Chilaajav called the cold day we were supposed to go the countryside. Outside is very high winters, he says. Maybe my babies is having problems.
We go the next day. The family punched and play-fought all day, especially the mother and the 12 year old daughter. As the world moves through me--in Arizona my great aunt held onto her husband after he died, lying down with him, stopping them from wrapping several times so she could kiss him. The Mongolian kind of Buddhism is quite decorative for a country with so little, observes my mother. The tufts from the aspenish alderish trees come down like bits of white magic, I think, then remember that it is not magic at all--the opposite, in fact. I follow my mother, turning the golden cylinders at Gandan monastery. The small rivers are gone now, says the mother to us, gesturing down in the forest we walk through. We meet nomads at the bottom in the sunny pasture, three generations of them. Attachment to form. The father, the head of Mongolian Broadcasting, sits down on a log next to a wizened old herder woman. He pretends to eat the cow dung. "Chocolad!"
My mother points out the gentleness of the scooped out valley. Behind us is a vertical calico-textured but monocolored cliff face. I ask the guide what the cord carve into the side of the mountain means (or maybe it is made laboriously from placed rocks?) but he doesn't understand.
What were we like as babies? I ask my mother as we amble on horseback under the Mongolian sun. Your sister was very cautious, and settled into me when I held her. Your brother was always jumping into everything and holding him was like holding a monkey. As for you, my mother says, all I remember about you is that you never had any clothes on.