Two Doves in the Pepper Tree

“Look, a dove” I say to Jack, holding him in my arms, turning to watch as the dove flies into the pepper tree. I notice a second dove already in the pepper tree. “Doves stay with one partner; it looks like the other dove is making a nest, collecting sticks, leaves and other things. They are going to have baby birds. First they will lay eggs and sit on them until the little baby bird pecks at the egg and it cracks open. Then the mommy bird will go get a worm and feed the baby bird.” I show the sign for bird, I have one beak going inside another beak. Jack wants to hear the story again. He asks me several times during the day and last night at bedtime. Fiona was already in the car so she didn’t hear the first version of my story. I still feel bad about that right now as I sit here and type this. I don’t feel like Fiona and I share as many moments in story. We share many moments where she wants to just be held and cuddle, which I don’t get with Jack, he always has to be moving. It could be a personality thing, but I always wonder if it has to do with her hearing loss. I wonder about the connection between language and imagination. I wonder should I be doing more alone time with Fiona. I find myself directing questions and statements to Jack. “Look Jack, there’s a dump truck” as we drive. Fiona doesn’t usually have her hearing aids on in the car, I know she can’t understand me, but Jack can. Mmmmmm. These are things I think about.

I am distracted now by the sky this morning, it’s fire red over the horizon line, the valley dark, with silhouettes of still bare trees. But if I was up close I may see a few tiny green leaves or flower buds on the California Red Bud. Spring is upon us. Last night, I made it out the door, out of my studio, just in time to take Billy for a hike up the trail before dark. The light on the trail was muted, but I could still see the blue bottles, Blue Bells, and Beardtongues. I had a strange day in the studio. It’s been strange for weeks now. I have the figure curse upon me. I am obsessed, but my ideas are murky. It looks like this happens to me every year around this time. Is it the transition from winter to spring? Is it about birth? Death? They say your body never forgets traumatic events. Christopher was born in February. This time, 1987, I was almost sixteen years old, nine months pregnant and no one knew but me. My stomach hard and big, I would walk my dog Rutger for hours, down a trail at the bottom of a hill, along pepper trees, crying. When my mom got home from work, Danny and I would make spaghetti, I remember that plate piled high, I couldn’t believe how much I ate. But my legs were still skinny, everything was still skinny but my stomach and I figured out how to hide it well with big baggy t-shirts and sweaters, and tying sweatshirts around my waist. Habits  dressing I carried with me for most of my life. It transitioned into hiding my boobs because they were big and I hated the way guys were always staring at them. Jack and Fiona were both born in February. I thought they were going to die; I was so scared. Even after they were delivered I couldn’t believe they were going to survive. How? I wondered. They were so small. And I only had experience of dead babies, not ones that survive, that live and thrive. In two weeks Jack and Fiona will be two years old. They are such good babies. I could never have imagined this happening to me.

Next month, in March I was born Forty-Five years ago. My birth was traumatic, I almost died. I was very sick my mom told me. I was born with a kidney infection, I had to have an operation and was in the hospital for a while. She didn’t tell me this for most of my life, then one day it came up. What she did tell me was I was born with a third kidney. It doesn’t work, it’s not fully formed. But it’s in there. When I had my appendectomy I told the surgeon just before I went under, I was afraid they would open me up and my insides would look odd, I was afraid they might take out the wrong organ. February, scattered with hot days, birds and blossoms. Memories of loss and trauma mix with memories of birth and life, new beginnings. The smell of the wet ground and fermentation, slimy mushrooms popping up. Spring.

Now the sky is slate grey. It’s 7:19 AM, babies still quiet. I’m on my second cup of coffee, this morning it’s just as good as my first cup. It’s time to start getting ready for the day, making breakfast for the babies, making lunches. As I looked at the date, 2/11/16, I was just reminded of Valentine’s Day, another February, sometimes traumatic, event. But I’ve decided that from now on holidays are going to be just for fun, I’m not going to get all deep about how Valentines days puts too much pressure on couples. How it alienates people, or makes people feel sad. Or how it’s another commercialized holiday just to get people to buy stuff. No, I’m going to have fun on valentine’s day, maybe I’ll make valentine’s day cookies for the babies and my husband. Maybe me and the babies will make Valentine day cards. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my forty fourth year of life, it’s that life’s way too short to think too deeply and too politically about every single holiday. I’ve decided from now on holidays are holidays, nothing more.  

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About Jenny Hynes

I am a painter, housewife, and mother of twins