#10 – Talk about the shoes you had to return because they were "just too wide."
#9 – Throw a party to show off the slides and share the bounty of your recent tour of French vineyards.
#8 – Replace all her furniture with beanbag chairs.
#7 – Extol the virtues of your name and how it can be easily adapted for either gender.
#6 – Schedule early morning get togethers to which you arrive looking particularly refreshed and go on for long periods of time about how you don't remember when you got such a good night's sleep.
#5 – Give her a razor and watch her try to shave her legs. Note often that she "missed a spot."
#4 – Drop things often and ask "Would you get that for me?"
#3 – Take her shopping with you and each time you try something on ask, "Does this make me look fat?"
#2 – Pick a day when she's really exhausted, then get her to stay out late and watch her mental state deteriorate. At the point when she can no longer finish a sentence, point and laugh.
and the #1 way to torment the preggo in your life…
- Drop the bomb about that picture of her from the holiday party that's on the company website which turns out to be a full body profile shot taken while she was standing at the dessert table actively stuffing her face. Console her with the news that "it's only the internal site," limiting her audience to a mere 200 people.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
#10 – Talk about the shoes you had to return because they were "just too wide."
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
March 7th. Have I mentioned yet that I'm grateful my due date does not coincide with any major holidays? Other than a crowding of family birthdays in March, and I suppose a chance of a St Patrick's Day baby, we're in the clear.
It was the morning of Mike's birthday. I'll try not to go into how I have married a man who's birthday is four days before Christmas or what pressures this might place on his wife year after year. Not that my husband asks for anything, wants anything, or, let's face it, needs anything that badly. This year his one request was the cake part – chocolate with chocolate frosting, chocolate chips and chocolate candles.
I arrive at the store not as early as I'd hoped, and I know immediately upon getting out of the car there is big potential for derailment. There is someone sitting at a folding card table by the door. He has forms and signs and damn if he isn't asking people if they are registered voters. Shit. This is all I need. Decisions about important issues. I creep closer and see this one's about the new high-end development and golf course they just changed the county's general plan to approve. It's a bad idea. But I don't know all the facts and I just need… "Good Morning!" The man is in his late forties, dressed in earthy tones, and probably belongs to the green VW bus with the If War is the Answer, We're Not Asking the Right Question bumper sticker parked a couple spots away. "Maybe later," I call, bustling by in my best New York stride.
I stand in the grocery store mid-aisle, not yet awake, starting on a cold, thinking about the agenda for the rest of the day, and being generally lost. Store clerks taking pity on me stop one after another to ask if I need help finding something. Yes, I say, and read off something on my list. They point, I thank them, maintain my position, and when the next one comes by I ask again for the same item. This goes on until one of them wants me to follow him, and I distractedly trail my guide through frozen foods to where the chocolate chips are kept. Okay, zombie preggo is on her way to a cake!
Even in an age of superstores and enormo-buy-your-vintage-wine-ear-medicine-fresh-salmon- and-have-your-tires-rotated-under-one-roof stores sometimes things don't work out simply. No cake pans at this stop. A person needs a cake pan. I lingered in the store for a while hoping a cake pan would materialize, or a cake pan fairy perhaps. Acceptance, not my forte. I thought about returning home without a cake pan – you know, one of those plans where you'll just "figure something out," but then I broke down to logic, checked out, and started thinking about where to go to buy a cake pan. That's when I ran into my socially responsible friend again.
I took two steps past his table ignoring his attempts to grab my attention, then stopped. "They want to build it on ag land, don't they?" I called behind me, knowing he was staring at my back. "Yes!" he said, joyful at this open door. "And they'll be 100,000 more blah-dee-blah blah-blah blah…" I don't know what he said after that. It wasn't him that had gotten me to stop. It was my own damn conscience.
I reached for a clipboard and started to write in my name and address. "I'm just not really awake yet," I told him. "Too early for meaningful social contributions."
He had the answer. "I can offer you a spiritual renewal."
For some of you this might seem an odd thing for someone to say. I've been six years in California; I didn't even look up.
