“You are not aborting this baby.” Maomi’s voice came through the receiver with finality.
Olsa had rehearsed this call, but she didn’t have a response for this. This was not the answer she had expected from her mother. This was not the tone.
Her mother believed everyone needed to find their own path through life. She only wore shoes a few days out of the year (to doctor’s appointments), exclusively wore airy dresses, and spent a third of her day on a cushion or a mat. The only thing she liked less than being told what to do was telling others what to do.
If there was one thing worse than that, Olsa had forgotten, it was her mother’s disdain for taking life. Maomi had been vegan for all of Olsa’s life and actually teared up at the sight of fried chicken.
“Mom,” Olsa said after the longest silence she had ever known.
“I’m nineteen. This is my first year at college.”
Olsa knew what words were coming next. Maomi had said them so often that they had grown up inside Olsa as her first mantra. They were so deeply ingrained, that she completed the sentence before even realizing her lips were moving, “We don’t stop it. We don’t get in its way.”
“You seriously want me to drop out of school to have this baby?”
Maomi looked at Olsa from across the coffee table, which was actually an ottoman surrounded by floor cushions. By the time Olsa was old enough to realize this arrangement was unusual, she was too deeply in love with it. She would never feel quite as comfortable on a couch.
“You can’t give your child, your body, or your classes the attention each deserves if you’re trying to dart around campus. And you’re going to eventually reach a point where your body won’t let you.”
“I’ve looked at a calendar, Mom. The due date isn’t until the summer. I can do this.”
“Is there any chance, any chance at all, that after being the pregnant girl in your class all year, and watching all your friends continue to have their separate social life without you, that you will start to resent your child before he or she is even born?”
“Sure, maybe, it’s possible, but that’s not enough reason to drop out of school.”
“I’ve loved you from the moment I found out you were on your way. It’s a good feeling, knowing that.”
It felt good on Olsa’s end, too, though she did not say this then.
“You can go back to school next year. I’ll do everything I can to support you. But you won’t have this experience often. This may be the only time. Please try to cherish it.”
“Did we get the cashew butter?” Nigel asked.
“Not yet,” Olsa told Nigel. She followed behind him with the cart as he continued to read the grocery list to himself, picking up some items on the way.
“Dad?” Olsa asked.
Nigel looked up.
“Why do you continue to help Mom with groceries? I mean, I’m grown now.”
Nigel tucked the paper into a pocket and placed a hand on Olsa’s shoulder. He peered into her eyes, and she could see why Maomi had slept with him. Why she sometimes still did.
“Your mother brought you into this world, and she gave you a home. I could buy her food for the rest of my life and I would only be just starting to pay her back.”
“You would have taken care of me if she didn’t.” This wasn’t a question. Olsa’s parents made sure she knew as a child that even though her parents didn’t live together, they loved each other, and they both loved her.
“It doesn’t matter what I would have done. She did.”
Nigel pulled the list back out and said, “She really goes through this cashew butter. Let’s pick up two.”
On the way out to the car, Olsa brought the conversation back up. “I wish Pine’s father was like you.”
Nigel wasn’t so quick to respond this time, but after they unloaded the groceries into the car, he didn’t close the the rear door or return the cart. Instead, after several moments of scrunching his forehead and pursing his lips, he said, “I’m glad you listened to your mother.”
Olsa opened her mouth to speak, but Nigel continued first, “How are your classes going?”
“Well enough,” Olsa said, though she felt that wasn’t honest enough, so she added, “I mean, hard, really hard. But Mom looks after Pine when I’m in class and when I have a lot of homework, so we’re making it work.”
“Yeah, she has experience with this sort of thing.”
Olsa noticed that, when Nigel closed the door, a tear had slipped from his eye.
“What’s wrong, Dad?”
He swallowed, hard. “I’m glad she didn’t listen to me.”
“About what?” Then it hit her. “You didn’t want me?”
“I didn’t know you yet, Olsa. I felt like you did last year. We were in college and couldn’t possibly take this on, but you know what your mom always says.”
“She believed that as much then as she does now.”
I didn’t know these stories yet.
I didn’t know what to expect when I pulled the stick up from between my legs and saw the double lines. When I floated through my classes without hearing a word. When I rode the bus home and thought about telling my mom, but didn’t, and did the same thing again the next day, and the next, and the next.
When, finally, I was shaking so hard at the coffee table, which was actually an ottoman in a sea of cushions, like at Grandma’s house, that Mom asked me directly, and I told her.
And she told me to have this baby.
Except she said it in only two words.