I will always carry the unanswerable, existential question of how a mother, brow slick with the sweat of her labor, body marred by giving life, can turn to her wailing infant and say goodbye.
Instead of a maternity ward, my first pictures are in an airport, swaddled in a thick woolen blanket, a foreign passport nestled into its folds. The agency escort is my midwife. Gate D-12 is my birth canal. An excited stranger waits beyond glass double doors in a rickety gray airport chair.
It isn’t until I’m in kindergarten that I realize it’s strange. The other children, like pint-sized caricatures of their parents, ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. My mother’s fair complexion and sun-kissed golden hair are jarring next to my honeyed skin and almond-shaped eyes. But she smells like mother, and feels like mother, and talks like mother. And to me, she looks like mother.
She is the voice cresting above the crowd at T-ball games and my quiet reprieve when I realize that the world I crossed to meet her now seems somehow too large. She is a magician conjuring toys and clothes and band-aids and notebooks. She knows to buy the chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. She knows to never, ever interrupt an episode of Blue’s Clues. She knows.
A bond by blood is instinctive, expected. But my mother is transcendent, welcoming another woman’s mistake and never seeking to erase it.
And though she was not the one who carried me, she has carried me every day since.
Bethany Mangle currently resides in northeast Ohio with her husband. She is a full-time thinker and a part-time writer.