What do you need, baby? I asked her, running my hand over her clammy forehead and off into her blonde, fine hair. in daylight hours, she would protest my calling her “baby” with an “I’m no baby, I’m a big girl, mommy”. But she was too tired and too sick to mind. 
I need you. eyes still closed, head turned to the side. she looks small, curled in her twin-sized bed, a nest of stuffed animals and pillows crowded around her. 
A few hours earlier, she had told me her tummy hurt and threw up in the hallway, on the way to the potty. I scooped up her newly-toddling baby sister and plopped her in her crib. June howled angrily, unfairly forbidden from the fun of sinking her hands into the Vomit–Clean-Up.  zu cried as I wiped her down with a washcloth, rinsed the chunks from her hair, vacuumed and scrubbed the carpet.
It was one of those evenings that makes me miss Tennessee. Where is my mom, my mother in law? I could’ve used a grandma about then, with my husband working nights and all my nearby friends with toddlers of their own (and newborns too, now).  
Sometimes it feels lonely to live in a town you didn’t grow up in. rootless. 
I’ve found myself talking lately about going home. What it would take to get us there, what it would cost. Not that I don’t love so much of what there is here—this town where my second daughter was born, with its double-tongued rivers and commonplace mountains. 
I don’t know if we’ll ever leave or if that is really what I would want. But I don’t have what my husband has—that rock-steady, solid, dependable heart. On good days I call what I have a sense of adventure; on bad, a born and bred discontentment. I’ve never felt like there was anything so good in one place to live that I couldn’t cultivate in another. 
besides family, I tell bryan. But he points to our babies and mouths family, right there, family
I need you. not her grandmothers, as much as she loves them. Not a new state, a new city, the woods I wandered in when I was younger. Just me. How terrifying.
Nearly everyday, I pray that God will make me a good mother. I don’t want to take her entire childhood to get it right—for her to be grown before I know how to do this. The daily reminders of my insufficiency. Like when I lose my temper from the something-th poo-poo accident she’d had that day. when I don’t feel like playing hello-kitty dolls with her. When I’d rather eat the last strawberries myself, so juicy and red and sweet. 
The lie I want to believe is that the Other Moms have it figured out in a way that I never will. That if I could only live near family or work less or do more pinterest crafts with the kids gathered around me into a photographic moment, I could really do this. I could be a really good mom. 
Zu is sleeping deeply now, too heavily to notice when I stand up. across the room, june lays on her back in her crib, arms spread above her like she fought sleep on the very edge of dreamland. The meaning of her full name: young and vibrant warrior woman. 
I’ll go to sleep too, in the half-empty bed, perpetually unmade, knowing he’ll be home soon. Because the day starts early, and I start it with two little girls who want their first touch of  every morning to be a hug from their mother, half-awake, wild-haired, rumpled and perpetually unmade. 


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