There is this washcloth, white and with a textured wave pattern, that we accidentally stole from the La Quinta in Portland one spring. Z was teething and had tiny, spiky pigtails and S was having his second brain surgery.

The night before, in the unfamiliar bed, we talked about another child but did not take the chance. I pushed the stroller up the hill each day from the hotel to the hospital. They had to keep S awake during the procedure again to make sure he could still move and speak, but they did not shave his head. This time there was already a titanium plate in place of saw and bone dust and skull. Easy access, we joked.

I don’t remember what the washcloth was for—for Z to chew on, to wipe her face clean in the cafeteria, for a game of waiting room peek-a-boo—but I found it tucked in the back of the stroller some weeks later. It was not ours and it took me some time to place. Now every time this washcloth circulates through the laundry, I pause and handle it with a reverence similar to that given to his ashes, her first lost tooth, the wedding band on my right hand. Then I fold it and put it away like the rest.


© Sarah Kilch Gaffney
[This piece was selected by Dan Malakin. Read Sarah’s interview]