"I wish you energy (he lifts out of his chair and waves his hands above me) and peace (he brings his hands into prayer position) This could be the day for clearing mental space, creating sacred…"
"You know what I really need?" I interrupt. "A cake pan."
"A cake pan?" Though he repeats my plea, he is unmoved by it, continuing immediately with the process of healing me, or at least wishing healing on me.
Apparently not noticing the protruding belly that met him almost at eye level as he sat back down behind his card table on this foggy morning, he recommends I give up alcohol and caffeine. This last comment appears to seal my healing session and I leave, no closer to a cake pan. As I walk away, I hear him thank the next woman for "taking the time to do this." Hey! He didn't thank me, I think. All I got was a blessing toward my spiritual well-being!
That's what I get for trying on good habits before the baby gets here. What kind of an example would I be if I'd zipped by like I really wanted to and shirked my social duty? Still, I was glad that from safe in his little swimming pool of belly, the baby couldn't see the big scary man waving his arms and chanting at us.
You'll be relieved to hear I got my cake pan, only took me two more stores and three more clerk guides.
Social justice, spiritual healing, and cake pans. Each have their own time and place at the head of the line. And to think, me with all three of these treasures in one day.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Before I got pregnant, I said often that if I were ever to have a child I wanted to move to a village somewhere where having children was a complete automatic, as automatic as breathing, as automatic as hitting your brakes when you see a cop car. And all would swarm around to coddle my infant while I snuck off with my journal to the nearest banyan tree. Really, I mean, who am I? Just the mother. Why hog the little one with an entire older generation of women waiting to help raise my baby? This may all sound very quaint and selfish, but tell me a child raised within a community of caregivers isn't better off?
Once in a while, I'm lobbed hope that something like that could happen here. People, often my friends with grown kids, make comments like "Of course, I'll baby-sit! Anytime!" I'm suspect, but I want to believe it. I've also discovered I'm welcome to tote my newborn to my writing group. This is exciting. One of my fellow writers added to the news "And there are plenty of grandmothers here to hold him." How very appealing. The woman who said this doesn't look like any picture of my grandmothers that I've ever seen – she's that spry, trim, youthful, California grandmother, no horn-rimmed glasses or grey hair swept back hurriedly into a bun, but I think she still counts.
Then there is our upstairs neighbor, a woman of seventy with five children of her own. She's another one who makes me want to believe that the community of grandmothers is out there just waiting to be reunited. She was so excited to find out about our news that I felt guilty all over again for my dubious approach to motherhood. Mike and I already go to her with a myriad of (non-baby) questions on a regular basis. Adding to her overall openness and seventy years of life are the facts that she's in proximity to ask, has lived in the area for decades (we, only six), this house for 12 years (we, only 5 months). We've come to simply point at our ceiling when we wish to include a reference to our neighbor, like it has to do with something on a higher level, at a status we haven't yet reached. Like it indicates hope in a power larger than us, the gesture of the index finger deferring to what might only be in heaven's grasp. Like the habit in many Latin American countries of pointing up to refer to the United States above them on the map, "el norte" (the north). If not literally their intended destination, it is often at least a (frequently economic) goal post, a mythical Other with all the answers, a solution to all worries. The term el norte has come to be used as a euphemism to mean any goal or high aspiration.
And there's more to tease me. Recently, we went to a holiday open house for our block at a neighbor's place. I have yet to meet the majority of the people on my block and it seemed like a reasonable thing to attend. (Besides, we had a great escape route built in, we couldn't stay long as it was Mike's birthday and we were off to dinner with my sister and a friend.)
We enter a foreign land I both fear and want to eat whole: a picturesque home, hearth lined with photos of the kids on Santa's lap through the years, table lined with goodies, a family dog that the owners must scold mildly in jocular tones about not jumping up on guests, though he never does, stiffly friendly greetings trying so hard, so hard.
