I am wondering if we need to pull out her other installations – The Last walk, Evidence of a Trial, Seventy times Seven, The Offering Project.
“Well you know mom, I do have other pieces that I have never shown before.”
I try hard to remember.
“You know the one - the empty fallopian tubes.”
I can see her husband shudder in the background. I feel like shuddering. I remember the piece vaguely. It isn't what one would consider decorative art work.
She sees my hesitation. “They are my anger,” she says evenly.
Immediately I recognize the importance of them. "Yes of course. Do you still have them around?”
They are stored in a white plastic bag in her basement which Larry gets for us. She dumps them - all of them - 48 of them - dead, empty fallopian tubes onto the dining room table.
As she straightens them carefully and lovingly, she says, “After the loss of my first pregnancy this was the first piece I created to help me deal with the disappointment of losing a baby. This was my way of dealing with the betrayal I felt from my body - the distrust.”
They are sewn beautifully like all her other pieces – her hands have never been idle.I pick them up gingerly. She has chosen a cloth that isn’t pleasant to the touch. “They could also be sperm….?” We all smile.
“How would you display these?” I ask.
“We could hang them on a baby’s mobile,” she offers.
The symbolism isn’t lost on me. Suspended; it is about wanting a baby.
“And the name for this piece?”
“Betrayal – I’ve always called it "Betrayal" but we could rename it.”
I can feel the lump in my throat. “Betrayal is perfect,” I say. “Hung from a mobile would be perfect.” I say swallowing hard, and then ask her my next burning question. “Why are you showing these now?” I ask softly. "Why haven't we had these in our previous shows?" They had been in her basement for years.
“I couldn’t show them until there was hope. They are too dark….” she answers.
They are dark - very dark. I am so glad this baby is coming. Could we bear to put on this show with so much pain if a baby wasn’t coming? I am reminded again that for some the babies never come.
“What else do you have?” I ask.
“My flat line pillows….”
She dumps out another plastic bag of little pillows – perfectly made. “This piece represents 8 years of taking my temperature every morning in the hope that I might ovulate, only to be faced with the discouragement that I didn't ovulate, and I didn't get pregnant.”
There is a single, strikingly red line through the middle of each pillow – a line of 28 stitches precisely, the exact number of days of a month.
I wonder if my heart will break in two.
"The name for this one?"
“Flat-line - 28 days.”
The sadness, frustration is palpable.
I’m amazed again how we can think that we know someone intimately – and yet not really know them fully. I am feeling this as I look at these pieces – so eloquent in their pain. It seems as if for the first time I see it all at once. I want to wail.
Then I remember how we went to Israel for a two-week tour summer of 2013. On the very last day of the tour, when the guide heard that my daughter wanted a child, she had told us, “You must go to Rachel’s tomb. They have a wailing wall there….”
The two of us, mother and daughter, had then taken a taxi into the Bethlehem - which was then considered a more dangerous area and surrounded with fences topped with razor wires, to visit Rachel's wall. It is quite lovely, pressing one's forehead against the ancient stone and sobbing - allowing ones soul to wail. As you know I believe in the power of healing tears. We emerged from that dark trip in the middle of the night, feeling beautiful, healed and full of hope.
But now looking at the empty tubes and the pillow, I slowly realize that we didn’t need to go to Israel to wail. She had been wailing all along….and wailing had healed us - had healed her.
The guide had also said that many who visit Rachel't tomb are healed and have a baby in about a year's time. She was right, my daughter is pregnant. It was just over a year that we visited that wall in Bethlehem. I don’t know what to make about it all – except that it is an important providential story.
I touch the dead gray tubes again. We count out the pillows, I see her pain in a new way. I see her courage. I see her light, and I am again humbled, proud and absolutely amazed at her strength.
Through her art - stitch by stitch - my daughter has recreated something quite wonderful. We don’t have to go back in time to touch the hem of his garment nor do we need to cross the oceans and visit the wailing walls to mourn, she has brought it to us.
She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum. - Jonathan Safran Foer