My mother could barely contain her excitement as I gingerly tore the paper off a pair of crocheted baby booties. I smiled as convincingly as I could manage.
“I made them yellow, so they work for a boy or a girl!” she gushed, already shoving the next gift into my lap, this one adorned with cartwheeling Santa Clauses. I placed the booties beside me, on top of the growing pile of baby dross. So far none of the gifts addressed to me had actually been for me, which only tightened the screws on my anxiety. I didn’t know how to tell them about the bathtub, the slow fireworks blooming between my thighs until the lukewarm water was thick with them. Of the silence within me ever since.
“Thanks, Mom. You really…that was really thoughtful of you.”
“The next one’s from your brother. He wanted to be here today, but you know…Delta” Dad said, tipping his glass of scotch at such an extreme angle the ice cubes slid into his nose. “He’ll be here New Year’s, if American Airlines is any more competent than those chucklefucks – “
“Harold!” Mom cut his sentence off at the quick. “Sorry, Margie. Just you know how I feel ’bout family being together for the holidays. ‘Specially considering.” Dad gestured vaguely in my direction, the half-melted ice in his glass clinking against the side. Mom was already on her feet to retrieve it for his refill. She chucked him lightly on the shoulder as she passed. “Behave.”
“Well you best go on and open it, kiddo. Brandon’ll want to know what you think of it on the Skype call later.” Not really much choice but to oblige them. My fingers worked the tape on the edges of the package before abandoning delicacy and tearing the paper away.
“What is it, Mom?”
“It’s a breast milk warmer, honey. Microwaving destroys the nutrients. Better for the little one.”
Again I saw the soundless fireworks, the red ring around the tub after I pulled the stopper. Since that rush of blood shortly after my eleventh birthday there have been no more. Now that I am thirteen it appears my family has decided it is time for me sprout another bud on the family tree, and I don’t know what they’ll do to me when they find out I can’t.