There are moments when you learn, in a deeper way, what it is to be a parent.
Take for example, one evening recently, when I found myself tucking a pair of shoes into bed. No child attached mind you; the child was standing next to me watching me do it. In case I need to say it, it was his idea. It was the only way I was getting those shoes off of said child and the path of least resistance in this house is quite definitely cleared of brush and well-trodden.
The tucking in of the shoes went on for maybe a week or so. And while that's past, Isaac's attachment to his clothes is only just beginning. Like many toddlers, he enjoys helping to pick out the clothes he will wear for the day. However, just because he's picked them out, don't expect him to put them on.
Isaac is always most attached to whatever he is currently wearing.
“But if you take off the hippo pajamas, you get to put on the froggie shirt.”
Isaac stares at me dubiously and jabs a tiny finger fiercely into his chest where two smiling hippos loll in the grass.
“Let's put on froggies and look in the mirror!” I suggest brightly.
The gods are merciful on this particular morning, and he nods.
Without further ado, I whip the hippos off, snaps unsnapping all in a burst, before he can change his mind. The key now will be to hide all the books referencing hippos for the morning. If he discovers a hippo in the pages of his reading material and is made aware again that his counter hippos have been taken away, it's mutiny.
I place Jump, Frog, Jump in clear view and head to the laundry hamper.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
There are moments when you learn, in a deeper way, what it is to be a parent.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The Mexican women at the bus stop across the street huddle and bounce in the chill, hands tossing long black braids over their shoulders then returning to the pockets of their fleece jackets.
It’s cold here.
Okay, okay. It’s not THAT cold. It’s not igloo, Denver airport, fjords cold. But for the central coast of California, it’s cold. We all make choices. If you’ve been shoveling your driveway this morning, don’t blame me. I chose to live here amongst the cypress and abalone. For this privilege, I pay exorbitant rents and wallow in the knowledge that I will likely never be able to buy my own home.
We had frost the other morning; show me some sympathy here.
Despite the fact that his mother has been wearing the same two pairs of jeans since he was born, Isaac is a clothes horse. When I held up the jacket he loves as we headed for the door yesterday, he shook his head vehemently. “No!” he told me. And, because my child believes in clarity if not a bit of drama, this familiar mantra was followed by “No, Mama!!!” with hand held out in a stop sign.
“Okay, not this jacket. How about your orange vest jacket, Isaac?”
“No,” he says simply and quietly now, reengaging in his previous game of building block towers and losing forever the initial momentum we had worked so hard to muster in order to get out of the house and to the grocery store.
“Okay, Isaac,” I try again, returning from his closet. “We’ve got blue hoody sweatshirt,” I hold it out in my right hand. “And we’ve got red sweater with balloon buttons. Ooh! Red sweater with balloon buttons!” I add with enthusiasm, lifting the hand-knit cardigan up for him to see.
“No,” he says without looking up from his precarious pile of wooden cubes.
“You have to wear a jacket, Isaac. What do you want to wear?”
He makes the sign that often means ‘fish’ for him – as in “Please, mother, I’d like to visit the aquarium today, or at least the pet store.” His hand wiggles rather high above his head, however, and I soon realize he means ‘airplane.’
“Plane, Iz?” I’m lost.
He points up at something that I’ve long since stopped taking notice of. It’s his Halloween costume hanging for the past two months from the handle of a cabinet over the closet, a hooded baseball sweatshirt Mike covered in silver material, a propeller beanie attached to the hood, pieces of shiny insulation sewn onto the sleeves for wings. Isaac wore the costume for about a total of two minutes before a kid in a scary mask left him screaming, face hidden in my neck and he was officially done with the holiday. Now, however, he’s determinedly pointing at the symbol of his young pain.
I’ve been waiting for this moment, the one when I join the ranks of other parents I’ve been watching all my life, the ones towing around kids wearing big pink rain galoshes on a bright, sunny July day, or reading solemnly as their kid flies about the dentist’s waiting room in superman pajamas.
Even though part of me has been waiting for it, maybe forever, I’m taken by surprise when it happens; and I throw back my head and laugh, loud and open-mouthed.
Happy holidays and stay warm, any way you can.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Besides his sign language, real and invented, Isaac now says a bunch of words, most of which sound exactly alike, making context and the generosity of a mother’s ear crucial. There is for example, Hot, which comes out kind of like “Dot” as does Cut, Stop, Drop, and Pop. Then there’s the proverbial “Duck,” meaning Sock, Stuck, Truck, and, in fact, Duck.
Birds were Isaac’s first love, and though at this point his obsession with trucks rules large, his obsession with ducks falls not far behind.
Due not to any example or encouragement from me, Isaac constantly wants to see ducks and feed ducks. Duck books that have gone missing in the house have been known to cause inordinate amounts of trauma, and anything in a book even slightly resembling a duck, must, by the laws of Mr Baby, be a duck. A chicken or an ostrich, for example. “That’s an ostrich. An ostrich bird, Isaac,” I tell him staring at the same damn page of that First Words book for the umpteenth time. (God knows why ostrich needs to be one of his first words.) “Duck,” he assures me. “Duck.”
Many children have negative associations with the doctor’s office. Isaac does not. Besides the fact that our pediatrician is incredibly personable for someone with a medical degree, he keeps a drawer full of little plastic animals that he gives out to the kids after visits. There are starfish, frogs, bunnies, lots of stuff. There are probably no longer any ducks, however, because I’m pretty sure we’ve wiped him out. I counted at least seven bobbing along next to Iz during his last bath.
Here’s an example of a conversation I’ve had with my son more than once:
Me: “We’re going to go see Dr H today, Isaac!”
Me: “You’re going to get a shot! Cool, huh?”
(Later than same day…)
Me: “Here we are at the doctor’s, Izzy!”
(In the examining room…)
Dr: “How are we today?”
Once, when Isaac went to get a vaccination (a whole separate and contentious topic worthy of much blogging), the nurse made him cry, not with the needle, mind you. He got upset when she wanted him to sit naked on the cold scale and went about calming him in oh-so the wrong way. Trying to tempt him with an early toy, she waggled the bit of orange plastic in front of him saying “Look at the octopus! Look at the octopus!” Nevermind that it was really a hippo, which was where she lost credibility with me, it was certainly not a duck. After the dumb, mean lady was gone, Isaac reached into the drawer two-fisted and pulled a pair of little red ducks, wiping his eyes on his sleeve.
