A Name

mary and jacob and a beagleAccording to my mother, I was a late talker. Not because I lacked the ability—I could holler “MOM” at an ear splitting volume from the age of sixteen months—but because I had an older brother who handled things for me.

Jacob was a year and a half older than I and seemed to enjoy reading my gestures and translating my needs to adults. He ensured that cartoons were viewed, cereal was served, and that all bubbles were stirred out of any remotely bubbly beverage intended for me. In our one-bedroom apartment in southern New Jersey, we didn’t have many toys. But I had a big brother and Jacob had a baby sister. We were ignorant of all the pressed plastic playthings we didn’t have.

My favorite way to show my affection for Jacob was peeling his eyelids open in the morning so I would never spend a moment of my waking life without him. Or I’d squash his face between my palms so his cheeks squeezed into his eyes in a marshmallowy way that made me laugh. This type of manhandling was not, however, supported by our cat, Anna, an ancient grey-tuxedo colored feline with ideas. Continue reading

The Video

mom-mom-toasts

There is a video.

A video that a distant biological relative who I will never know posted on YouTube. It’s from before my Uncle Mac accidentally shot himself in the head; a time capsule from a moment when my family was a vivid, magnetic thing.

The video is from 1982 or 1983.  Thirty-two minutes into the footage the camera finds my mother’s face.

My mother, with her brown hair feathered around her forehead, beams in an eggplant sweater.  Her bangs fall into her eyes, graze her plump cheeks.  Underneath her purple sweater she is pregnant with me or Rebecca, with one of us, depending on if this is 1982 or 1983.  Maybe no one else in the room knows, maybe that is what her smile is about when the camera lens finds her.

Or maybe she isn’t pregnant at all.  If this is September of 1982—it could be September of 1982—then I am two months old and my mom is not yet pregnant with Rebecca.

I could be reading more into it because I want this thing to be laced with as much meaning as possible, I want to make it a secret message that the universe preserved specifically for me.

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