When you lose your mother, you lose the hands that hold you, the eyes that watch you, the voice that gave you your name. You are surrounded by strangers, by people who don’t know about that time you stuffed blue play dough up both nostrils and then freaked out because you could only breathe through your mouth. Even your father is clueless about what to put in your school lunch or who the mean girls are. There will be a hole at the center of every birthday, holiday, graduation.
Later, you find her college scrapbook. No one gives it to you. You find it by chance, in the back of a closet. There is much information here: She was a cheerleader. She was in a sorority. She liked to dance. The pages of the scrapbook are loose, tied together with a shoelace. There are three pages of photographs of her boyfriends; your father is not among them.
No one can tell you why she married your father, why she was so distant with her own parents, what you were like as a baby. These questions will remain mysteries. If she were alive, she would understand and misunderstand you in the same proportion she once did; she would have dreams and disappointments that don't include you.
After her death, your tennis teacher gives you a tennis racket strung with rainbow strings. Your piano teacher writes a song about your dog. Someone at school has started a rumor that your house is haunted.
Finally, your father arrives, smelling of leather and spent cologne. You have phoned him, told him to come home. Something doesn’t feel right at the bedroom end of the house. You went back there to put your backpack away, but the door to your parent’s bedroom was closed. You opened it and you could feel something then: a push, a punch to your gut, a warning. You phoned your father and you waited in the kitchen for him, listening for the sound of his diesel engine grinding up the driveway.
Later, your father tells you of their last conversation. She says to him, "I'm not getting any better, am I?"
In college, a fair takes over the commons for a day. The fair is to raise awareness for women who hurt themselves. You wander around the booths and soon you are overtaken by the heavy feeling. You take off on your bike and find a field—stiff grass, early spring—and lay down. You don’t know how to be near people with this feeling. You always cry alone.
You end up writing about what was lost. This is how you will tell the others. At first, you love what you write. Then, later, you hate what you have written. Why is one day's achievement the next day's embarrassment? Another mystery.
You have a child. You are a mother now. Nothing has ever been as big as the old loss until you hold your baby. This baby is more than anything that came before. You give the baby a name and several nicknames. You take five thousand pictures of the baby sleeping. Life is an orchard with many fruits, and you will hate yourself tomorrow for saying so.