Ernie’s got nothing on my boy.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Having a child is a little like having PMS.
It’s not that the feelings you have aren’t true and real, it’s just that the intensity with which you feel them is on a much greater level. At the beginning of course, the reasons behind this are the same as the reasons behind PMS – hormones, hormones, hormones. See, and you thought I was just being flip.
As things go on, however, the worry and exhaustion of parenting takes over as the driving force behind emotional magnification. Like, you know already that we live isolated, work-driven lives, but having a child throws that into high relief. You know that you’d like to end homelessness, that you can’t get back to sleep if woken up after 3 am, that you hate the way your husband eats a bagel, but thanks to the miracle of that little angel in your life, you can see all these things that much more clearly.
Monday, December 18, 2006
The plastic penguin was drinking out of the cat bowl, my coffee table was covered in trucks of various size and ability, the CDs – well, most of the CDs from the bottom rack were missing completely. When I’d asked Isaac where he might have left them, he just shrugged his shoulders, palms upturned. “Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Where?” was all he offered as a clue.
Currently, that same petty thief I call my son is planted on the floor in front of the bookcase speedreading through my Russian literature collection. One after another he absorbs and discards the classics, pulling a book off the shelf, flipping through it, then tossing it over his shoulder with a cry of “All done!” The Complete Works of Nikolai Gogol. “All done!” Doctor Zhivago. “All Done!” Pushkin, Lermentov, Tolstoy. “All done!”
Shh! We have to be very quiet. Penguin is taking a nap. He is swaddled in a blanket that covers him completely and is snoozing soundly in the colander on the kitchen floor – an improvement over his other common nap space, the refrigerator, which is where he spent the better part of yesterday.
In the outside world, I imagine people purchasing new bed clothes, bunches of bananas, talking amiably with store clerks, listening to the news, showering. Sometimes I wonder what the mailman thinks glancing into the window – sill lined with boxes of baby wipes, cheerios and mis-matched socks. But most days, I’d much rather be completely ignorant of his thoughts.
Isaac escapes a diaper change, sliding expertly off the bed and racing through the house barebottomed calling “Nun! Nun!”
Penguin has awoken from his nap and is being alternately cradled and bitten by my son, who finally throws him passionately onto the floor. Penguin rocks briefly on the spot where he’s landed, then stills and remains there, facing the wall.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
"Look, Isaac! The moon! It's beautiful!"
He points at it, his face beaming.
"Ball," he says.
The next morning, he looks again for it and, not finding it in the sky, turns to me, silent and alarmed.
To know betrayal before the age of two.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
When people tell you “I was up half the night last night!” or “It's crazy with two!” or “It's so difficult managing Jacob's allergies.” Why do they always have to ruin it by adding “But things are fine.” and “Mostly we're having a great time with the kids!”
Why can't people let it be? Why can't things just suck?
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I am awoken from a dream by the baby dreaming.
"No! No! ...Mama!" he's calling.
I am at a cafe, somewhere in Europe. There are flowers. I have just shared a joke with the tall man in brown when I hear the baby cry out.
"Mama's here," I comfort. "Mama's here."
On such lies we raise our children.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
It's something about the consistency and enthusiasm with which he greets my son each Wednesday morning when he doesn't really have to, in the middle of his busy day. And then there's Isaac at the window - waiting, waiting, waving, waving. Cupping his hand and lifting his arm, making the grumbling mechanical noise.
They understand each other these two, a mutual respect that makes my mother's heart yawn wide and scoop them both in together: my toddler son and the garbage man.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Zap and I arrived at the specialist via emergency admittance since otherwise they wouldn’t have had an appointment for us until Wednesday. She hadn’t responded to the fluids. After two days at our regular vet, her blood work was the same as when she arrived, i.e., she had sky high levels of bilirubin (the stuff that makes you jaundice). Things on the ultrasound looked abnormal but inconclusive.
I drove her 45 minutes north to more tests, to more unknowns, with a catheter in her back leg and a knot in my throat. They took Zappy back to hook her up and I waited around until the doctor had time to examine her and talk to me, though her “real” doctor would be in until the morning.
What I didn’t realize was that the specialists that were seeing us on an emergency admittance were THE emergency animal care facility for the area. I was in animal ER.
When I first took a seat in the waiting room, there was just one other woman there waiting for her dog to be released. My fellow waiter assured me unsolicited that they were “really good here.” Her dog had been hit by a car the night before. The nurse brought out a tiny little sedated thing with one of its legs wrapped, and the woman tucked her in a laundry basket and nodded nervously at the instructions on meds and hindquarter support.
Before she had the chance to leave, the room had begun to fill and the night swung into high gear.
A man rushed in carrying a beautiful white and carmel long hair dog about the size of a lab, tongue lolling. Ginger had gotten into some poison and arrived with 109 degree fever.
While Ginger headed for ICU, the receptionist hung up the phone and announced “We have a lethargic Rott coming in from Corralitos.” Next, Crinkle showed up – a terrier who had apparently rubbed a lab the wrong way and ended up with a bite out of his curly little ass. It looked painful to me, but Crinkle never made a word of complaint. The woman with the dog who was going home hugged Ginger’s dad and told him she’d put Ginger “in her prayer box.”
A black pick up stopped in front of the doors and a man attempted to lift what looked to be about 120+ pounds of Rottweiler out of the bed of the truck. Ginger’s dad offered to help. Even as sick as he was, Zeuss was imposing for the 30 seconds he stood in the lobby. That was all the time he could stand before he had to lie down again – a position his people said he’d been in for days – his massive head making a loud clunking sound as it met with the door jam.
Finally after about two hours, I spoke to a vet, got a quickie goodbye with Zap and drove home alone.