We mill and introduce ourselves. Compliment the house. Repeat our names. Chew tiny pastry triangles of spinach and cheese. Eventually, fate calls for us to float into an adjoining room where older women in Christmas sweaters are holding glasses and leaning from plaid sectionals toward each other with animated conversation. We hover.
The owner of the house joins the group and, having been tipped off by my neighbor across the street, spills my news with "When are you due?" The old women's eyes move without delay to my belly. I am now the center of their animated conversation. "Who's your doctor?" they want to know right off. I am hedging, telling them of the various doctors I've had, mumbling something at last about a midwife. But I needn't have feared. "Oh!" Mrs. Livingston from four doors down starts with excitement. "My daughter-in-law is a midwife in Seattle!"
There is space on the couch next to Mrs. Livingston and I feel compelled by courtesy to sit, though I know we are dangerously close to being late to meet our friend at the restaurant. She goes on to tell me all about her daughter-in-law, midwifery, and the births of her many grandchildren, one of whom, a boy of about 14, is sitting next to her staring intently at his knee wishing, I imagine, he were invisible. I could have used some invisibility powers myself…
"…so they froze the placenta!" Mrs. Livingston's voice rose in the small room, bouncing about in its crescendo just as the buzz of conversation around us came to a natural and unfortunate pause, as general chatter has a habit of doing when something inopportune is being spoken. Mrs. Livingston's mother, to whom I'd been introduced earlier, was leaning on a cane across the room. I heard her say softly, perhaps to her friend seated beside her, perhaps to herself, "What is she telling her?" The woman shifted her stance with the authority of one more generation, and the conversations took a tenuous step toward continuing.
Mrs. Livingston hadn't missed a beat, however. "Doctors!" she shrugged at last, "They just come in at the end when all the work is done! Now if you need anything, honey, we're right down the street. I've changed diapers for 11 babies in my life. Eleven babies! Three children and eight grandchildren." She pats her grandson's knee at which he is still staring, harder than ever.
In an emergency, I'm sure I would have no trouble scaring up Mrs. Livingston from her plaid couch and taking advantage of all that baby experience. But can I just come by for tea? What if I want to take off with my journal for the banyan tree?
I'd like to send a thank you to our neighbors who hosted the open house but I seem to have thrown out the invitation and I don't know how to spell their name. I mention this dilemma to Mike. He immediately points skyward, indicating again our upstairs neighbor. "Maybe she'll know." Maybe she will. Of course she will. Doesn't she hold gently to all solutions? They must always know more than us, this gathering of grandmothers. They are a resource I crave, my el norte.
Monday, December 27, 2004
"So, apparently we shouldn't let the baby eat raccoon poop," Mike informs me casually one day. We are driving in the car, him behind the wheel, me the passenger, each looking straight ahead. I have known this man for seven and a half years. I have learned damn well in that time that, as bizarre as it is, I won't get any more out of him until I ask explicit questions. Yet, I wait it out. Another traffic light. Several minutes. I am offered nothing. I bait my hook, rifle through the plethora of questions in my head, take a breath, dive: "And why, my love, would our child be eating raccoon poop in the first place??" "I don't know," he replies. Again, we return to silence. A left turn arrow. A parking space appears ahead. Finally, another morsel: "I heard it on the van." Strangely, this explains quite a bit.
"The van" is the car pool he takes to work most days. He and up to a dozen other bobbing heads chug to and from work together 30 minutes each way, taking turns at driving and generally being upstanding eco-citizens. This scenario, as it turns out, is ripe for sharing random information. At home he regales me with tales from the van. "On the van today…" "Someone was talking on the van today and…" I've learned about personal philosophies and local politics, the growing cycle of the artichoke and the flight patterns of the pelican. And now, raccoon poop.
At this rate, we will never escape the voices. They are chasing at our heels, their well-meaning handouts of knowledge and rumor morphing into snarling canines with fire in their eyes. I know the voices are only warming up – the advice from every corner of society about what to watch out for. After all, the baby hasn't even arrived yet.
