I wear my mother’s anger like a winter coat. She bundled me in it, somehow, when I was rather young. I like to think that it grew too heavy for her to carry on her shoulders alone, so she simply had to cut a piece off and sew it onto me. I’m thankful, I guess. If she hadn’t shed at least a little, she might have crippled under the weight of it.
But now, here it is. Inherited fury. Borrowed rage. A woolen, stinking thing, fuzzing up my vision during the sleepless, tear-stained nights spent tending to the screams of my newborn babe. I love my daughter dearly, as my mother loved me, but at two and three and four in the morning, when all the world is dark save for my little bedroom light cutting a yellow square into the inky street, I allow my mother’s anger to make me itch, and sweat, and shake.
I want to rock Aspen’s bassinet over and over and over again until she stops crying. I want to give her wailing body to someone, anyone, for just a minute so that I can have a solid inhale and exhale without the sound of screams pooling in my skull. I hold her in my heavy arms and cry, and feel embarrassed that she’s watching my cry, and accuse her of a million impossible things. My husband wakes to me asking the baby why she hates me, why she wants me to die, why she won’t let me sleep.
Anger is, by far, the ugliest of emotions. It turns the mind black, the stomach sour, the heart cold. There is never a time when it’s needed. Not ever, not once. It never helps. Anger is only kindled, never relieved. Only passed on, like draping the winter coat around another’s shoulders, causing them to itch, and sweat, and shake, too.
I don’t want Aspen to inherit my anger. I don’t want to unknowingly sew some of it to her, especially to this silky soft baby skin before me. And so, I’ve learned quickly to pause. To remember, and say aloud: What does my daughter need, right now?
Maybe a diaper change. Or to be held. Or to be left alone. Or to be close to my breast. Maybe nothing at all. Sometimes, I don’t know what she needs, and I’ll never know. But I can be sure that the one thing she absolutely doesn’t need is anger. Not now, not ever.
Knowing that, I calm. I can pick away at the fibers of my mother’s anger. I can slowly, surely, happily remove the weight of this winter coat without ever having to loan some of it to Aspen.