I don’t know why I’m writing all this. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to face what I now know. I could go on about the odd lighthouse theme in the waiting room, how the place you’d think would be covered in pictures of lizards cuddling with kittens was filled with paintings of craggy coastlines and red and white striped beacons. I could tell you how I really like Zappy’s “real” doctor that took care of her the next morning, or that Ginger’s fever had dropped to 103 by the time I left (though her bill was ever climbing). It was a tenser place than any medical office I’d ever been in. Emotions flowed freely and people were unafraid to reach out to one another. Animals bring us who we could be.
My Zap, my precious five-year-old little girl, has a terminal cancer.
She’s home with us now. And we’re so thrilled that she is. Maybe she’ll be here for a long time more, but things aren’t really in our favor. I want Isaac to remember her. I’ve asked her to please stay a while. Maybe if you know what a prayer box is, you could put her in it.
Monday, July 17, 2006
It was a Sunday and we’d made arrangements to visit. A woman walked in just after I did. I couldn’t see her from the room where I was, but I heard her announce quite unselfconsciously to the lab tech that she was here to see her daughter. I listened to her in the next room cooing and coddling her daughter, a cat named Spitfire, who was apparently pretty sick.
My Zap is at the kitty hospital. She’s lost weight, is really jaundiced and is on an IV to flush out her blood. We don’t know yet what else is wrong. This is awful.
They took her off the IV and brought her to us in one of the exam rooms, so I let Isaac come in and see her too. He was just happy to see his buddy, doesn’t really understand where she is. Although, when I told him we had to bring her to the doctor, he did bring her a blanket and try to take her temperature with the ear thermometer.
After about an hour with her, she ate a little. Then we had to leave.
The vet people kept saying the oddest things to me like, “She hasn’t shown any signs of distress,” and “She’s so well behaved!” Huh? Distress isn’t always the one who yowls and tries to scratch your eyes out. Well-behaved?? This is my concern? This will make me feel better?
We are so completely fucked up. This is exactly why I’ve wished for years that I would just collapse in the street when I felt the depression gripping my internal organs, shaking my rib cage like prison bars. The squeaky wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, and the rest of us suffer in silence. Tell ourselves it couldn’t be “that bad” or someone else would surely notice.
My Zappy gets heart palpitations going to the vet on a well-check (literally). I don’t want her in there another night! She curls in on herself and stays like that. How can that kind of stress be good for recovery?
Well-behaved. I could have easily been at some back to school night somewhere = someday, some asshole teacher telling me my boy is “well-behaved” when no one has bothered to check in on what’s going on inside his precious little head, what triggers current trauma may be setting off, what he needs, whether or not he’s crying out.
In my dreams, Zap and Isaac are often interchangeable. At first, I will have to take Zap to school, then it is Isaac. Then, he is sick, but when I open the blanket it is my cat.
I’m just back from transferring Zap to a specialty clinic that is 45 minutes away. She wasn’t responding to the fluids. An ultrasound in the morning. More to come. I have to go to bed.
Friday, July 07, 2006
It’s that time of year again.
One of the local communities hosts a Bach Festival every summer, and it’s just around the corner. I don’t look forward to this event. In fact, I cringe just thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong; I mean I relish my fugues as much as the next person, but I just can’t tolerate the fervor surrounding the Bach Festival. And this year promises to take me even closer to what I dread, since I now work in newspaper.
Every year, the festival brings with it the most horrendous puns. There’s stuff like “Bach to the Future,” “I’ve Got Your Bach,” “It’s Bach On,” and, of course, “Bach and Roll.” Frankly, the puns are endless, simply endless. Have these journalists no shame??
As a poet, I run screaming away from cliché and the too-cutesy play with words that is the trademark of newspaper headlines. Once again, I find myself straddling worlds. I’ll admit it: I’ve used phrases like “pull out all the stops” in my articles. But I have my limits. My editor still makes fun of me because I insist on calling my proposed headlines “titles.” Tomato. Tomahto.
I know nothing about journalism. That is to say, I feel that my approach to my stories, most of which are previews of theater productions, is one that keeps me safely out of the hands of excessively formulaic writing. And I strive for accuracy at all costs. There was that little slip regarding “cannon” (as in “1812 Overture,” boom boom stuff), and “canon” (as in from the theatrical tradition), but once the initial mortification wore off, I was fine.
As time goes on, however, I’m concerned they’ll get to me. What if some day I’m assigned to cover an annual musical festival? What if the deadline is tight and I’m just strapped for ideas, all my creativity having drained away between the time the oatmeal hit the floor and the CDs were found in the bathtub? What if I cave? Who will be there to bring me Bach?
Sunday, May 28, 2006
“Guess who I heard on NPR today,” Mike says with a funny lilt in his voice.
“Who?” I ask, obediently playing the game.
He proceeds to name this person. At first, no bells go off. Then –
The night I met Mike this guy was among the big group of people my work colleague was dragging me to meet at a lounge bar in Washington, D.C., as was Mike. As the night progressed through restaurants and dance clubs, fewer and fewer people remained of the original group until there were only four of us left: me, my work friend, Mike, and this one other guy. I’ll call him “Andy.”
The four of us hung out until 3 a.m. or so and somewhere along the way Andy asked me to go salsa dancing with him for one of the Monday night lessons held at another local bar. I wasn’t exactly falling head over heels for Mike at this point, but Andy did overlook certain details – like how well Mike and I worked as a Pictionary team (Grass? Um…Wait! Barbed wire! Yes!). I was relatively non-committal on the salsa, but probably said something like “I suppose so” mixed with “um” and “I guess, maybe.” Then there was the roof incident.
The last event of the night for our foursome was to go swimming in the roof top pool of Mike’s ugly pink condo building and afterwards to look out at the less ugly skyline. When we were heading back down into the building, my friend and Andy start down the stairs first while I stop short to ask Mike about what one of the buildings was. The door to the stairs locks leaving Andy and my friend inside sans key. And there we are, me and Mr Future Husband-Guy, in an unplanned pseudo-romantic moment, staring out at the lights of DC, my question already asked, his answer already given, and the silence now around us. The other two, wondering where we are, attempt to come back up, try the door, but can’t get back onto the roof. We listen to them rattling the knob for a few seconds.
When we open it, Andy is visibly grumpy (who knows what was going on in those 90 seconds I was alone with Mike!)
No salsa dancing ever happened and I think I have the roof to thank for it.
