On Beginnings & Endings

A bad beginning makes a bad ending: aphorism
commonly attributed to Euripides, but sounding almost
exactly like any other saying to that effect: Don’t
go into something with your eyes closed
; or
It takes more than good intentions to put an onion in the soup.
Keep the onion there, sure; but think of other ingredients,
meat not necessarily being the only one. I like a clear broth, not
oily with the flecked residues of fat and marrow. Clam broth
quickens the letdown of maternal milk; in gallon doses it can
soften the most reluctant ducts— They learn to relax into the
unfamiliar sensation of a little mouth latched onto the breast,
working frantically to pull at what can feed this ravenous,
yowling hunger. In time, the panic ceases, drowses at intervals.
Ziplocked lips fall open, the head lolls back; sweet breath!
Xenopus frogs’ hind legs once ballooned in labs to monitor the womb’s
vacancy or tenancy. Now, two stripes on a small cotton-backed window
trace the first faint signs of mystery. Did the frogs live or die?
Regardless of them or this meandering meditation, my
parents offered only one response to the news I was pregnant:
Now that you’ve made your bed, you get to lie in it. I didn’t
like the way that sounded then, nor do I now: like a poor
joke, as in Congratulations, think of becoming “with child” as
having won a kind of cruise of a lifetime. It took nearly twenty-
five years before I understood: plots don’t need to go from A-B-C-
D. Time’s a bitch in that there are things that have happened,
but there are places you can trade in some old furniture for new.

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