The story goes that my sister used to cry on the way home from school because all her friends had a brother or sister except for her. She complained that all she had was Risas, the dog. My father named him that because he wore a perpetual smile as a result of an injury to his mouth.
Rosa had to wait nine long years before she had a living sibling. For during that interval, the tale goes, there was one other child, stillborn, miscarried or died young, I don’t know. But I know there was one. My mother told me.
What she didn’t say was whether it was a boy or a girl. Instinct tells me it must have been a boy. Or, at least, that my mother believed it was a boy. Thus when I appeared healthy and hearty, it must have been salt in the wound.
That is the only explanation I can come up with as to why growing up, I never knew a mother’s hug.
Logic tells me that she did indeed hold me. For one thing, she had to hold me to feed me. They were not in any position to hire someone to do that job. And that does offer me a sort of comfort. But, as I don’t remember being weaned, I don’t remember being held.
Reading others’ words describing the feel of a mother’s loving arms when they were children fascinates me. I try to imagine and put myself in their place. To feel that warmth. To inhale her smell of fresh-baked bread. To feel the silk that is her hair as she leans her head against theirs. To know that the world can’t harm you while you are safe in her arms. And though I try, I can’t relate.
We were poor, but hugs were free. Yet, I grew up without that essential basic need. That nurturing sensory input. It’s been a hole in my life that I dared not confront. Best not to look back. But now I realize, I’ve been searching for that safety zone all my life.
***Risas means “laughs” in Spanish.