Yes, folks, there may never have been an Isaac if the roof door didn’t lock, if salsa had had its way.
It’s a bit of a kick in the pants though – you know, I want to be on NPR, the guy who I never dated but could have is. Missed associations? And my mom should have married that guy who owned his own plane too, but that’s another story, another lifetime, another mingling of genes.
Sunday, May 14, 2006
I am where I feel most uncomfortable, where I feel the most bile rise in my throat and surge and gurgle like a dammed river. I am at a Mommy n Me class.
It’s one of the more harmless ones. It’s a “drop-in” style class. One where mats and tunnels and balls and rocking wooden boats are arranged about the room and one- and two-year-olds run around exploring and crashing into each other. Isaac loves it. And I love it for him. Especially since he spends so much time figuring things out, fiddling, finessing fine motor skills, slipping the string through the slots in the chair over and over again, starring at cat hairs he’s plucked from the carpet.
I love that he does these things – bypassing the high-five offered by the grocery clerk to stare quizzically at this cash register – my little engineer. But this is a chance to release and do something different.
He has so taken to the opportunity to crawl through padded labyrinths that he will even sit happily in his detested car seat nodding his head and pointing forward as I strap him in – “Onward, Driver!” I imagine him thinking.
Today, I have the misfortune of being one of only five or so parents to show up – a small group and easy prey for the dreaded Parent Education Instructor – the PEI.
A cheery blonde with a clip board sits in a rocking chair half-blocking the entrance and applying lipstick. “Did you sign in?” she spouts.
I imagine the tryouts for these parent ed performers: A dark theatre. One bright spot light shining a circle of light on the stage. A woman walks nervously into it holding one hand over her eyes like a visor, her shiny Mary Janes clicking on the floor and echoing around the room. She clears her throat and tries out her line: “Did, um, you sign in?” “Great. Thank you. Next!” calls a rough voice from somewhere among the dark seats. The woman swallows audibly and shuffles off to the wings where identical women hug her, tell her she was great, and reapply her lipstick.
Some time goes by in the class when I’m able to play with Isaac or stand around idly unhindered. And then… “Have you heard about our garden party?” Christ. She’s looking right at me. What could possibly be the right answer to this question? “No,” I strangle out. “Oh! Well, it’s this Friday in the meadow. There’ll be music. And it’s a potluck, so bring a dish…” I don’t hear more of what she’s saying. My mind has wandered off to a list of things I’d rather do than attend a Mommy n Me garden party. Items appearing on the list include things like having my entire body waxed with duct tape.
More time goes by, and then…”You know,” Cheery Blonde is addressing all of the parents at once. “I heard on TV that a couple guys have started putting oil in their cars instead of gas!” She titters like it’s the silliest thing she’s ever heard.
I’m thinking about how people should be given a set number of exclamation points at birth and when they use them up, that’s it. Try to be nice, Kitty, says the voice in my head. She’s attempting adult conversation.
“Don’t they have to do something first before that works?” I ask in a plain tone.
Cheery stops, tilts her head thoughtfully, her eyes, the exact green of her sweater, drifting up and over her left shoulder. “Yes,” she says at last. “They do. That’s right. They have to do. something. to. their. cars.” She nods exaggerated nods including all the other parents in her confession. Perhaps she’s worries they’ll start pouring Wessen in her Lexus SUV if she doesn’t. I can’t imagine it though – I can’t imagine them doing anything that wasn’t printed on a handout and certified by the Academy of American Pediatrics.
“Somebody needs to do something to help us use the cars we have for less!” the instructor goes on.
“How about we just grass over the highways?” I suggest.
Cheery nods slowly, her mouth neither open nor closed, her expression blank. Isaac runs to me to deliver a purple ball, then dashes off collect the red one, too. I have enough time to forget the conversation. And then…
“Did you say ‘grass over the highways’?” she asks.
Again a slow nod, her mind searching for something familiar to hold onto. And then…
“There’s a lot more traffic in my neighborhood lately!”
I turn from the non-sequitur like one turns from a private argument in a public place, out of politeness. Isaac leaves me the red ball and reclaims the purple. We read a few books, balance on the spongy bulging mats, and then…
“Would you like a handout on the Top 12 Foods?”
I make no move toward the Xeroxed pages. “Top 12 Foods for what?” I ask.
“The Top 12 Foods,” she repeats, unwilling to relinquish ground on this one.
I grab up Isaac and hold him upside down, causing him to giggle uncontrollably.
When Isaac starts rubbing his eyes, I pack up our things. I’m almost out the door and then…
A gasp. Cheery smacks her open palm flat against her left breast. “I’m not wearing my nametag today! I’m Charlene.” She sticks out her hand. “I’m Kitty,” I say, taking her hand and somehow forgiving her her cardinal sin.
“See you next time!” she sings. The notes catch in my ears as I step out the door and noisily onto the gravel parking lot.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
“So Mike tells us you got yourself a little job,” my mother-in-law says.
I fight back the impulse to answer through gritted teeth.
I have in fact reinstalled myself as a freelance writer for one of the local papers, a different one than I used to write for. A person gets preggers, and consequently sick as a dog, drops out of the loop for a few months, eventually tries to get back in but finds the editors have changed and wrangles unsuccessfully to pitch her once-embraced stories, has a babykins, drops out of the loop for a few more months, and then rises again, reincarnated with the competing print media. “Little job,” indeed.
So anyway, I had gotten my first assignment (the luxury of pitching not mine at this stage) which was a write-up of a dance performance. I read the press release and literally yawned. Dance-shmance. I couldn’t quite figure out what was meant to happen and I wasn’t all that interested in trying. Headline: New girl gets bum story!
As I left to do the interview, I regaled Mike with lines from themes songs past. Singing out my mockery: I’m gonna live forever! (I danced down the hall kicking my leg up behind me as I disappeared from his view into the living room.) I’m gonna learn how to fly! (High!) (I reappeared around the corner swirling my head and thrusting out my arms to dramatic effect.) … I'm gonna live forever. Baby, remember my name. (Rememba, rememba, rememba, rememba…)
But I’m a sucker. Always have been. I fell for her. The choreographer I was interviewing. She was nice. She was interesting. But most of all, I was reminded of living the life creative. Of what it looks like when someone has not just said she wanted to do more of her art, or imagines that when she retires, she’ll spend her days painting or writing or making films. She lives as an artist, 105% of the time. It’s different, so different, than talking to a 9-5er. I’ve hovered between the two worlds so long, I don’t know if I really understand how to live in either.
