we’re capping it with a trip to the best ice cream parlour in town. As we get up the counter, NS pulls out his wallet and says, in his deep teenager voice, “I’ve got this.” He started working a few months ago, and he thinks it’s hilarious, being able to say “I’ve got this.” M orders the biggest sundae on the menu, and NS foots the bill. He is seventeen, with eyes like a where the sky meets the lake. He makes so many mistakes, but he also does this.

I am in the audience, holding my phone up like an asshole, watching the screen instead of watching him. He’s up on stage, part of a group of middle-schoolers, chorusing out some random pop song I don’t know. He’s on the edge, tall, gangly, glaring at me, mouthing the words without singing. I delete the video without watching it.

NS is sleeping, one arm flung casually across his stuffed mouse, Monsieur Souris. I pick him up, and he lets out a sigh. I settled him into the crook of my elbow, and even though he’s asleep, he latches on and breastfeeds with gusto. One hand wanders across his crown and dances there for a few minutes. When he’s done, he unlatches and scrunches himself up into a tight stretch before shrugging back down into sleep. I look at him in the pink glow of his rock salt lamp, and I love him.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Kochany
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More about Kaitlyn Kochany

Kaitlyn Kochany is a Toronto-area freelance writer and editor. She had her son, NS, in January 2016, and has been trying to sleep and write since then.

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