– by Kelly A. Dorgan –
I’m holding your drawing. It’s more of a map, really, a magic-marker rendering of your family’s redesign.
Embellished stick figures rise from a leafy-green ground, arranged neatly in a single row. Over each one, you’ve posted crooked signs the color of wet bark. Beneath “dad” is a vaguely humanoid shape with a pumpkin head, tomato torso, and legs like clumps of blue moon wisteria.
Further down the row, three females sprout in surreal shapes and hues. Heads are triangular, a trio of oak arbors with high pitches, as if you already understand the weight women must bear. Our torsos, plump blueberries, teeter atop legs like rhubarb stalks, crimson and rigid.
You hang tilted signs over us too, labeling yourself, “me.” That’s fitting. After all, it is your map of us.
It’s the other signs that snag my eye:
“my rile mom” for your mother.
“fak mom” for me, your dad’s fiancée.
Words swell in my mouth, ripe seeds threatening to split the tight seam sealing my lips.
I realize what sign you meant to tack over my head: Fake mom.
I’m ready to burst, to shower you with protests….
“I’m not trying to replace your mom. Who taught you these words? Who gave you this label for me?”
I swallow my protests. I swallow them hard. Because I know that you must cultivate your redesigned family in your way.
Consumed with your sign for me, I nearly miss the largest one:
“I Love my famley I love my famley sosososo much.”
I look at your map again, a child’s colorful layout of her tangled family, and I begin to see more clearly:
The signs distinguishing us will fade. And this community garden of ours will flourish in our own beautifully hodgepodge way.
About the Author – Kelly A. Dorgan
Kelly A. Dorgan’s nonfiction work has appeared in books like Performing Motherhood, research journals like Women and Health, and online publications like borrowed solace, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, and The Nasiona. A Pushcart Nominee who calls Southern Appalachia home, she’s a writer, researcher, and professor who specializes in the study of illness, gender, and culture.
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