But what I realized mostly after my conversation was that I want Isaac to have these people in his life. I want him to have writers and dancers as “aunties” and “uncles.” Not famous people, just dedicated artists. I want to make poker games out of my theatre friends, so that the virtual smoke from our virtual cigars floats down to my son and fills his lungs with scripts and stage directions. I want the people that come to dinner at our house while he’s growing up to be the kind who have studios in their garage and poetry websites. Who knows, maybe someday his mommy might even be one of those people.
Friday, May 12, 2006
I miss my husband terribly.
But I’m sure I don’t know the half of it – about the fog we’re in. It’s like when a window is so dirty you can’t see how dirty until you clean it and the sun shines through the glass directly, without first passing through layers of dust. Or there’s that needling feeling I get – a sort of claustrophobia – with my constantly half-moved-in house, the framed photographs that are meant to hang in the bathroom still piled on the toilet tank.
Having a baby has put this distance between us.
I adore watching Mike with Isaac, his genuine laughter over his antics, Izzy carrying his blocks one by one to the kitchen cabinet and shutting them inside. Mike’s shoulders bounce up and down like a turn on a pogo stick; and I feel joy for his joy – a kind of metajoy. Sometimes I worry that my love for Izzy is a metalove, that I love him from up on my writer’s cloud, from my bird’s eye view.
In college, I had a sociology professor I respected a great deal. During the semester, he and his wife adopted a little girl from Korea. He was constantly arriving to class with stories of his daughter’s reactions to various cartoons or social situations. Eventually, I felt sorry for this little girl, like she was somehow being experimented on, exploited.
Mike once told me, in what seems a lifetime ago, that he is with me because I keep him alive. He can drift away sometimes, hum into a rutted routine and not notice the seasons changing, not really feel. “Like 1994,” he told me near tears. “What happened to 1994? I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I was there I guess, but what? A whole year.”
But now I need him to rally. Most days I don’t have it in me to be the engine in this relationship. 2005. I was there I guess, but what? I want to tell him. A whole year.
Friday, May 05, 2006
I counted. Apparently, I counted a little too soon. By June, six friends will have moved out of the area within a year’s time. Or so I thought. But that was yesterday. In the time it took me to conceive of posting a blog on this subject and actually posting one, one more friend has informed me she will be leaving. Seven. Frankly, I don’t have tons more left. I’m reeling. I have no words, no blog for this.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Mike goes to work every day – talks to adults, moves in the professional world, receives accolades for his achievements. But that is not why I’m jealous and resentful. I’m jealous and resentful because he gets to eat lunch every day. Sometimes by himself, sometimes with colleagues, sometimes leftovers, sometimes treating himself to a grilled veggie burrito from the groovy Cal-Mex place nearby. No one to strap into a plastic seat with tray, no one casting applesauce hither and thither, no little hands to keep out of his own food, and there is always his own food not just when it’s a “good” day. He can set his glass of water down as close or as far from his lunchmates as he likes. His lunch is not interrupted by diaper changes or tantrums over who gets to pick up the phone when it rings…
Please go to sleep, Isaac. Please. Please go to sleep. Go to sleep!..
When I was in middle school, my friends and I would play “Name That Tune” with the popular songs of the day. One of us would put on a record (yes, a record!) and the others would race to be the first to name the song and band correctly. I sucked at this game. I’d have to put up the best front I could – “ooh-oohing” and bouncing up and down in my seat, wait-a-minute-wait-a-minute kind of stuff like the answer was on the tip of my tongue, but I never knew. In a funny way, I’m making up for that now. I can name any of Isaac’s books by the first line, sometimes the first word or two. And I’ve taken to hiding some of Isaac’s books. Just the ones he asks to read 400 times a day and that I find particularly annoying after the 2nd or 3rd go – the Elmo book, those fucking dolphins, and the duck book, which doesn’t tell you much since they are all (besides Elmo and the fucking dolphins) duck books...
Please go to sleep, Izzy. Baby, it’s nap time. Night-night. It’s mommy’s nap time. Go to sleep, Isaac. Please. please.
Every time I open the refrigerator Isaac grabs the bag of salad greens. Since he usually reaches for the beer, I figure I’m on safer ground and don’t really pay close attention. Each time, I convince him to put the bag back on the shelf, which he does with much pride in his ability. On the last frig trip, I apparently skipped this step. I notice him with the bag, then decide to pick up some form of reading material from the coffee table. I double check it has no bunnies or ducks in it, no one going on picnics, becoming tragically separated from their mothers and then triumphantly reunited, no one deftly sneaking counting games into non-existent plots, and start to read. When I look up, my son has undone the twist tie and spread the lettuce around the room. The cats come out to investigate. Isaac, always willing to share, offers them each a wilty leaf. They are organic greens, in case you were wondering. Only the best for my boy…
Call me out of touch, but I hate cell phones. That’s right, I said it. Hate them. I won’t go into all the reasons here. My husband and I share one cell phone. My friends think this is strangely quaint. Of course, compared to what we used to have, what we have now is a big improvement. It would be like moving from an 8-Track to an I-pod. The phone we had for a long time, up until shortly before Isaac was born, in fact, was a complete dinosaur that could be easily confused for an 80s car phone. Its charge wore out in minutes it seemed, so we bought a battery that clicked onto it making it the biggest cell phone in the world and us the target of ridicule. This was not the slim thing that fits in breast pockets or eye glass cases. It was a monster. Our friends would steal it away, taunting and passing it back and forth. “Look at this!... No, no, ya gotta see this thing!” “Hey, give it back,” I’d whine, like a grade school bully had just stolen away my hat and wanted to play monkey in the middle. “It’s for emergencies,” I’d tell them, though it has yet to help me out of one yet…
Please, go to sleep, Isaac. That’s right. Night-night. Sleepy time. …(Pacabell ’s Cannon blares from the living room) SHIT! I fucking HATE cell phones!!!! Okay, Iz, wakey time then. Wakey-wakey. Mommy doesn’t want to answer the phone. Here, you have the phone. Play with the phone. In fact, go play with the cats. They’re under the bed. There. See? They really want to play.
