“Mama, it is just your diabetes meds are making you paranoid. Leslie’s good.” I squeezed my mother’s hand. I had to blame everything on the diabetes. This didn’t sound as scary to either of us, and maybe it would make her less willing to try and sneak sweets. Her hand squeezed mine. I put my other hand on top of hers and stroked it lightly. She seemed to relax slightly. I held her hand, and she didn’t pull back. It made sense. We started out with all this body intimacy when I was a baby and then a child. After that there were years when we hardly touched. We would give a hug or a kiss on the cheek but it would be perfunctory. We would already be pulling away as we did it. It was just how adults behave. And now we were hugging, holding hands. I helped her at the doctor, I did her nails for her, I knew all about her body. It made sense–we retreated from the mind. The body remained. We lost the memories, and so the past collapsed and disappeared. We were back to the intimacy of our two bodies. And I realized that the intimacy was never gone, not completely. It hummed just below our surfaces, held down by our array of vanities and privacies. It felt very simple, very comforting, that our bodies get returned to each other in the end. It was almost as if the mind had to disappear to get back to the elemental. To our pure mother-daughter love. It felt better when I thought of it like this, when I felt how good my touch made her feel. How it eased her fears.
Dana Spiotta on mothers and daughters and bodies and minds in Stone Arabia. What a phenomenal book!