"Face with Klimt" by Mike Fiorito

“Face with Klimt” by Mike Fiorito

Everyone grapples with the question of What if? What would we tell our younger selves if we had the chance? M.C. McLennan’s touching essay about what it is to be a parent reminds us that even if we did have that chance, it might make little difference.


There will come a time when she understands that life is made up of two types of things: things she will wish someone had told her, and things that she will be glad she didn’t know.

  1. Things that she will wish someone had told her
    1. That it’s the boy over by the fence, worrying the dirt with his square-toed work boot who will love her in the end, not the boy on the pitcher’s mound with his cleats and easy grin.
      1. She can give her heart to the baseball player, but he won’t treat it carefully, and when she finally gets it back it will feel unfamiliar in her chest, hard and tired, soiled where his fingers gripped the seams.
      2. When it comes time to give her heart to the boy in the square-toed boots, he’ll be smiling into her eyes and cradling her heart so gently that he will never notice that it’s no longer new.
        1. But she will always know.
        2. And that will make her sad.
    2. That she needs to take a few seconds every day to enjoy the smell of her baby’s neck, because one day she’ll lean down looking for sweet milk and talcum, and she’ll find musky boy.
      1. She will come to love the smell of musky boy.
      2. But for all her fierce love, the missing smell will leave a gap that she won’t be able to forget—a tongue forever searching for the missing tooth.
    3. That she should always wear shoes when she walks through the house late at night, because stepping barefoot on a Lego hurts like a motherfucker.
    4. That when her son and her daughter grow up and leave home and the house is too quiet she will have a decision to make. There are two directions she can turn in that house that no longer has Coke cans on the coffee table and sneakers by the garage door.
      1. Toward the man with the square-toed boots, knowing that although he acts untroubled the empty rooms in the house are crowding him just as badly as they are her, and he is looking for space in her open arms.
      2. Away from the man with the square-toed boots, because she can’t see past his smile and she hurts and there’s nobody to punish except herself or the only other breathing thing in the house, which is now that man, standing there in those damn boots.
      3. She’ll need to make this decision every day.
  2. Things that she will be glad nobody told her
    1. That her daughter will be such a different person than her son, and that although she will think she knows how to be a parent she will find herself beginning all over again with this girl child.
      1. Her daughter will be tender-headed and yet will love her mother enough to let her brush and French braid her hair, not telling her mother until years later that it always hurt.
      2. In fifth grade her daughter will come home with head lice, and after struggling with that fine comb in her long wavy hair for days, both mother and daughter will agree, tearfully, to cut the hair to chin length.
      3. By the time the hair grows back out long enough to braid, her daughter will have decided that she no longer likes braids.
    2. That her son will get in trouble with the law and she will hear words like “Sorry” and “Bail,” on a static filled phone line, and her husband—out of town at the time—will be no help at all. She’ll be the one to get into the emergency cash hidden in the closet and drive downtown.
      1. She’ll be the one to walk up to the man in a uniform behind a desk to say the words she never thought she would say.
        1. Those words will be, “I’m here to post bail for my son.”
        2. They are very hard to say.
      2. When, an hour later he appears out of a doorway, she’ll stand and even though she’s angry her relief will open her arms, but he’ll brush past her saying only, “Let’s go.”
      3. He’ll be holding a plastic bag containing his wallet and keys and something that will look for all the world like a yellow Lego.
        1. She’ll ask him what it is and he’ll say, “Nothing.”
        2. He’ll leave it in the plastic bag that he throws away in the trashcan outside the jail.
        3. There are many other clear bags in that can.
        4. She’ll want to ask him if it was a Lego, but something will keep her from asking until the moment has passed and it seems too late.
      4. And in the car, when she leans close to move her purse from the floor where it lies tangled with her son’s long legs, she’ll take a deep breath and realize that she’s trying to smell his neck.
    3. That there will be days—too many, perhaps—when she looks back at her life and wonders two things.
      1. What would she would do differently if she could try it all again?
      2. Would she even want to?


M. C. McLennan lives in Texas with her husband and a ragtag band of rescue animals. Her work has appeared in several online and print literary journals.

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2 Responses to “The Things I Think I Know, But Am Probably Wrong About” by M.C. McLennan

  1. Kristen says:

    M.C., as a writer and a mother, this got me. I was laughing at the motherfucker and crying at posting bail and agreeing there’s no way to understand the journey of parenthood until you’ve done it yourself. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. mp says:

    Right Wing News

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