My husband gets home from swimming lessons with Isaac. I’ve cleaned up the salad greens. I am under the covers trying to make the day go away. Isaac has tottered into the bedroom and is trying to fit one of his dad’s dirty socks over his head. “Did you return the bikini bottom?” I ask Mike, referring to half the little girl’s pink and purple flowered bathing suit he found in our swim bag last week. “Yeah,” he tells me. I am waiting for the rest of the story.
“So you knew whose it was?” I try.
“And what did you say?” I’m not willing to let it go yet.
“I said, ‘Is this yours?’”
“And the dad said, ‘Yeah’.”
“So you didn’t say, ‘I found this in my swim bag, isn’t that totally weird? Did you wonder where it was all week?’?”
Isaac walks over to the bed so his face is next to mine and nods his head furiously up and down in agreement with his dad's reticence.
Can’t bleed nothing out of the men in my life. How’s a woman supposed to find things to write about?
Decide that you like college life. In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life.
- “How to Become a Writer” from Self-Help - Stories by Lorrie Moore
I’m trying not to judge. Not to be a snoot. Not to look at the world in terms of smart and dumb.
A fellow mom was complaining recently as her toddler reached unsuccessfully across the coffee table for a toy. “He does this every day,” she sighed. Her son, Isaac’s age, began to get agitated as he continued to stand where he was and reach for the fire truck. “Walk around,” his mother urged, “Walk around!” By this time, her son was pounding the table and screaming in frustration, his chubby knees bending and unbending, his face flushed. “Here, I’ll show you how to get it,” his mother offered, moving him to the other side of the table where, upon scoring the toy, he sniffled once and stuffed it in his mouth.
So, not 24 hours later there I was, minding my own business, when I saw Isaac walk up to our coffee table and reach once for a book too far away to grasp before walking to the other side of the table on his own and calmly picking it up.
There are way too many people in the world – these are adults I’m talking about now – who refuse to walk around the proverbial coffee table but prefer to stamp their feet and scream for what they want. How do I teach my son to move in this world? He knows better. He does better. But smart is recessive. If you mix smart and dumb, you get dumb. Really smart people start to do really dumb things sometimes. I’m constantly making concessions for dumb people, mainly, it would seem, so they don’t find out just how dumb they are. I think it’s time to stop this kind of behavior. We cannot protect egos when our children’s fate is at risk.
I regularly have to forgive myself and others for not acting as though this time away, whenever it comes, parsed out in however meager, disjointed bits, is as sacred as the sunrise. My time away the other day was to jaunt over to the post office. Sadly, I pined for this adventure - to move toward a goal not connected to my son, to speak to other adults not connected to my life. Eventually, I forget that the woman I’m talking to – the postal worker pushing 60 – is wearing fussy, green bunny ears on a headband. I reach into my bag for my wallet, which is not there because I’ve left it on the seat of the car, but I do produce an orange rattle with a monkey on it, a pacifier that has clearly seen better days, a lot of saltine cracker crumbs, and an old grocery list. The fuzzy-eared clerk tells me her baby's in his 30s now.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.
- The Cat in the Hat
Northern California sees record rain, braces for more wet weather
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Weather-weary residents reeling from the Bay Area's second-wettest March on record should expect more rain...
Mudslides Cause Problems Along Central Coast
8:24 a.m. PDT April 5, 2006
APTOS, Calif. - It was another day of wet weather along the Central Coast on Tuesday, and the saturated ground led to mudslides throughout the region. Rain left many residents frustrated and Pacific Gas & Electric crews were working around the clock.
Along Loma Prieta Drive in Aptos, the back yard of one home slid down into the front yard of another. ...
Put it on the list of things I thought I’d never do. Consider sending my kid to Saint Anywhere. Daycare. Part time. Not easy to find. Even harder to pay for. But possibly the ease in my week that could build a kinder, gentler mommy, one who talks to adults sometimes and combs her hair. The daycare that might work the best is attached to a church. Not a church I am part of, would be part of, or even know anything about, really. What harm can they do to one-year-olds? my husband shrugs. Okay, I tell him, but we’d have to find somewhere else for him to be in a year or so, my religion meter blinking red. What harm can they do to two-year-olds? my husband persists. I don’t know the answer. I have a year to figure it out.
Now I know that that bullshit line that was popular with righteous moms some years back, maybe still is, about people having kids so that “someone else can raise them,” is truly absurd. Naturally, I had a kid so that my unrealized dreams could evenutally alight somewhere and I could extend my mortal life through this recomposite of my genes, but that’s neither here nor there…This job is 24-7. Most days it feels more like 29-12. And the idea that if my kid goes to daycare for 7-2, interacts with other children his age, is introduced to other adults’ style of being in the world, I am somehow shirking my responsibility is just part of the lie machine that churns, I’d say, at least 24-7.
So why do I feel guilty considering it? Fuck. They got me. I’m spinning. The machine is dropping lies ticker-tape style from the sky, like invisible petals printed with doomed fortunes. We get zero help in how to keep from losing our minds – to boredom, toddler logic, or the factory model society we move in. We really have to be ever-vigilant in our quest for sanity, creativity, and time to blow our noses. Perhaps St. Daycare can save my soiled soul, or at least that of my offspring.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
People, please. Let’s get together on this. If you can’t get to the battery in a toy without having the skills of my crazy mechanical husband or my son in another 10 years, DON’T BUY IT.
Sooner or later, they take over. Look, from Toy Story to the Nutcracker, batteries or not, these things can go wacko, and they don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind, so why encourage them? I currently live with a frog driving a car, who, for no good reason and with no one and nothing around him, will scream out “BEEP! BEEP!” every so often. I also keep company with a firefly that won’t stop giggling. No matter where I stuff the thing, I can’t seem to dampen its spirits – from under the cushions of the loveseat it chuckles, unsolicited laughter pokes out from beneath pillows, inside backpacks. Shut up, Crazed Toy! Shut up!! There is also the bear that whines the most pathetic rendition of Rock-a-by(e) Baby you’ve ever heard, though, thankfully, his cheeks no longer flash red while he does.
