The sun was setting as I reached the cemetery. Though the summer air began to cool, the baked earth gave off a persistent radiated heat. I was sweating under the dark traditional garment I wore. As I stood there, I remembered when Mother and I had watched a village boy, for no reason, kill a beautifully colored cuckoo with his slingshot.
“Why did he do that?” I had asked.
“He does not understand how precious life is,” she said. “And he does not understand the pain someone has gone through to bring a new life into this world. To him, life is cheap. But life is not at all cheap. It is very precious.
“Women understand that cost,” she continued. “They understand how fragile life is. And they understand the privilege of our purpose.”
“Was it painful when I was born?” I asked.
“I suppose it was,” she said. “Some women scream when they give birth. I may have done the same. I do not remember. I only remember that my sister caught you as you emerged and cleaned you and laid you on my chest. I remember how you clutched the end of my little finger in your tiny fist. I remember that you were pink and wet and dainty. I remember counting your fingers and toes and thinking that you were the most breathtaking little thing I had ever seen. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have you.”
She had smiled and caressed the side of my face with the backs of her fingers. As a child, I had not understood that sweet moment, but when my first son was born, I understood.