Just for kicks the other day, I started reading one of my preggo guides again. Thought I'd get a feel for the current alarmist tidbit. Appendicitis, in case you were wondering. I'm supposed to worry about appendicitis. The authors admit that it can happen "any time." But thankfully, they've tossed it onto the preggo pile of worry dolls. Pray tell, dear guide book, why should I worry about appendicitis, exactly? Some of the symptoms of pregnancy are similar to the symptoms of appendicitis, making detection rather difficult during the nine months of prenatal bliss. Ah. Of course.
Could this be another symptom of our separation from community? We no longer only worry about truly relevant threats from our local environment. Tornadoes in Kansas, poisonous tarantulas wherever poisonous tarantulas live, etc. We live in virtual space (blog anyone?), where, in fact, virtually anything can happen. We no longer look at what's in front of us; and if we do, we don’t believe it.
Take, for example, the interchange I enjoyed with my former doctor after she performed an ultrasound at seven weeks (That's doctor weeks, in real gestational time it was five weeks. Long story). At this stage you see and know almost nothing about the little heartbeat on the screen. Still in my fog of shock and disbelief, I stumbled along with this "routine" procedure only to ask again and again later why it was done. The biggest reason I was provided was that it would "date the pregnancy." In other words, to discover how old the little blip was and devise a due date. When I protested that I should have had a choice about it and that if they wanted to know, they should have simply asked me when I got pregnant, they held calmly to their ground on the basis that "most women don't know." I know. This woman knows. Hello? In front of you…yoohoo! Real person, over here…
I think that at night doctors must snuggle up close to their statistics, whisper sweet cliches at them, slip out of their physical bodies to enter erotic dreams of percentages dancing in sterile white cages, margins of error the bouncers at the club door, only the hottest new research pulled out of line to enter… But now I'm just spreading rumors. In their waking hours, turning back into human form, doctors schedule unnecessarily automatic early ultrasounds (which are not automatic for all doctors or patients, I should mention, but I happen to have insurance that covers it…).
Since our initial conversation, Mike has told me that it's not harmful for us adults to eat raccoon poop. I try not to linger on thoughts of how this conversation resurfaced in the van pool or what that breeding ground of bizarro facts would leave on my door step next. "Uh, huh," I manage in response, trying to banish the visuals. We are made of tougher stuff than babies when it comes to fighting off the evils of raccoon poop then. And that we must do. Stand between our babies and rodent excrement. Defend all, grown ups and children alike, against fears that would have us turn our backs on common sense, our lives into wishbones.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
...is an anti-erotidrama that tells the story of a husband and wife (newcomers Mike G. & Kitty P.) and their two cats (Zap Mama - "It's a Wonderful Life…If I Get Canned Food" and Emily - "When Harry Met Sally I Was Under the Table Eating the Scraps") in a moment along the path of their first unplanned pregnancy.
With the same mythic appeal as "Elf" and all the suspense of "Ground Hog Day", "29 ½ Weeks" –based on the book of the same name- is a ground-breaking glance into life on the edge. This movie's truest success comes in its ability to blend competing sensibilities while never losing its focus (the cats).
While the dialogue is sometimes lacking, (K: "Okay, so, we're, like, having a baby?" M: "It appears so." Or: K: "I'm hungry!" M: "And?"), the cinematography is phenomenal. Like previous films by the same director ("28 ¾ weeks", "19 Weeks, One Day", and "Ohmigod, I'm already 4 months!") the story turns on the universal idea that we all face challenges in life, it's just that some of us do it with more sarcasm and crying fits than others.
For those looking for real life on the big screen, "29 ½ Weeks" will not disappoint.
This film is not yet rated.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I think the best writing to read is the stuff I don't craft or try forever to whittle into a witty build up of the point at hand (or that I whittle and whittle, hoping that eventually I will hit on some – any! – point at hand). The best stuff is just reporting exactly what people do and say. For example, when I quote my dear husband. Or list the contents of my trunk. So, in that tradition I'd like to share with you today a few of the funnier key word searches people have done to inadvertently land themselves on the fetal positions site. And just remember, I don't make this stuff up.
cave woman costumes
curt schilling ego
Budapest I'm pregnant
bun in the oven teeshirt
unplanned pregnancy poet
where to buy ginger chews
is bean sprout safe to eat during pregnancy?
who's responsible for teen pregnancy?
and, last but not least – TV fun house fetal Scoobie Doo
The fetal positions board game will be out shortly for all you die-hards to play your hand at who remembers which entries the above words and phrases appeared in.
