Literary Log

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13 OCTOBER 2020

A Story for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Donate to the American Cancer Society, if you can!

Here’s a (true) little story of mine, published here exclusively for your reading pleasure. Bad puns intended. Comic relief intended. Yes, I know we’re in the midst of a national health crisis and a very fraught presidential election. But–the tatas still matter! They matter every month, not just October.

A Tale of (Two Kinds) of Titties

My children reinvented my body, and all its languages. They called my milking breasts “nursings” or “neenos,” and shouted, “Let’s do some neenos!” when wanting to nurse, particularly in public. It was a time when breastfeeding in public was problematic (kind of like now), and breastfeeding a talking, walking toddler in public was even more problematic (still now). Yes, I nursed them in terms of years, not months: I nursed them even when they got their first sharp teeth, even when they got their first sharp words.

The neenos, calm with motherly hormones, softened and muted the tantrums of the terrible twos, though subsequent years, the horrid threes and fours, grew steadily more complicated. Both were overly articulate (must’ve been the “extra” neenos), and new uses of language became our daily domestic battleground: diatribes against afternoon naps, recitations of unfair restrictions on sugary foods, tearful tirades regarding cartoon characters.

Until the age of five, my oldest child lisped. Kitties became titties; snakes became nakes. Spoons became poons; spiders became piders. The last and final child, the miracle after the one we lost in the middle, was always irrationally scared of piders. (Why, we still do not know, these fifteen years later.) The first child, however, was afraid of crocodiles, who apparently crawled onto the bed to inspire the weekly night terrors. “Mama” they all called me, even my then-husband. Any given moment, day or night, Mama’s body, Mama’s words, could be called upon to soothe a fretful child, an anxious partner, an unwell cat.

Oh, I almost forgot the cat, the titty. (If this little story began with titties, it might as well end with titties.) As a toddler, before the siblings were quite yet born, my oldest liked to talk on the cordless, to tell long stories to rapt faraway aunties about our precious but naughty-boy titty. He howled in the night to go outside, but once out of doors and into the trees, he protected our house from the crocodiles. He was our savior, that titty. Titties to the rescue, I was happy to say, because, by all that was holy, Mama’s reinvented existence needed one good night’s sleep already.