On my Heart
‘In the fresh forest depths, no sound… I am going Home.’
- Anna Akhmatova, My Heart
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
‘It was wintertime; the air was cold, the wind sharp, but indoors all was snug and well.’
Indoors was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. On the tenth floor, on a March Monday night, on the side overlooking the frozen river and bridge and the real world. A big, wild, scary one sometimes.
The incubators were lined in two neat rows. Monitors blinked overhead. Aside from the numbers they flashed in red and green, there was no other light. In each plastic box, somebody’s little one. Two of those little ones were mine. My chest hurt; too many wires between us. I could not pick them up.
Unnatural, this situation. Cold, like the air in the gap I tried to close with my hand on my heart,
‘but summer was far off; snow remained on the earth, and ice formed on the water in the streams,’
and my heart and I remained standing outside the boxes.
Perhaps if they could hear my voice, we would all feel less alone, even through the clear plastic walls between us and in spite of the cold.
A lullaby my mother used to sing on nights when planes dropped bombs from the sky. Shards of metal exploding like confetti while she rocked me in the shelter. ‘Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world,’ and it is hard to get by, and you are too tiny and frail just now, little ones, for the winter outside.
One of them moved. Ten fingers, a whole hand about the size of my thumb. An IV line and feeding tube as thin as the eyelashes. Silk threads.
I could not sing anymore. A story then… but I could not think of one. Hand on my heart again, my fingers pressing down to keep the winter outside. I thought of the winter, frozen earth under snow not even sunbeams could pierce. Then I thought of what could. Then I looked at my two sleeping ones and told them their first story:
‘The snowdrop burst forth beneath the snow, with a white and green bud on its green stalk, with narrow, thick leaves, curled around it as if for protection.
"You have come a little too early!" said Wind and Weather. "You should have remained indoors, instead of rushing out here to display your finery! It is not the time for that yet!"
It was bitingly cold. It was weather to freeze such a delicate little flower to bits.
"You'll break! Wither, freeze! What did you want out here? Why did you let yourself be enticed? The Sunbeam has hoaxed you! Now make the best of it, you snowdrop, summer fool!"
‘Snowdrop, summer fool.’ A tiny white flower, the first and bravest of them, piercing through the snow, it also no bigger than the length of my thumb.
‘But there was more strength in it than even it realized. That strength was in its happy faith that summer must come. And so with patient hope it stood there in its white dress, in the white snow, bowing its head when the snowflakes fell thick and heavy or while the icy winds swept over it.’
Summer did come at the end of my story. It will again, I told the little ones. And they will come home, I told my heart. I knew because, on my way over, I had seen a snowdrop.