So here's to the site meter. In the end, it's just good to know that someone, using a MAC, in the Russian Federation, spent 2 seconds perusing my blog.
Friday, December 10, 2004
"did I leave the gas on?…No! I'm a fucking squirrel!" (- EI, from the squirrel bit)
In a previous post, I mentioned Eddie Izzard. What you don't know is that Eddie is inextricably tied forever in my mind with my early weeks of pregnancy. Some of you may be thinking, who is this Eddie Izzard? You people need to go to the link. Some of you may be thinking, what does a British transvestite comedian have to do with your pregnancy?? You are people of little faith and imagination. Some of you, who read this blog regularly and know exactly who Eddie Izzard is, may be thinking, that explains a lot!
If you are lucky like we are and have a local video store owned by a Brit, you have the whole EI library at your disposal. Before I even knew I was pregnant but was feeling like the ultimate in crappola, I rented Eddie Izzard videos to try to distract me from my persistent tummy ache. After I knew I was pregnant, I rented more, to distract me from, well, all the rest.
I would lie there watching, falling in and out of consciousness in my fitful sickness. It reminds me of when I had a raging fever due to chicken pox in the ninth grade, and I dozed on the couch while the making of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video played on MTV. Delirious with fever, I'd wake up to scarier and more baffling scenes each time.
Back then, I was watching scenes involving lots of make up and the performance of a dark, unusual mind. With Eddie, I was watching scenes involving…lots of make up and the performance of a dark, unusual mind. You keep looking and you find commonality in the oddest of places.
Cheers to my friend Bridgett for first introducing me to Eddie Izzard! And jeers to Bust magazine who published an interview with Eddie in their latest issue that demonstrates some of the worst interviewing skills I've seen in a while.
"Nuts, nuts, nuts. How I long for a grapefruit!" (the squirrel bit, reprise)
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
I once compared the sound of my baby's heartbeat to a choo choo. While I try my best to side step the passing thoughts that my life is headed for a train wreck with Little One as engineer, there is another reason this comparison has turned out to be appropriate. Each morning these days, usually somewhere between 5:00 am and 7:00 am, baby likes to move around a lot. Actually, baby takes off on what I have come to refer to as "the Dance Party." I might still be attempting to fend off the cats for another 10 minutes of rest, when the Soooooooouuuuuuuul Traaaaaaaaaaaaiiiin arrives. Everybody on the dance floor.
You see it at every party or gathering – the little kids dancing. The adults sit and sip. The kids get their groove on. And they sure don't care who's watching. Mine's starting early with its love of abandon and hip swivels.
People always say things like "Davey has always loved music since he was a baby." To me this seems silly. It'd be like saying "Little Simon really seems to enjoy drinking water." Music is basic. Music is core. Even the sullen teenagers everyone rages on about turn to what? Music. Davey may become an international star of the Whosville Philharmonic and Little Simon may have a garage band for a month, but so what. We all get to claim music. I'm not sure what music my little beast hears, but I hope the volume is turned up. There's lots out here to drown out lately. Such as yesterday.
Yesterday was taxing. It started by seeing my husband off at 5:00 am for a work trip amidst a raging rain and wind storm. Like I wanted him to get on a plane just then. (I don't do well with separation and less well with plane trips.) The day continued with an audio editing job I couldn't finish, sitting on the highway for-e-ver behind a school bus accident (no serious injuries), errands I only half had time to do, teaching, etc. etc., blah blah blah. For those who don't know, gestating is exhausting unto itself. I ain't up for this crap anymore. This morning I am utterly exhausted, like weepy exhausted, like bones sagging exhausted, and I'm in for another battering schedule today.
