Lydia pauses before getting out of the car, her eyes tracing her small home in the harsh afternoon light. The lavender and rosemary and basil bushes are larger than when she last spent time observing them. A headache threatens her temples as she questions yet again what might make this home look right for a family.
Before Lydia can collect herself, her phone breaks the silence, rattling the interior of her purse. The sound tempts the pain in her forehead, but she puts a plastic smile on her lips as she answers. (Her mom says a smile can always be felt, if not heard, through the phone).
“Hey babe, I can’t talk long.”
At the sound of Kara’s voice, the muscles in Lydia’s face relax. The muscles in her shoulders relax. Lydia starts collecting her things from the car, tugging her purse from the passenger seat.
“I just got a notification that my package was delivered to your house,” she hears Kara say, “Do you see it?”
The purse that Lydia has started to lift falls back.
“My package?” Lydia asks, “But you said it was gonna be a few more days before you could—”
“I found the time! Can you tell me if it was delivered though? I just don’t trust—”
Lydia cranes her neck, and seeing a slightly smushed cardboard box, says, “Yes! I mean, I see it, it’s here.”
“Oh, that’s so good, I’m so glad,” Kara says, sounding breathless, “I really have to go now, but I’m happy I could get this to you.”
Seconds later, Kara has been returned to her patients and Lydia is walking up to her porch. Lydia’s mind is trained on Kara’s package, but she makes herself stoop and pull up 15 weeds before succumbing to her goal.
Inside, Lydia dumps her backpack and purse and coat and turns towards the box with full attention. In it she finds a fleece blanket (perfect, periwinkle and yellow-starred, just as pictured) along with a note from her lovely Kara. How lucky she is to have a Kara in her life.
So happy I could make this for you and baby. I know you’ll be the best mother. xoxo Kara.
Lydia’s chest tightens as she holds the paper. “The best mother.” She can no longer help wincing at this obvious compliment, so common and so evil. Fuck that impossibility. She drops the note in her kitchen trash can.
Lydia’s most recent flight home had been scheduled well in advance, but happened to fall just six days after Lydia learned she was pregnant.
In those nights before her plane ride, she had replayed and replayed the reaction her mother would have when hearing the news. Lydia had pictured telling her while sitting on her childhood bed, on a perfect fleece periwinkle and yellow-starred blanket, holding her mother’s hand.
In those first few days, her elation was palpable–a thing that filled every room she entered and person she encountered. By the end of that flight she’d received four stroller recommendations, as well as two Venmos from strangers who wanted to help her buy diapers.
Her brother had picked her up from the airport.
“I think you’ll be really happy with what I’ve done to mom’s house,” he said at some point on the ride home. Lydia shifted in her seat. Her brother had been thinking about ways to tear apart and fix-up their childhood home from the hour Lydia left for school.
“My room? Did you do anything to the yellow room?” Lydia asked.
Of course he had. He reassured her that there were pictures of it saved in a scrapbook, that the room mostly looked the same, that “like…the walls are in the same place.”
Lydia couldn’t look at her brother. Her body stayed crumpled, turned away from him, until they reached the house–until Lydia got inside, set down her things and fell into the couch next to her mother.
Even from the couch, through an open door down the hall, Lydia could see a wall of her childhood bedroom. It was barren, painted an inoffensive renter-friendly gray, and it was angry. The wall, clearly, was angry to have all of the meaning stripped out of it. Lydia wanted to scream at her brother in that moment. But if she started screaming it would never stop. He saw so little value in the most important things, in the memories preserved by those yellow walls, and the once-blue walls down the hall. Nothing could bridge that essential difference between them, she thought.
So instead of screaming, Lydia turned toward her mother. Lydia smoothed and tucked her hair behind her ears. She put her hands behind her back.
“Mom, I am going to have a baby—a baby girl,” Lydia said.
She saw her mom’s face open into the most beautiful smile. That smile was everything that Lydia had pictured, but tears started to flow from Lydia’s eyes because she was not finished.
“Lydia–what!” her mom said, looking frozen in place, “Lyd, I’m so happy, I didn’t think you wanted, or, I didn’t think this would—”
“Mom,” Lydia interrupts, her voice somehow staying calm (nearly monotone), “I am going to have a baby girl, and I really want everything that used to be in my bedroom,” she said.
“Lydia,” her mom paused for a long time, looking frozen again, this time also pained. She looked up at Lydia’s brother. “Lydia, I am so excited for you, I am so happy, but I think we got rid of those things. Hun, but please don’t cry, there is no reason to cry, love, there is no reason.”
“Mom, I need my things, I need the blanket you made me.” Lydia turned to her brother. “I need my things, my books, my daughter needs the books and my bed, she needs it, did you at least save my blanket? I can’t do this without it, I won’t be able to do this,” Lydia said, her voice trailing slowly off as tears overwhelmed her. She could feel herself folding in, and this reaction was somehow unfair, but she wanted no pity. She wanted her anger in this moment.
So she had left.
Kara, who never moved out of her home (who got to keep her and Lydia’s perfect childhood close), picked Lydia up.
When Lydia got on her flight home a week later, the only thing from home she took was a picture of herself and Kara as toddlers playing in Lydia’s yellow nursery. In the picture, Lydia sits on a fleece blanket (periwinkle and yellow-starred).
And now she holds that photo in one hand, Kara’s blanket in the other, as she walks into the nursery. In the photo, a blanket is hung in loose folds over the corner of a brown rocking chair Lydia’s mom used to nurse in. Lydia walks over to an identical rocking chair and hangs Kara’s identical blanket–letting the folds fall loosely over the left corner of the chair.
Now, she lets herself fall into the chair. She pulls out her phone and starts a new message to Kara:
The blanket is perfect, thank you so much.