I went to a book signing with an author and friend. It was at an awesome independent bookstore in Chicago I love, the Book Cellar. Every time I’m in Lincoln Square, I wish I lived there. I know several of the local business owners from my days running Local First Chicago back when I was pregnant with Constance.
At the bookstore, this little girl came up to me before the event and recommended a book to me. She said it was about her. I asked if it was good. She said yes, so I bought it. The cover sold it as a comedic book about children for parents. Consequently, I’ll never read it or know if the girl’s claim of being its muse was true. I will gift it to a friend blessed with a state of motherhood that better lends itself to humor.
After the event, I realized I was standing by a stack of books watching two girls sharing a big puffy chair. One was pretending to read to the other while loudly making up a story as she went along.
I don’t know long I was hypnotized by their joyful play. I do know that when I was done, I felt ashamed of how much I wish they were mine. A small part of the shame was for spying on the private world of their imagination. The larger part was a feeling that I had betrayed Constance’s memory. I’d dishonored her somehow. I didn’t wish they were my daughters instead of her. Just that I had daughters and they were alive. Still, this parsing seemed like a justification, an excuse to absolve myself. I didn’t want absolution. I wanted punishment. I didn’t know what to do. I ordered a Lyft.