Mum pushed her hands deep into the soft, tilled dirt, unbothered by the squiggly earthworm that escaped past her index finger. Her cheeks were chapped from the cold, spring air and especially chalky from the recently dried tears. Undone, unmade, unaware was she. Embarrassed, her neighbors vowed to turn away, but temptation lured them to hungrily watch the young woman claw at the earth. Through their windows, they could see she was smeared with soil, hair unkept and uncaring toward her growing audience.
“Such a disgrace,” some whispered as they peered from behind their partially closed curtains. “She’ll catch her death in them clothes.” And they critically eyed her bent over frame as she dug and dug in her thin cotton dress, barefoot, bare-kneed as if it were the middle of sweltering summer when it was in fact a chilled sunny 33 degrees.
“She’s lost her mind,” sniffed another. “What would her husband think if he saw her? If he was ever home, that is.” And they sipped their warm tea and nibbled their chocolates and shook their heads as if permanently attached to a swivel.
But Mum kept digging and when satisfied with the hole, she took the green, needlelike plant, inhaled the woody evergreen aroma and planted them all in a row. This ritual was supposed to be done with another by her side. But it would never be completed as she had hoped. Smoothing the spongy earth back into place, she hiccuped a wail and clapped her dirt-stained hand over her mouth. With the other she clutched her freshly abandoned midsection, the place where a child had once resided, where phantom kicks and wiggles could still be felt and abdominal pain continued to haunt her. Unable to control her emotions, unfazed by the chill in the air and the freezing stares at her back, she kissed the earth and said farewell.
“Goodbye, Rosemary,” she whispered.
For she had named the stillborn after the recently planted flora, believing her grievance would be buried and knowing hope would bloom one day again.