This sepia-toned profile of a young mother with her chubby thirteen-month old just after his bath is one of my favorites. I’m holding my naked little angel up over head which allows the viewer to see our faces, his round cheeks and button nose, a sprig of blonde silken hair, nose to nose with my own angular face sans the passage of time. His dimpled fingers are splayed in a pat-a-cake clap. For me, the photo captures a timeless truth: a sweet boy, his mother’s delight.
I am sometimes I undone by how open and lovely I was then, but a mother’s nucleus is her child. When I look at this photo I feel those little pat-a-cake hands caressing my breasts while he nurses. How he wiggled and kicked and squirmed. How I gathered my little boy up and folded him in, into that space where hearts speak to one another, their beats syncopated; tummy to bare tummy. His fingers tangled in a tress of my hair and yanking before I untwine them. A little bite, or scratch.
Fussing when he was hungry and then just after a few minutes under my blouse, the weight of his body relaxing and growing heavy. Then popping off a nipple with warm milk dribbling down his chin, his velvety head lolled back in the crook of my arm, he’d give me that a drunken look of pure love, “Mm-mama,” he sang. I sniffed his head, wrapped my hand around a plump thigh. I memorized his satisfied hum and laughed at his big boy burps.
There I am at twenty-seven, lovely and unaware, caught in a moment of enchantment. I hear again his belly laughs, and squeals of delight when his sister or daddy walked into the room. This photograph marks a treasured chapter of my life, for many reasons, only one of them being that I felt more beautiful then, than ever before and maybe any time since.