As I type this, the giggling continues. I think the firefly is the ring leader. They’re out for me. And if this is the last thing I write before they come for me, know it was no accident – that frog knew exactly where he was driving!
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Soon, it’ll be Daylight Savings Time again. Or is that what we’re in now? What I mean is, soon, we’re changing the time. You gain an hour, you lose an hour. No one is ever really clear on the concept. It’s one of those things – like how everyone always calls Memorial Day Labor Day and Labor Day Memorial Day and no one really pays attention. We know there are three-day weekends at some point in May and September and to store any more information about it would be to tax our already troubled brains, so we let the news anchors fill us in and our computers do their automatic updates.
This year I am really looking forward to the extra hour. What it’ll look like in my world is Mike arriving home with the sun still in the sky and the possibility of he and Isaac going for a walk or otherwise leaving the premises and me to myself. This will be good.
Last year, things were different. The extra hour was a smack in the face from the hand of “Shit, I’m a mom now.” Instead of relishing the extra light, the extra energy that normally accompanies it, I found myself cursing the clock and pulling the blinds shut so as to begin the “nighttime routine” and try to get my kid to bed before dawn (so that I could then try to get him back to bed another half a dozen times before dawn). That hand came down and WHAM. Nighttime routine?!? This is the long haul. This is the real thing. This changes everything.
It’s been a year now. Besides 10 hours a week with the sitter beginning when he was six and a half months old, I have stayed home with Isaac full time. They say you have to admit your problem before you can change it. I am a stay-at-home mom. Forgive me if I don’t read that sentence back for another year or so. They say babies grow up so fast, enjoy every minute. They say some people aren’t “baby people.” They say this is a “great age.” They say that about every age. They say “you look great.” They still say that. They say you seem like you are doing really well.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
The Laundromat. I am a foreigner here.
I have never owned a washer or dryer, yet, I have somehow racked up enough karmic skeeball tickets to cash in on years, perhaps a decade even, of accessible laundry facilities, making a trip to the Laundromat unnecessary. Until now.
Oh, we moved into a house with “hook-ups”. Big freakin’ deal. People advertise this in rental ads like it does us renters any bloody good. “W/D hook-ups.” As if we couldn’t buy the house, but we thought we’d haul a pair of incredibly heavy, unwieldy appliances with us from temporary spot to temporary spot, just stoked to pay for extra Uhaul space.
My black jeans ringed with snot lines just above the knee on each leg, I shake off my babe and head to the Laundromat.
My college memories include hauling the dead weight of dirty socks into a small, olive green room and up to old machines, half of which had their coin slots covered with looseleaf paper scrawled with the word “Broke.” I walk into our local Laundromat with a baggie of quarters and no real sense of what I’ll find.
I can hardly tell which are the washers and which are the dryers. These are chic, new models that flash the number of quarters they are still waiting for as you drop in one after another: Kansas, New Hampshire, Maine. An altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe perches on top of the vending machine that dispenses soap, bleach, and laundry bags. I am the only one who has brought reading material. Everyone else has brought family and friends to entertain them. The place is buzzing with activity.
The first thing I do is check out the huge, extra-expensive machines to try to salvage my oatmeal-splattered futon cover. Missing the sign that reads Machines lock at start and remain locked for the duration of wash cycle and concerned about screwing up my cover with detergent, I put in the soap, drop in my $2.50, and proceed to lock the empty machine. Okay. Well, I don’t think anyone noticed, and surely I’ve lost more money on less noble endeavors.
Eventually, I manage to get my futon cover and two other regular loads of laundry moving along, after which I sit, rather self-consciously, and flip through my magazine, uninterested. Kids ranging in age from about three to about seven race around laundry baskets and in and out of the doors as happy as if the washing machines were slides and swings and the dirty linoleum floor sand to dig in. At one point I make a field trip from my seat (you know, the sea foam green plastic chairs bolted to each other in a long line) to investigate the dryers, since soon it will be time in this little adventure to spread my wings and tumble. I slink over to a vacant metal monster, its big, round mouth open and hungry. I must make more coin offerings to the beast in order for it to grant my wish of dry clothes. Better coins than word puzzles or witches’ brooms, I’d surely end up schlepping home with sopping wet underwear.
I return to my seat, but without all of the information crucial to my next step. I interrupt the two men about my age talking in Spanish next to me. I ask them how much time you get for a quarter on the dryers. I’m proud of myself for pulling words like “ la secadora” out o my butt since it’s been way too long since I’ve conversed in Spanish and never, to my recollection, about laundry. The man closest to me hesitates, then tells me, “Ten minute.” Exchanges like this have always left me wondering – was my Spanish that bad that he couldn’t bear to continue the conversation in his native tongue? Was it important for him to let me know he speaks English?
Time to dry. In an effort to try and shake off my feelings of outsider, I linger over the baby clothes before throwing them into the great mouth, holding them out as if to align myself with the other parents there, looking for any place to stand in this foreign land of rinse cycles and social gathering. I have never gone out of my way to advertise my parenthood and at this point, I just want to go home – It’s Saturday for godssake!
I do go home, briefly, to hang the futon cover on the line. (Yes, we have a clothes line. How very cool. I think clothes lines were prohibited by the city in our last neighborhood. -- I am not joking about that.) I live really close to the Laundromat, and anyway, I’ve always been one of those trusting souls. If anyone cares to take my wet sudsy jeans, maybe they really need them. I’ve been known to wander from my purse in shopping carts engrossed in the differences between free-range, “vegetarian-fed” and organic eggs (does anyone know?), abandon my luggage in the middle of bus stations to go buy a ticket or visit the restroom. Maybe I’m not the smartest cookie, but I play the odds and expend less energy worrying that the old lady in the babushka may steal my dog-eared Berkeley Guide.
When I return, I wait. …
It’s an art.
