SSC (2012) Adult Onset

SSC (2012) Adult Onset by Ann-marie MacDonald Read Free Book Online

Book: SSC (2012) Adult Onset by Ann-marie MacDonald Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann-marie MacDonald
Tags: General, Canada, Short story collection
first old people she has ever known. And they still don’t think of themselves as “old.”
    She never wanted to be a biological mother. Not only had she zero desire to experience the miracle of childbirth, she figured she’d have a better chance of not screwing up her children if her id couldn’t claim them as flesh and blood. Hil had tried to get pregnant via sperm donated and banked by a friend—they opted not to go anonymous, intending that their child should know as much about its own story aspossible. In the meantime, they registered with adoption agencies—most of the world was closed to them, but there were several Canadian provinces and a few American states where they were welcome. Still, the fact remained that, as a two-mom team, they would be at the bottom of the barrel in the eyes of most birth mothers. So, having set in motion the slow wheels of adoption, Hil diligently tracked her temperature and every time it spiked, Mary Rose accompanied her on the pre-dawn trek to the fertility clinic where, with a devotion befitting a station of the cross, they sat in the silent waiting room with the other grey-faced women over thirty-five who’d come for their intrauterine shot of washed sperm. They were put out of their monthly pee-stick misery when they got the call: a pregnant woman in Oregon had chosen them from a stack of Dear Birth Mother letters.
    Anna worked as a rigger for the Cirque du Soleil and travelled the world. She hailed from West Virginia but had “knocked about some.” They liked her right away. The three of them spent several weeks together before the birth, exploring the northwest coast. All Anna could or would say about Matthew’s father was that he was Russian. Mary Rose had been aquiver with speculation: Was he an acrobat? A lost Romanov? A member of the Russian mafia? But as soon as she saw Matthew, the only thing that mattered was that he was healthy. They were present for his birth. Anna signed the papers. She pressed cabbage leaves to her breasts to staunch the leaking milk. And went away. She never held him.
    They wrote to her, sent her pictures, a plane ticket. Then they lost track of her—that is, she dropped out of sight. They had been warned this was likely. Less than two years later, the sperm bank called: they were going out of business, did Hil and Mary Rose want “the material”? It was the last roll of the dice for a sibling. They got lucky. Hil got pregnant and they got Maggie.
    Their donor, Ian, is that modern invention, “Uncle Dad.” He remembers both kids’ birthdays and drops by at Christmas. Hil wentto school with him. He is a math teacher in Kitchener–Waterloo who plays guitar. It doesn’t get better than that. They had toyed with asking Mary Rose’s brother, but for one thing it would have killed her parents. And she had killed them once already.
    Another reason Mary Rose is uncomfortable with her name is that it isn’t really hers. There was supposed to have been another sister between Maureen and her: a girl, born in Winnipeg. “Other Mary Rose.” Beatific. Blank. She was stillborn and, according to the Catholic Church, her soul went directly from Winnipeg to Limbo—a vast space, itself not unlike a prairie. Mary Rose has always pictured her the size and serenity of a Gerber baby, with closed eyes. Go directly to Limbo, do not pass Go, do not collect the Sacrament of Baptism.
    •
    “You’re young,” the doctor says. “You’ll have another baby.”
    “Maybe even a boy,” she thinks.
Inshallah
.
    When her husband is posted again, they leave the prairie behind, along with the hospital and its smokestack visible for miles. They move east this time, east even of Cape Breton. All the way to Germany.
    And she does have another baby. In the fall. Another girl. They call it Mary Rose—after the first one.
    Nothing is wrong. The baby is fine but Dolly is very tired. They keep her in the hospital on the base. Move her to a quieter floor.
    “Baby

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