By Annie Louis
One day you will be two and you will begin to pull things harder with your tiny hands and wriggling fingers. One day you will pull the lavender button from the sweater that your godmother knit for you and it will leave an aimless, short thread hanging in its place. The sweater will still smell like you—and mold—many years later, and it will still be missing that button because I never sewed it back on. I didn’t—and don’t—know how to sew. You will forgive me for not fixing your sweater, maybe because you were too young to place blame, or because you loved me enough to let it go.
It’s the 23rd of July; you turn ten today. You asked me for black and golden balloons. Black because it’s your dad’s favorite color—that’s what I told you, anyway. You include the shade in every celebration, big and small, because you want him to be a part of it, even if he never has been. You want the drinks menu to include ginger ale and root beer since the girls back at St. Clare’s sneak it in during their secret slumber parties. I don’t jump when I hear the word “beer” come out of your mouth, like how a mother of a ten year-old-might jump; instead, I just say yes. I also pick up a carton of Coca-Cola and mix the Tang powder in chilled water because I know that you will only like the way ginger ale sounds in your mouth and not how it tastes. A friend that promised me to help with the birthday decoration will back off at the last minute, and I will stand there holding the neck of an inflated balloon because I don’t know how to tie them up after you blow it. I will stand there for a while and watch the balloon fly and fall, over and over again, and stare at the room, devoid of black and golden balloons. You will look at me with wistful eyes, but thank me for the Tang and the cola because ginger ale did not taste like how you imagined it would taste. You will forgive me for the birthday room without the balloons, but you will remember your tenth birthday as the year with no balloons.
You will grow up so quickly, all before I can capture everything. We will have our first fights, I will ground you for three days. We will still watch movies together, laugh at the boys living across the street. You will ask me if I could make you a dress or bake you a pie. I apologize since I don’t know how to do either. You will say we could try, and we will. We’ll try by ruining the silver satin material from Lara’s store, and we’ll burn the plum pie.
You are twenty-two, away from home. One night you will call me and scream into the phone that you are engaged. You will get married in the fall, although I pictured your wedding in spring, many years away. You will ask me about draping a saree, I nod. When YouTube tutorials fail you, a distant aunt living in Sacramento will come down early to help with the saree. I will stand there holding the safety pins that I dug out from the messy drawer we never arranged.
I will walk you down the aisle of a church that we went to for one Christmas. You will cry and hold me with the same grip that pulled out the lavender button from your sweater. You will ask me if this is a mistake, I will tell you that we can always run. We will laugh.
As you get married to a man you barely know, I will think of the button I didn’t sew back on, the balloon packet that was never used, the ruined silk, the burnt pie, and the saree that I didn’t know how to drape. I will add these to the list of what bad mothers do.