By Tanya N. Cook
They say that I should be ashamed of you. That I should hide you under clothes, buy creams to ease your grip on me, even go under the laser to erase all evidence of your existence. But I am proud of you.
I may never wear a bikini again, but that has less to do with you than with the little saggy pouch underneath my belly button that you decorate.
Catching a glimpse of my bare stomach I am shocked. Somehow in my mind, it still seems as though it should be flat and smooth as it was before, in my other life. But there you were, no longer wide and red like angry lightening, but narrow, crooked and silvery, a remembrance of what was and what is, like the way a lover's first kiss sears your skin long after his lips have left yours. For a minute I am angry with you. I hold you responsible and almost, almost succumb to the desire to purge you from my body, as if in your absence I could return to girlhood.
I hold my little pouch in my hands and look at you - really look - here you show the too fast expansion of my lower abdomen to accommodate First Daughter; there you mark the growing girth of my waist for larger, Second Daughter. Smiling, I remember my belly, round and full, crossed every which way by you, dark pigment on light. Suddenly, my joke about swallowing a watermelon seed doesn't seem so outrageous. I know I don't truly want to be rid of you. There is no going back and I want your presence to remind me of that.
I find an empty cardboard box and pull out clothes from my closet that I have been saving for five years. Why I am nostalgic about them, I do not know. Into the box, I put that pair of slacks I bought for my first office job and the dress I wore underneath my gown for my college graduation. I slip my hand underneath the waistband of the sweats I'm wearing and rub my palm across you, silently thanking you. Thank you for helping me to let go of who I was and embrace who I've become.
Tanya Cook is a sometimes writer, part-time graduate student, and full time mom. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and two daughters.