Lorri McDole

Family Polynomials

1. How We Get Up

The world can be divided into two types of people: those who brush their teeth before their morning coffee and those who don’t.


If you, like my husband, don’t mind minty coffee, then you brush your teeth first. If you, like me, think mint ruins the taste, then you wait.


My husband also believes in this division, but he sees it a little differently.


If you, like my husband, hate the taste of your mouth in the morning, then you brush your teeth immediately upon rising. If you, like me, can put up with the taste while the coffee brews, then you wait.


There is, of course, a third type of person. This person sometimes brushes her teeth anyway, out of deference to her husband, who always kisses her when he first sees her every morning, usually in the kitchen before the coffee is ready.


For better or worse, my husband and I have never discussed this third type of person. She may be the unknown variable that makes this equation work.


2. How We Sleep

The baby fussed before settling back to sleep in the crook of my knees. Just as I began to fall into my own trance, I realized it wasn’t the baby resting there so comfortably: it was my husband.

Good boy, I said.


Something new, I thought.


But he got restless, and when I reached down to stroke his head, I discovered it was the new dog that had nestled in so nicely.


I was awake for good this time, but my husband lay, still, at the far edge of the bed, covered by a mound of blankets and looking like forever.


3. How We Start Over

In the dream, my husband and I are adopting a newborn. You could call it a nightmare (the last thing I want is to go through all that again), but this baby isn’t normal. It’s true she’s tiny—small enough to hold in my arms and waltz around a room—but she also holds herself upright and looks at me intently, like she understands and agrees with everything I say. If there’s one thing I appreciate in a baby, it’s logic and reasonableness.


As the music crescendos (I really am waltzing her around a room), my heart balloons as I realize that I get to be the one to tell her about Christmas!


This time I won’t mess it up.


When my son found out about Santa, he went upstairs to gather the stuffed animals we’d put in his stocking over the years.


“So I guess you two are friends with these eight,” he said, dropping them to bounce and die at our feet.


I cried.


“Do you know about Christmas?” I ask my new not-baby when the orchestra stops playing.


She shakes her head slowly, eyes wide as she waits for my words. I feel like Mary and Joseph, the wise men and their gifts, the innkeeper and the ass, all rolled into one. I hold her tight, protection against the unbearable happiness we are all about to receive.


“When you were born,” I begin.


Lorri McDole has published in various journals and anthologies that include Talking Writing, The Offing, Eclectica, New Madrid, and Brain, Child. Her favorite writing prize to date is Amourettes, a CD by Les Chauds Lapins (The Hot Rabbits). She rarely tweets because “being followed” makes her nervous, but she does enjoy following other people. A connoisseur and frequent abstainer of ice cream, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.

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