i heard once that it takes seven years for a body to completely regenerate its cells…that every seven years, we become – on the physical, cellular level – an entirely new person.

i also heard, more recently, that each child a woman has carried leaves a cellular trace within her body forever, altering her own cells permanently…marking its path through her, as it were.

clearly, these two accounts of cell biology are a tad incompatible.

and while it may surprise you to learn that i once had a brief but bright flirtation with the field of biology, a twenty-year-old high school transcript – particularly one with physics marks as bad as mine – does not a discerning scientist make. i checked with Wikipedia in the interests of calling the bluff of these cellular mythologies, but my pitiful little search of “cell regeneration theories” reaped a harvest too confusing to be helpful…unless “muller glia” and “satellite cells” mean more to you than they do to me? when it comes to the urban legends of cellular identity, i cannot say if either tale is true.

i can say that today marks seven years since my grandmother died. and if i have indeed regenerated, wholly, then there is nothing left of the physical me whose hand held hers…we are both of us, as we were then, gone. how strange.

i can also say it is two years yesterday since i was airlifted to the regional neonatal hospital, twenty-four weeks pregnant, awash in blood and amniotic fluid. two years ago today i lay on strict bedrest in an isolated room where everyone but Dave had to wear masks and i steeled myself for stillness and waiting and hope, and i spoke to my Nannie out there in the ether and i said “call in some favours, Nan” and i spoke to my wee Runt – pet-named because the first early ultrasound months before in Korea had measured small, and we were tender toward this little vulnerable life – still blithely and bravely kicking away and i said “rest, little one, hunker down there, don’t rush” and for the very first time in my life i consciously let go of all the control and fear and minutiae that consume my anal self on a regular basis and focused myself down to that one small being and my own positivity. and i did it. for two weeks and a day or two, i existed in a world hardly bigger than my bed and my baby-to-be and the conversations in my own head.

and it was a blessing. because i still have records, hidden away, of 3am songs i tried to write down for that baby when i could not sleep. i have the visceral memory of earphones stretched over my belly to play EmmyLou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl” for Runt, and Runt kicking in time…my hands tapping back the same rhythm to the little feet inside. i was freed, in that couple of weeks, to be fully and wholly the expectant mother that i’d barely had time to be in the crush of moving continents that had been my life up until the airlift. and in those few weeks i burned my wee Runt into me…and then he was here, and gone. and yet for months afterwards, even long after i’d railed and keened and finally swallowed the bitter fact of Finn’s death, i felt for Runt when i first woke up in the morning…i still slept curled around my belly. and that too is strange.

i don’t know if there are traces of him still in my cells, my Runt who became Finn, firstborn. i’d like to believe it. i had so little of him that every scrap of memory and physicality that attests to his having been here is precious to me, even specious ones that may only exist in narrative, in my sense of myself and my cellular existence.

i do know that this time of year my body and my self sing out for the both of them, my grandmother and my baby boy. i hope they each took a little of me with them wherever they went, whether rubbed off in cells or saturated into spirit with the force of love. i hope. because even if my cells actually bear no witness, i have them both with me. and i feel their absence.