The smell of my hands reminds me of Africa.
Of mangoes mashed, of Mum feeding me, and my brother too, and now, I’m feeding her, and she doesn’t open her mouth when I ask her to.
The sky is pretty, like Mum’s pink silk scarf, the one hanging in her closet, and the windows are dirty, maybe I’ll clean them today. Mum thinks today is Sunday — funny, because yesterday was Sunday too, she thought — “and there’s church and I will need to take my blue purse with my Bible and where are my glasses?”
This is what she would normally say, but suddenly she can’t speak, kind of like me until the age of four because we moved so much, and Dad says I just watched people. Just stood at the fence in Congo and watched our neighbors.
Mum is trying to ask me something, but her mouth won’t work. I busy myself with the spoon and the mashed fruit. I might as well be buying baby food, for the way Mum can’t chew. I don’t have children of my own and this is something Trent wants, and “Maybe one day,” I tell him.
I didn’t use to want children at all, and now I’m bathing Mum, who’s had brain cancer for five years, and I’m changing her and cutting her toenails and my womb is too full of grief and wonder to make room for a baby.
Funny how the two go together, grief and wonder, kind of like when Jesus died and his murderers realized he was God even as the sky tore.
The sky is bleeding red, and in a month it will blaze cerulean with late August heat. The fields of corn and canola misting as combines whirr and the air, thick with the meaty smell of harvest.
And Mum’s still fumbling for words, and when she does talk she has a British accent but now she has nothing and I wish, I wish she knew how much I loved her.
“Bigger,” Mum says finally, and I know she’s trying to say, “I love you bigger.”
“I love you biggest,” I tell her, wiping drool and mango from her chin with a cloth and it’s not supposed to be this way.
I’m helping her stand, now, and she’s light. She hasn’t been this small since Africa, where she knit afghans with local women while Dad taught blind men how to plant and Keith and I played in the mud, him in his cloth diaper and me in my underwear.
I read somewhere that stress can trigger brain tumors. Perhaps Mum’s grew when she found Nanny in the bathtub, dead. Or maybe this tumor is my fault. Maybe it’s from when I got anorexia, Mum holding me at night when she thought I was asleep and her crying. Or maybe it’s from all of those pots and pans flying across the room when she and I would fight. Or maybe it’s from when I left the house at 18 and didn’t look back.
Mum’s diaper is poking out of her stretchy pants, the ones she always wears because they’re easiest to pull up if she’s unconscious, and there’s someone at the door and I’m helping her across the floor towards her blue recliner.
And Mum is asleep in her chair even before I answer the door.
This is an excerpt from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, from Baker Books. You can read chapters 1 and 2 here.
Emily is also giving away a FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Just order here, and then head here to receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir — an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by Emily and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.
ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards a non-profit founded by Emily Wierenga and Joy Forney, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.
Enter Our Giveaway!
We are excited to have one copy of Atlas Girl to give away. For a chance to win, enter below.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Creative Places to Find Prayer Accountability
Do you want to pray more, but are easily distracted? Here are some practical ways to stay focused.
How to Rescue a Day Gone Wrong in Your Marriage
Just because a day doesn't start well, doesn't mean you can't rescue it.
How To Change Your Life in 10 Minutes
Here's how you can change your life with a simple 10 minutes a day.
What Women Are Saying
-- Jenny Schroedel, author of Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith4 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship5 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships2 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith4 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles5 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles5 years ago
Relationships6 months ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture2 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions