The other morning after I put on my dress, I was trying to decide which sweater to put on with it, and I thought, "Well, I've got that nice pink cardigan that should fit me now." And then I realized it was Henrietta's sweater that I was thinking of. I had just pulled it out of her "too big" box that morning.
Things like this happen a lot, for me, that I mix up our clothes. I'm as excited--okay, much more excited--by her wardrobe as my own, and when she has something new, I tend to think I have something new.
Is this just more than strange?
This also happens sometimes with our bodies, that I mix them up. When she's congested, I'll forget for a moment and think it's me that's congested. When I stretch my arms above my head or when I curl up in bed, I'll feel for a second that I look like her, that I am as small and safe and cozy as she is. Does this even make sense, what I'm saying? That I'm so close to her physically, that sometimes we seem to overlap.
Being a mother means having two bodies to be responsible for. It was one thing when the baby was inside of me, and the responsibility was taxing but automatic, but now it's really something I have to work at. I bathe two bodies. I cut the fingernails for two bodies (I hate cutting baby fingernails. Hate. It.). I feed two bodies. When I go to the grocery store, I bring two bodies in: one I walk, one I carry in a car seat.
This was never more clear than one day when I was in the city for something, and I stopped for lunch before I ran to the next errand. I was very hungry, and Henrietta was also very hungry, so I ordered quickly from the menu, and propped her up on the table to eat beneath a nursing cover while I waited for my meal. When they brought it out, I tucked a napkin into the top of the cover and let it drape down to the table, and then I held her to me with one hand and brought food to my mouth with the other, spilling it down the napkin. It was the most inelegant meal I'd ever eaten, but it got the job done. There was one other pair of people in the restaurant, and as they left they gave me some weird looks, but I didn't care. I had two bodies to feed. And when you have two hungry bodies, you're sometimes inelegant.