Looking Back

by Jennifer Schallehn

Woman looking back on photos

I am 22 and I have just given birth to my first child,
a daughter. I run across a photo in a drawer.
In it, I am 14. I have just fished the run
of a musical, which I have danced in and choreographed.
My arms are around two of my cast mates.
My head is thrown back. I am laughing. I am strong and fit.
Man I was pretty, I think, incredulously.
What I remember of 14 is a classmate at the park
telling me I had five extra pounds of fat in my face.
I remember going up one set of staircases,
across the top floor, and down another set of staircases
to avoid having to walk past the people in study hall,
because I thought my butt was huge
and I didn’t want all those eyes on it,
on me.

I am 32 and have just given birth to my second child,
a son. I dig out old photos to put in an album.
I see me at 23 with my baby girl.
I had sewn her clown costume for her first Halloween.
I had made a home for my new, little family.
I am grinning and proud. I have womanly curves.
I am resourceful and my body is resilient.
I think, damn, I was hot!
What I remember of 23 is being embarrassed
of my new-momma tummy pooch.
I remember constantly sucking in my gut,
even in my own house, even in front of my husband,
even in bed.

In every phase of my life, I look back
at the phase before and am appreciative
of the body I once had,
and wish I had appreciated it sooner.
wish that I had valued my youth, my curves,
my beauty.

I am 48, and all the pics are somewhere online,
and I don’t look back much, anymore.
Twenty-five years of chronic illness have taken their toll,
and my body will no longer do everything I ask it to,
and that is what it has taken to show me that my body
isn’t me,
that my compassion is strong, that my mind is fit,
that my soul is resilient, that I am still
resourceful and capable and adaptable.
My body may keep getting bigger,
but so then does my talent, my intellect,
my heart, and my wisdom.
Anyway, I’ve lived long enough to see
big butts come into style,
and my beauty,
like my booty,
Is infinite.

Category: Featured, Fiction, Poetry