My Mother is a Tardigrade

She can withstand such temperatures, pressures, radiations, go without food or water
for more than thirty years, then rehydrate, forage, reproduce.

Though not extremophilic, she may as well be. She hangs on. She is still friends with her best friend from high school, with people I consider problematic, people I would have given up on, people I have.

My mother has survived six pregnancies, four live births, two ungrateful daughters who moved far away to live their own lives.

She is directed ventrolaterally, while her hind legs are used primarily for grasping the substrate.
Her rhabdomeric pigment-cup eyes are blue, but one has a brown spot on its edge.

Her sensory bristles are sensitive, artificially curled. She and her sisters wish they were parthogenic. Eggs left inside her shed cuticle attach to nearby moss. Her young are born with their full complement of cells; then by hypertrophy, each cell enlarges. She has molted now at least eleven times.

My mother survived despite her children’s colic, croup, crankiness, cruelty even unto laughing at the ball on the end of her nose, her not reading French, her Sears Roebuck modeling pose.

My mother is a tardigrade; she has been reported in hot springs, at the top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, in ocean sediments, at the bottom of bogs. She can suspend her metabolism, entering a state of crytobiosis. Due to a unique disordered protein which replaces water in her cells, she adopts a glassy vitrification. She becomes a tun.

My mother has survived hate mail handed to her at a dinner party she was hosting, from her oldest daughter and quietest critic.

Even in outer space, after exposure to a hard vacuum, my mother can be revived.
Earth’s hardiest animal, tardigrade, moss piglet, kleiner Wasserbär.

My mother is a tardigrade, and I am my mother’s daughter.

Link to publication

About the Author

Julie HartOriginally from Minnesota, Julie Hart has lived in London, Zurich, and Tokyo, and now in Brooklyn Heights. Her work can be found in Five Quarterly, Denim Skin, PANK magazine, The Rumpus and forthcoming in Floor Plan Journal.

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