At one point yesterday, somewhere between the third time I thought I was lost in the car trying to drive around the accident, and the second hour on my feet in front of an unresponsive group of students, my hands landed on my stomach and I was almost surprised at the swell I found there. Oh yeah, I'm carrying a baby around, I thought. It's easy to become completely disassociated with the pregnancy on the days when things spin out back to back to back obligations and stress. We can say we are "out of our minds" when we want to express that we are crazy busy or harried. But what would be more accurate is if we said "we are out of our bodies." The whole problem is that we are all in our minds. I'm looking forward to being pulled in to another world for a while. One where Mickey Mouse or Mozart are equally good reasons to boogie and screw the daily stresses.
I think that was the problem with yesterday. All those 24 hours, all those people I encountered, and nobody was dancing.
…show em how we do it now,
shake your groove thing, shake your groove thing, yeah yeah…
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
It's hard to go on vacation from one of the most beautiful areas of the country. This time we went to Catalina Island, equally beautiful to our home area, and as it turns out, a trip that brought on many ruminations about community. (Catalina Island is part of Los Angeles County – off the coast of Long Beach/LA etc.)
Catalina Island is small. It would be small anyway, but it's even smaller because most of it is maintained as a nature preserve. Cool! I first thought. Pretty! I first thought. And then you get there and realize that the nature preserve status means your ass, and the asses of aaaaaalllll your fellow tourists are confined to the single square mile of downtown with its repetitively charming teeshirt shops and prettily tiled public restrooms, plus the botanical gardens up the hill.
Did I mention Catalina Island is small? Stay there longer than a day and things circle back to you. We met up with our morning's waitress buying Christmas presents for her kid and our hotel desk clerk out and about in street clothes. The same guy who seated us for nachos sold us our movie tickets. It's small. (Cute, but would I live there?)
Then there's small town talk. Since it's an island, this mostly revolves around storms and the weather. We got in some quality eavesdropping regarding this topic. "Sounds like it'll be as bad as the last one!" (Teller and listener shake their heads gloomily.) "Headed directly into the harbor! A Nor'easter!" (Commiseration continues. Whistles are made, their trills peaking quickly then descending in that universal "uh-oh!" sound.) The next day dawned on a cooler and breezier version of its predecessor, but I'm afraid without the most dire threats realized. These are people whose downtown is one square mile and who drive golf carts. I don't begrudge them a little story telling. In fact, I quite like it. (But would I live there?)
Yes, golf carts. Cars are limited on the island. The majority of the residents of Catalina drive golf carts. It's kinda comical to see really, but believe me, I'm all about ditching the Hummer with tinted windows and chugging around in your Yamaha cart. (How would I live with that?)
The whole time I was there I was so fascinated by what the locals did, how they might have gotten to be locals, etc. How interesting to choose or be born into such a community. (In the end, could I live there??)
As parents, I guess you get executive decision making power on locale. Is that a good thing? In whose interest and at whose cost will we be making that decision? Do you think children more often grow to love their first home arena or will they scoff at it no matter its values? The city has cultural diversity in people and experiences. The small town has grass and safety. How do you begin to prioritize these and the million other things that could make the list? Someone told me once with disdain that you "can't be a writer and live here!" Should I mention to him that with less than an hour and a couple addresses I could be at Jane Smiley or Adrienne Rich's house? Should I mention that with two hours the list grows exponentially and includes names like Isabel Allende and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Nah. Let's not tell him. He's an angry little man, and we don't like him.
I think I'm becoming more and more a small town girl. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that, but I think my embarrassment comes from what we've been railroaded to believe about the quaint backwardness of small town USA. Naturally, there are plenty of small towns I want nothing to do with, but it's not so cut and dry for me anymore. When I think about where I'd want my kid to grow up, small or large matters to me less and less, while the ability for community seems the most important element. But do we have that ability anymore? Did we ever? Does community have to mean being in each other's hair and raising eyebrows if someone isn't like us?
