Four months after she died, I had a permanent record of her existence etched into the inside of my left forearm.
It seems even more important, now that her brother is here, to have this mark, this evidence of her impact on our lives, present and visible on my body. My middle child, who no one sees, but who can be seen if one knows how to look, if one sees with any bit of curiosity, empathy, insight.
I have also started wearing a necklace, with each of my three children’s names: Anja’s nestled between her older sister’s and her younger brother’s, right where it should be.
To some extent, I wear this necklace as a challenge. ‘Notice, notice, notice,’ it implores. ‘Ask. Ask: who’s Anja? Where is she?’
A student in my class commented in the second week on the ladybug necklace I was wearing, a Mother’s Day gift chosen by E. When this new necklace came in the mail and I fastened the clasp around my neck, I thought, ‘She’ll ask me. She’ll notice and want to know.’
‘And I will tell her,’ I thought. ‘I will tell her about my second daughter.’
Except. Except. She came to my office hour last week and we chatted about the paper she is writing and a little bit about life outside class and I wondered, ‘does she notice? Has she seen it?’ And then she asked me, ‘How many children do you have?’ ‘If you don’t mind me asking,’ she added, after a pause.
I paused, too. Did my fingers go to the necklace? I don’t remember. But I remember my answer.
I said, ‘Two.’
I said, ‘I have two children. My daughter is almost 5 and my son is 5 months.’
There was my opportunity, and I denied it, denied her.
I wonder if she noticed the necklace, after all. I wonder if she is wondering, too.
If I wear the necklace as a challenge, it is a sad challenge, and one, it seems, to which even I, her mother, cannot always rise.