Thursday, January 27, 2005

clearing space

To say my husband and I have different passions in life is an understatement. The other night, I got into bed beside him to find him perusing a thick hardcover entitled Random Data. Pleasure reading?? I read the title aloud like someone reading out road signs along a highway – part auto-response, part curiosity. Voicing the words brought the absurdity of it into focus even for Mike, and he chuckled over the top of the black tome before turning the page and leaving me again for a world I dare not enter.

I suppose you could say we "balance" each other – I suppose this because people do say it all the time. Apparently, however, balance does not include transference. Mike hasn't suddenly started writing poems and living with an engineer hasn't brought me any closer to mastering things like spatial relations. Space. Clearing space. I'm trying very hard to do this figuratively and literally before Baby spirals into our lives (did you know babies are born in a spiral? – the way they turn coming out). My biggest downfall when looking for space, the biggest space hog in my life is: paper, and the thoughts written on them, the histories associated with them.

As if it weren't enough that I am a recovering packrat, as well as a writer and a teacher, part-time everywhere, permanent office nowhere – making my share of binders and paper-based clutter disproportionately large compared to the average citizen – I seem to have also taken up saving my husband's little scraps of paper. He is an engineer. He has plans, solutions. He marks them down in tiny little numbers written in the corners among finely drawn lines made without a ruler. I keep all the scraps of engineer-drawings he makes on the back of receipts or scribbled on telephone messages I never got. These are the sketches of things he will make or has made for us. Shelves and bookcases. Bed frames and plant stands. These drawings fascinate me. They are completely and utterly apart from anything I could ever do or would want to, i.e., they involve math. Plans come to me organically, or not at all. Someday I hope to make a composite of Mike's little planning papers, or a mobile, or, I don’t know. This is the closest I come to a plan.

I love my husband's little sketches despite the fact that sometimes, they fail to produce perfect products. He made me a chair once. Built a frame and set to it a swath of denim fabric, that I might sit on our little square of patio and stare at my daffodils. When he was finished, he called me out to his creation and gestured for me to sit down and try it out. I did and fell immediately to the hard ground, his chair splayed like a cartoon cat beneath me. What? Do you think he raced to me and helped me to my feet then? No, no. He stood, scratching his chin, studying the scene. "I think I know what I did wrong," he said. "Do they just give out those degrees at MIT??" I shot up at him, his little paper plan beside me on the ground.

I'm just guessing at this point, but babies would seem to bring on their own collections of stuff, paper included. Where will we find the space? Will I get to attach my library of engineer scribblings to colored paper and dangle them from wire hangers before the fast approaching date of Baby? Or will they mingle with birth certificates, preschool drawings, yellowing and fraying, taking up space in cabinets and drawers? Should I prioritize this project among so many and design shadow box displays for Baby to take to show and tell someday? What does your dad do for a living? the other kids will ask. This, he'll say, thrusting a collage of equations at them, bringing on "ooohs" from the little geeks in training, frightened gasps from the future starving artists.

In looking for his or her own space in that classroom and this world, I pray that my Little One will not persecute him/herself for things s/he cannot do, but will understand on which of many sides his/her talents fall more heavily and be at peace with that. And I hope Baby will also know that somewhere in the world there is another little gestating soul that balances his/hers.

Now when I climb into bed (the bed he made us), where my husband has already planted himself, and discover him reading the encyclopedia-sized Random Data, I don't startle or groan. Nor do I peer over his shoulder at the equations riddling page after page. I just curl my rounded bulk to him and close my eyes, so that there is no clear space between us.


Anonymous said...

As a chemist's wife... I agree. Thanks.

Maybe the project to undertake is digitizing-- get a scanner and... :)

Or, perhaps, collage the nursery walls.


Kitty said...

here's the sad part. if we went with the scanner or even if i just decided to slap the drawings on string from a hanger, i'd get halfway through and either ask him to help me or he'd see me and discover some hugely better way to do it and end up finishing it. from dipping candles to building bridges - the boy shows me up every time! (not that i've built a bridge lately)

Share Related Posts with Thumbnails