There are some really nice things about living in a little place. In my town, I know all the bookstore owners by name. The other day when I asked the local video store owner when my videos were due he said, "When do you need them until?" We all mill around telling each other we look familiar. There's a charm here. It's tricky because I've always been the one to leave. To go. Move. Next place. Next! Am I selling out if I stay? Isn't that what most people do? Is this what they all meant when they talked about "settling down?" Why do I still have a physical reaction to that phrase?
It would seem none of us can make up our minds. We want people in the bar, but we don't want anyone to talk to us. If the bar is empty, we don't stay cuz "this place is dead!" We leave our houses to be out...each of us in our own car. One thing we don't do in my town is drive golf carts. We drive cars and big SUVs named after the things they're helping to kill off. Like Tahoe. Or Sequoia. Add a Jesus fish and it's just like you really care.
In the example of my town, we drive our vial machines often through a small traffic tunnel. There is a dubiously interesting tradition among many drivers here to beep their horns as they drive through it. The Honda Civic goes "Beep Beep Be-Beep Beep…" and waits for its mating call to be answered. If the Ford Bronco goes "…Beep Beep!" we've got ourselves a match. This is apparently the best idea we've had so far in terms of community building. Whoah, people, whoah! Everyone just slow down! If we're not careful, soon we'll be talking to strangers in elevators, and after that, well, it's straight to a national health care system. Try that with a golf cart.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
We went on vacation over Thanksgiving. Vacation is a funny thing. (I'm sure it'll get even "funnier" with a kid.) You go mad for days before it, preparing everything that you need to have with you and everything you need to have done before you leave – since surely the world will halt on its axis without your careful attention – then you drive some icky number of miles, let's just say (for the sake of argument only, of course), through LA traffic, and finally arrive at, ah – vacation!
But alas, I glaze over the journey too quickly. Along the way, before being able to claim *vacation* as yours, you may also, let's say (for the sake of argument), find yourself in a town called Buellton waiting in line to use a gas station restroom. Sometimes, as it happens, while in the midst of a journey, we are foggy on how much progress we've made or when we might arrive at our destination. For instance, some people have been known to mediate on forgiveness for months and think they are getting nowhere, but one day wake up free from the yoke of guilt and blame. In what is surely a similar sort of way, you may not be all that clear on when your vacation officially begins. And while you stand there, in Buellton, waiting for the privilege of entering what will prove to be a vile and disgusting atmosphere of confined, unventilated human waste and germs, gnawing on a hang nail and trying to look really pregnant so everyone else will feel guilty and maybe let you go first, you might possibly ask yourself "Is this vacation yet?" … Buellton?…Buellton?…
Thank god for the little paper toilet seat covers. My child will be born into a world where little paper toilet seat covers have always existed. When did they hit the scene? Early 90s? (They've at least been around long enough that the people who fill the dispensers should know how to freakin' do it. "Pull up, then down" works only about 45% of the time.) Some research studies have borne out the theory that our trend toward hyper-cleanliness is partially responsible for a rise in allergies and the like. Personally, I'm all about the 12-second rule. But let me tell you, I'm totally with the clean freaks when it comes to toilet seat covers.
Here I am celebrating the right of my baby to have toilet seat covers without ever having to think twice, and yet…if my hunch is right, and this baby is a boy, do you know what that means? … It means I'm not going in any public restrooms after him. He's the enemy.
Not counting various port o potties I'd rather forget, I think the tie for most disgusting public restroom I've ever been to is between the toilet in a little jungle airport in Ecuador and one somewhere on the way to Joshua Tree in the Arizona desert. Makes you think maybe extreme climates might have something to do with the inability to politely pee and exit while still maintaining some semblance of hygiene.
I think about bathrooms a lot these days. I have to. Darn if I ain't in them a lot. But at least for now they are still called "bathrooms" "women's rooms" "restrooms." Soon, [gulp] they will become "potties." Why? Can I buck the trend or are the diligent tendrils of societal influence too strong?
