Thursday, February 4, 2010


I am standing in a field crowded with women. There are thousands of us covering what must be twenty or thirty acres. We all stand facing the same direction shoulder to shoulder packed together like sardines. The women wear all sorts of casual clothing. The one to my left is maybe ten years younger than I am and of medium height. She wears a loose yellow cotton shirt with narrow, black horizonal stripes, a black knit sweater, charcoal gray capri pants and black ballet slippers. Her hair is short, brown and layered. She is nervous.

As soon as I realize that all the women here are mothers I hear a voice. It is a male voice and is coming through a loudspeaker, although I cannot see it or him. The voice asks all mothers who have lost a child to form a separate group to the front of this group. A surprisingly large number of women step forward, myself included. We huddle together in this new group, unformed, with nothing approximating the neat lines and rows and precision stance of the previous group. All we want is to rejoin the first group. The wanting is an terrible anguish, a deep physical pain. Several of us are crying.

The voice then announces that if we have other children, we can rejoin the first group. We know the voice is speaking only to us, this second, lost group of mothers. If they have not already been crying, most of the mothers break down in tears of joy as they scurry back to the larger group and shoulder their way into the ranks. There must be about fifty of us left, mothers who have no other children.

If you have a spouse, please rejoin the first group. More than thirty of the women leave. Grateful, glad. If you can physically have more children, rejoin. More leave. If you have a brother, rejoin. Another leaves. there are only a handful of us left. If you have a sister, rejoin. We are down to two. We two are so very frightened and lonely. If you have a niece, rejoin. We stare at each other, terrified. If you have a nephew, rejoin. She looks pityingly at me before she breaks into tears and runs back into the group. I am alone.

I pray for the voice to call out something else. If you are a nice person, rejoin. If you loved your son, rejoin. If you have a cat, rejoin. But the voice is gone. I turn around to stare at the huge mass of women, of mothers, but they too are gone and I am completely and utterly alone.

When I wake up, even though I try, I cannot determine if this was a dream . . . or not.

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