By Kelly Dalke
I suppose the beginning of the story could be when baby girl fell off that rocky cliff in Maine. It could be when she decided to skip work on that balmy day in early winter and go to the coast. She had just enough money left in her account to fill the gas tank of her rusted green Subaru, and it would be just enough to keep her running until payday. She called in, said she was sick, didn’t shower, and left her apartment that morning with a coffee and an almost ripe banana. The reports and articles said she slipped on the gravel. Got too close to the edge. That she liked to go out and chase the end of a storm to watch the swells rise to profound heights. They said she was quiet, and that she never went to the office Christmas party, but still, was always on time. They said she used to date around, but never long term. I’ve read about people like that. The kinds who are afraid of the emotional attachment of a long relationship, but yet, at the same time are addicted to the fantastic feeling of a beginning.
Or the story could start here: When baby girl’s dad kicked her out for getting pregnant. He said she was a waste of the money he spent on Catholic school. He had never hit her with his hands, only with a brown leather belt that hung by the door to the garage. He called her names like whore, and said she and the baby were going to hell. He said that she was just like her mother, a woman she had never met.
Or here: The day I found out that the woman those men called baby girl was my mother. That she had me at the tender age of sixteen and had given me up. I heard she worked as a maid as the local Inn. The owner, a French woman, gave her room and board and some meals instead of paying her an hourly rate. Baby girl got to keep the tips that were rarely left on the dressers in the rooms she cleaned with her full-bellied body heaving bed linens and scrubbing bathtubs. She made friends with the man who ran the kitchen of the restaurant next door. He gave her leftovers at the end of the night, and she ate, making sure to take care of the tiny life she was growing. Baby girl did this all the way until I was born. Then she gave me up, and moved north to Maine. She moved far enough away to make sure she’d never see anyone she knew, any of the men she’d let touch her, and anyone that knew her as baby girl.
But, I think the beginning should be here, with me holding a baby girl of my own, a small, hearty six and a half pounds of flesh and flowing blood. She has lungs that work, eyes that are beginning to see beyond the inches between her face and mine. She has two hundred and six bones that are all intact, and in the right places. I had no idea I was capable of such beautiful carpentry. This baby, this baby that I took such care to make, this baby whose eyes are connecting with mine, and they are saying, “Let’s start it here.”