“I love you, my sweet banana. That’s what my mother called you when you were a baby.”
I was five months old when my grandmother died. I’ve seen photos, and have been told I look like her. I have no memory of her at all, though.
The one lasting impression she left on me was rather dubious. So the story goes: I was crying while in my high chair when my grandmother balled up my fist, pulled out my thumb, and stuck it in my mouth.
I sucked my thumb until age twenty (yes, 2-0). I only stopped when I got my tongue ring. I traded one oral fixation for another, with rather pleasant results. No one could get me to stop sucking my thumb, ever. Not even high school or college stopped me, though they did severely damper my addiction, relegating it to mostly at night as I drifted to sleep. The echo of my long lived habit manifests in my occasional humming as I lull myself to sleep some nights.
I’m not writing this post as a woe-is-me entry. It’s just… my mother doesn’t talk about her mother much. I know my mother loved her mom. I know it. And I know it was very hard for her when she died. My mother had a five month old, happy with her little girl, and suddenly her own mother, without warning, had a stroke and was gone just a few weeks before Christmas.
Out of the blue today, my mother, who has discovered the wonders of text messaging, sent me that message. She texts me everyday, which is fine; it keeps her from freaking out when I don’t call for long periods of time because I’m busy with work or my kink/social life. But I didn’t know my grandmother called me that. I’m twenty-eight years old and my mother is just now mentioning this.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would’ve been like to have had her in it. I was lucky enough to have had her sister, my Aunties, jump in and take up the responsibilities. My mother would drop me off at Aunties during the day while she worked, and she’d pick my up at night. Aunties, Uncles, and Ella were another family for the two of us.
It wasn’t that my life was without love. Quite the opposite. Having talked to my friends about their childhoods, I feel very lucky for the experience I had growing up: no emotionally or physically abusive parents, a rather amicable custody situation, and, though we were far from rich, we were able to get by without my realizing how on the brink we sometimes stood.
Yet I find myself thinking about this woman, who I never knew, who loved me. I find myself imaging how I would try to tell her about my life now. I find myself postulating how I would be different as a person if she didn’t have that stroke, if she wasn’t taken away from us.
I guess this is the right time for this mental roller coaster ride. She died in December. I know the holidays bring back that memory for my mother each year.
With people around me who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, or already have kids, there is this quiet wanting in the back of my mind for the life I have yet to live. And, tonight, there is the dreaming of what it would have been like to have heard my grandmother’s voice as she smiled at me, held me in her arms, and called me her sweet banana.
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