The Familiar Shift by Kristine Langley Mahler

I was lying on the rug. Little A industriously dismantled block towers and Kiddo announced we were a pride of lions sleeping on the savannah before anxiously ensuring, “But you’re not taking a nap, Mommy? You’re just not tired, Mommy.” I was plenty tired, but no, I was not taking a nap.

I was remembering the way I used to imagine the rooms of my house upside-down, the ceiling fan converting into a merry-go-round bolted to the floor, the carpet a softly furred canopy. I was fascinated by the flipped perspective, the familiar licked on the edges by the unfamiliar.

I stared at the honey locust trees in my neighbor’s yard. On my back, I couldn’t see the chain-linked corners of our yards; I could only see a smear of green promise. I let my mind unfurl and blur, time collapsing and chlorophylling my Midwestern motherhood into the fir-and-pine horizon that once was my childhood. I dreamed into the distance, decelerating toward the days when my girls were just specks of future at my side. 

Kiddo leaned over and asked, “Do you have feelings in your eyes?” 

And then I was back on the rug, back in my mother-body, back on the prairie, back to the radio playing softly behind the sofa, the grocery list on the counter, my neighbor’s yard through the window orienting itself back onto my cul-de-sac. A familiar shift. Little A placed a block on my leg, a delicate pressure, a necessary grounding. 

KRISKristine Langley Mahler’s nonfiction has appeared in Sweet, Split Lip, Storm Cellar, and received the 2016 Rafael Torch Award for Literary Nonfiction from Crab Orchard Review. Recent work is also forthcoming in The Rumpus, Quarter After Eight, and Chautauqua. Kristine is currently completing a grant-funded research project on immigration/inhabitation on native land through the lens of her French-Canadian ancestors. She is a nonfiction editor at Pithead Chapel, an assistant editor at Profane Journal, and a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

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