Sleep eluded me last night. I tried the left side, the right, a propped up pillow, then I emptied the bladder, yet again, and gave up, turned the light on, finished one book, started another. I took solace in pages and words beneath the dim glow. I thought about tomorrow, now today. The first day of school for a neighborhood swelling with children. A morning ultrasound.
And then it was daybreak before I had even allowed the night in. The crossing guards were back. The yellow buses lined up at the Quaker school. From stairs, to sidewalks, to subways, to elevators, to fluorescent lights and tiled hospital floors. I lay flat against the starchy paper and the technician listed the organs of our little boy. Left kidney. Right kidney. Cerebellum. Diaphragm. Nose. Feet. Fingers. Toes.
Already, it is clear, we have a child who is restless, who will not stay still, who will not show us his face or the chambers of his beating heart. Again. I had to turn. Left side. Right side. Pillows propped further down. Try emptying the bladder. We tried again. The technicians hands, all the while, moved swiftly, until finally she fingered the keyboard with a quick snap and slap. A brief screen capture of the heart before all those listed parts curled up and squirmed and flipped away again.
In my own restlessness last night, I could not have imagined all we saw in black and white film, the complete anatomy of a child not yet born but already hiding playfully. What it did yield, in the lamp light, were memories of a first day of school. A black and white checkered dress, with yellow and red patches, that I had picked to wear to start seventh grade, to start middle school.
I remember pulling it from the closet to show a girl, who I don’t recall being a friend, just a girl who sometimes came to our street to play with her best friend, another girl who I once thought was my best friend but wasn’t anymore. A girl who I choreographed a dance with at a backyard talent show. We shook our shoulders in the basement, where it was cooler that summer. Do you love me? We crossed our hearts, mouthed the words. Do you love me? Now that I can dance.
Then I showed her the dress, my first day of school outfit, painstakingly chosen at Sterns department store. She was a year older than me, had already walked the halls I had not yet stepped foot in, had all the teachers I had not yet met, had seen Dirty Dancing while my parents had emphatically stated I was not allowed.
She laughed as I held it up. A dress? Dresses are for little girls.
I wore it, despite her disapproval. The only seventh grade girl to step on the bus not wearing flare jeans, to walk the halls with a dress you could twirl in. I remember the anticipation of the night before, not knowing what the morning would bring or the complete but fleeting joy I’d only momentarily capture in my new shoes and tights, in my black and white checkered dress with the red and yellow patches. Not knowing it would be the last year I’d wear a little girl’s dress on the first day of school.