Each day, right after her cup of coffee, she laces up her tennie runners as her dad used to call them, straps the baby in the stroller and begins her walk down a lonely dirt, country road. Slow at first, building steam, gearing up. Just barely after she starts, her mind tells her to quit. Gives her the talk. Lists the excuses. But she has no excuses. Time is no excuse. Ability is no excuse. Rain or snow is no excuse. So she perseveres. Each day she goes a little farther. Pushes herself a little harder. Forces herself to make it just past the cotton field with the new plants pushing through, then a little farther to the windmill. Finally to the red barn where she can turn around.
Most days she prays. She prays for her loved ones, she thanks God for her family, her health, her many blessings. She thinks, she sings, she talks to her baby who bounces along with her Clifford pacifier in her mouth, the breeze blowing her little crop of hair.
She’s in the midst of a battle. An all out war against the baby weight. A daily struggle. She remembers her former self. The younger her, before marriage and pregnancy transformed her into a jiggly blob. She curses her body. Its slowness, its sluggish metabolism, its saggy skin and weakness. But with the next thought, she recognizes its magnificence. Its ability to create life, to bring it forth, to nourish and sustain it.
She makes herself run now. From telephone pole to telephone pole she runs. The next telephone pole cheers her on. Encourages her, reminds her that the next one is not too far off. Until her mind once again tells her to quit, catch her breath.
She walks now. Pushing her sleeping baby. Gasping for air. She passes the stench of death. Something lying in the bar ditch beneath the tall weeds. She turns her head as the smell of rot burns into her nose. She imagines it a mouse, a bird, a skunk. Surely the worst is over. “Decay faster you S.O.B.,” she mutters aloud.
Her body glistens with perspiration. Her face is the color of beets. Her shoulders tanned in the sun, the right one a shade darker than the left. She turns into her drive, slowing to a snail’s pace. At the front door, she lifts her dozing baby from the stroller and places her heavy head against her sweaty neck. The air conditioning is a wonderful respite from the early morning heat. Her eyes adjust to the darkness of the nursery as she places her in the crib to dream the sweet dreams of babies.
Her next battle is laundry.