Zachary looks nothing like me. Well, OK, he is a stringbean with a belly-button, all limbs flying about from nowhere, so maybe he has my body type. But his face and his coloring are all his father and his father’s father before him.
Benjamin is just the reverse. He has J’s body, a massive trunk with little flipper-like limbs stuck about the edges. His body reminds me of a seal or a python, sleek core strength. His coloring he gets from me, down to the wavy dark hair. And his face. When I look in the mirror now, I love my eyes, I love the shape of my face, I love my smile. I cannot help it; I love them because I see my little boy looking back at me.
I have but one childhood picture, and in it I cannot be much older than Benjamin is right now. My face, like his, is round with toddlerhood, and my hair, like his, is still wispy and fine. I am giggling, and I can practically hear the sound, because it looks just like the giggles that come out of my younger son. This picture hangs on the wall in our hallway, two over from a picture of my mother when she was 17.
If Benjamin looks like me when I was two, I look like my mother when she was a woman. Yes, her high school graduation picture features a woman with tighter skin and a clearer complexion, but she looks much like I have since I passed through puberty.
I sat on a step between the two pictures one evening, resting for a moment as the boys played naked before their bath. Benjamin’s body of steel came bounding over, and his smooth muscles wiggled into my arms. He looked up and pointed at the picture of my mother.
“Mama,” he said, as his brother had two years before him.
“That’s my mommy,” I told him. Big grin as he nodded in assent.
“That’s my mommy,” I tried again. “Did you know I had a mommy? And I’ll bet she loved me just as much as I love you.” Bigger grin, more emphatic nod.
Then he squirmed down, ready to invent a new game wherein he ran down the hall, threw himself into my arms, pummeling me with the sheer force of his existence, and then ran back down the hall again. Over and over, giggling the whole way. I watched his face as he approached, glancing up at my own toddler face. Then I braced myself for the force of impact, as 27 pounds of baby-steel launched into my arms.