The word is even in the "official" language of parenting – "potty training." Potty training is something I dread beyond words and yet, can't wait to get accomplished. Reason #3,453 why I can't have a child: I have never changed a diaper in my life.
Friday, December 03, 2004
A friend told me early on in my pregnancy that I had every right to feel angry or sad or ambivalent about my situation…for the first five months. Now of course, I'm on borrowed time. I'm out of bounds. Once again, as seems the trend, my crayon has strayed beyond the boundaries.
Don't get me wrong, we all want to protect our children. The problem comes because most people assume eventually feelings of love or protection replace the other murkier feelings, the darker days, or the biting anger. They don't. They coexist. Sometimes I want desperately to lift my baby out of his round, taut belly house, and hold him. Just to hug him to me or keep him safe from the world I walk through every day. Foolish creatures that we are, our bodies yet a mystery to us – stolen by medical "professionals," we believe pedestrian notions of how arms show tenderness. That I would steal my infant from the womb to grip him with lesser parts, like hands. Silly humans.
"Do you feel like you might harm yourself or your baby?" I see reference to the help lines here and there in the better literature. But even Anne Lamott, whom I have unfairly elevated to a status she cannot truly attain – my model of writer mother, truthsayer, and humorist – even she said "no" to that question that rang dully out of the phone at 2:00 am. If such times of distress are mentioned at all, the mothers all say "no" to the question. Like a gate coming down, the flood stops there, the wild storm finds its edge, there is elastic in the circle. The ones who say "yes" surely don't write it down, and the ones that don't have the strength to call in the first place show up on the news.
We all want to protect our children. Sylvia Plath stuffed towels around the door of the room where her children were sleeping before she turned on the gas for herself. We all want to protect our children.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
I usually think of myself as a highly impatient person. The truth is, however, that I just have extremely selective patience. And I wonder (that's my job these days, wondering) - with a touch of anxiety - where my child will fall in the varied spectrum of people and things for which I have and do not have patience.
Particularly when talking about things like building toward personal, professional, or political growth in myself or my country, I'm generally about as Zen as a spin cycle. But, for example, I have enormous patience for dissecting and eating pomegranates. Where one person sees a cost-benefit analysis that to their mind just doesn't pan out when dealing with fruit – one you must work at to eat – I see major yum. I can stand for as long as it takes, staining outfit after outfit, harvesting beautiful ruby seeds from their stubborn honeycomb, eating them one by one if necessary.
While as a student I have zero patience with fellow students who don't get it or ask teachers for extensive examples of "just what they are looking for", as an ESL teacher, I have extensive patience and understanding. I'm not bothered in the least by having to explain something a million times or deciphering accents and grammatical structures from around the world.
Teaching is tricky, though, and things soon fog. When I'm not teaching ESL, all bets are off. One of my university students who'd rushed back from her wedding (she was the third of my students that semester to miss class to get married) in time to deliver a Power Point presentation on her final research paper didn't get to enjoy much of my magnanimous patience. In a topic selection that at least followed my advice to choose something personally relevant, her project was on "the success and divorce rates of young marriage." Her findings noted a plethora of statistics about who of these wacky young lovers makes it and why. Her presentation came around numerous times to the importance of patience – or rather, what she noted in three-inch letters projected onto the whiteboard in slide after slide as "patients." There are many days when I'm reasonably sure I married my husband because he knows the difference between your and you're. I haven't seen the stats on this kind of match up, but I think we're gonna make it.
It's hard to categorize just where I'll draw the line: Cashiers who can't make change – no patience. Old farmers counting out my change in nickels – patience. Stupid drivers or anyone in something bigger than a Toyota RAV4 – no patience. Drivers who stop and ask me directions – patience. Cleaning up day old oatmeal spills – no patience. Cleaning up cat vomit – patience. My own forgetfulness – no patience. My husband's forgetfulness – patience. (Hey, it happens. Sometimes. Okay, once.) People who lead unexamined lives – no patience.
And so, to be my kid is a crap shoot. Will I endure the fifth feeding of the day with as much patience as the first? Or will I just check in as a patient?