When I think about the day we met our daughter, I can only recall how much my stomach hurt. I had spent a better part of that morning squatting in front of the toilet, legs akimbo, bile dripping from my mouth in threads. The water was too cold to shower in, so I used a whole packet of wet wipes to cleanse myself, and the overwhelming scent of spearmint on my red plastic toothbrush made me hunch over the washbasin three times before I walked out of the bathroom.
Meanwhile, you had already left our home.
You were standing at the corner of the third street waiting for the bus, your stomach calm, and your ankles holding your calves steady. You knew that after six stops, a baby was waiting for you at the end of the bus ride. You were anticipating the cab ride home – awkwardly bundling her into the navy-blue car seat your sister loaned us, arguing with the cab driver about the air conditioning, hunching in the front seat with your slender fingers braided through one another. Meanwhile, I would sit up straight in the backseat, breathing in the scent of the driver’s packed lunch, and I would try to get her to wrap her chubby left hand around my ring finger, the one that is still bare after a decade together.
Mira’s mother is beautiful, spent. Time blurs, and suddenly, we have a baby. You are seemingly in shock, and I am left sitting outside the recovery room gently holding a soft, sleeping infant, a child who carries an inheritance that we did not give her, a combination of genes that will never be fully ours.
We don’t know it yet, but when we get home, we will discover that the universe quietly interceded as we attempted to make sense of something we weren’t sure we needed. We don’t know it yet, but in fifteen years, she will ask us about family heirlooms. You want to give her the keys to a kingdom, a first-edition copy of Jekyll and Hyde, and I want her to have the curves of our nailbeds, the stuffed cat you lost when you were eight. Instead, I will give her the plain silver band you slid over my finger at midnight on our eleventh anniversary. I will frame the faded Polaroid of her mother, grinning, six months pregnant, the carved wooden box with all the notes my mother slipped in my lunchbox at school, the first pair of booties I bought for the boy we buried under the mango tree in our backyard.
Inheritance is sometimes shaped by loss, but a legacy of love is shaped by memory.