I wait longer than I need to take my clothes out of the dryer. I’m still ignorant of the rules of this land and after what happened with the futon cover machine, I’m afraid if I stop the dryer to check if my clothes are dry and they aren’t, maybe I won’t be able to start it again. When I do stop it, things are burning hot. I’m not exaggerating here. I am trying not to cry out as I extract onesies from the depths of this fire pit that singe my arms with their metal snaps. I begin to understand the presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe. These machines are mean. You need someone on your side.
Clean and folded, my laundry has grown in size exponentially from what it was coming in. Lugging it in two bags to the car, I feel a little like Isaac trying to carry around his dad’s work bag. I teeter-totter, making funny faces and walking a dizzy line, finally tripping and falling forward over my burden. No one picks me up and cuddles me. No one tells me I’m cute. Inside, the demon machines roar quietly in smug recognition and crank up the heat another notch.
The week following these incidents, I am reluctant to partake in certain activities I used to enjoy, like sitting with Isaac as he practices spooning yogurt into his mouth. I’m jumpier playing outside with him. I mean, what’s that line all those parents use? Something like “Don’t get dirty, Honey!” And that certain laundry pile was much bigger. The half-dirty pile. The one of “if I get to do a wash soon, this could go in, but I’m not making full commitment to its filth and if I need to wear it again before I get to do a wash, shit, I’m putting it on.” What’s a snot line here or there, between friends?
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Lately I’ve been quizzing Mike on the cats’ physiques.
“Don’t you think Zappy looks thinner?” (I’m met with silence.) “Well, don’t you?”
I stroke Emily’s plush coat head to tail, beaming like a proud Mama. “Emi’s trimming down a little, wouldn’t you say?” (Mike raises an eyebrow; leaves the room.)
On the inside of one of the doors of my desk, I have a photograph of Zap Mama when she first came to us—eight months old and nursing her kittens, tiny, lithe, face angular, clearly with Asian short hair leanings, her ears sticking up like enormous grey triangles pinned to the top of her puny head. I have no pictures of Emily that soon after she arrived to us. I couldn’t have looked. Her ribs stuck out, her fur was coarse as sea salt, what food she couldn’t finish at one go she’d bury with her toys or her placemat in a heartbreaking move that screamed scarcity issues. But over the years my girls have been, shall we say, making up for time lost?
That could all change now. Our kitty cat fitness program is called: the Baby Gate.
On the Baby Gate Program™ your cat can eat all she wants…as long as she jumps over the safety gate to get to it! That’s right. You too can have a fit and trim kitty in just 90 days with the Baby Gate Program™. The extra-tall, pressure mounted gate fits any doorway space and comes in white to match all the boring walls of a rented house. It goes for a ridiculous amount of money at Target, but we have it for you here for only six easy installments of $9.95 a month. Call right now and we’ll include a SECOND safety gate for FREE that you can put between your cat and her litter pan! Just by performing her normal bodily functions on a daily basis, your cat will LOSE WEIGHT. Call NOW!
(The Baby Gate Program™ is a registered trademark of Isaac Raphael Productions.)
Just when I think I’m all old and grown up I realize that no, I’m still Jonesin’ to be the kid in this arrangement. I’ve often used my blog as a confessional venue and here I am again: I’ve eaten all of Isaac’s string cheese. But have you experienced this stuff lately? I mean, come on! How cool is it? It’s cheese and you pull it off in long strings and eat it and it’s like food and toy all in one! And after a long day of diaper changes and crying fits, a person might need to play with her food. And did I mention it’s cheese too?...
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
I’ll admit it. I had my doubts about this new place before we moved here. Isaac and I are always out and about, the neighborhood matters a lot to us. Before, I’d walk down the picturesque little tree-lined streets of downtown peering in the windows of consignment shops or craning to see the surf crashing just a couple more blocks away. It was gruesomely sweet, strangely polite, cruelly foggy, but it was comforting none the less. What would my new space bring me?
I was buying a bagel sandwich for lunch in the ugly shopping mall that is now what is closest to home – closer than the surf or the unreasonably-priced little blue sets of china. Isaac was in the backpack still sniffling from his teething (#7 and #8 are through the gum line!) and the end of a cold. The woman waiting on us was pleasant enough, kept glancing back at Isaac, admiring my handsome boy, I was sure. As our transaction came to an end and she handed me my change, she leaned in a bit and confided softly, “He’s got mocos.” Excuse me? I asked. “He’s got mocos,” the woman repeated.
Mocos is the Spanish word for snot, boogers, or whatever else might be running or hanging out of the nose. “Oh. Thanks,” I told her, not sure the proper reply to such a statement. But I walked away happy. She didn’t have any kind of accent at all; and I certainly don’t necessarily project “Spanish-speaker” when you see me coming, yet she chose to use and assumed I would know this term, never anticipated I wouldn’t, in fact, even when the unexpected nature of the comment had me asking her to repeat herself; she never altered her vocabulary. Cool. This is the product of our new neighborhood, which, I must tell you, I am enjoying greatly.
I am reminded of a trip Mike and I made once to a hiking spot about an hour away. Before we got there, we stopped in a little town called Gonzalez that sits virtually in the middle of nowhere to get gas. Mike went into the minimart store to pay. He came out beaming. “They spoke to me in Spanish! Me!” he squeaked gleefully, pointing at his Irish, French-Canadian complexion. “What did they say?” I asked him. “I have no idea!” he told me, still high from the experience. “That’s great, honey.”
I think we’ll like it just fine here.
Isaac is obsessed with shoes. He loves them. He wants to wear his all the time. He wants us to wear ours all the time. It signifies going outside, which he wants to do, all the time. So the other day I took him with me to go shopping for a new pair of sneakers, figured he’d like it. He liked it okay, but I was disturbed by the outcome in general.
I tried on one of the only pairs I saw that I liked. I put them on as best I could, since I was in one of those discount clothing stores where the security tags make it impossible to actually tell if the shoes fit, much less if they are comfortable. There you are, a grown adult in public, tottering around in jerky steps, your feet tied six inches apart, a plastic tab digging into the arch of your foot, trying to make it to those leeeeetle mirrors on the bottom of the seats at the end of the aisle so you can see how your potential purchase will look on you. You do your best to enact your imagination so that you can think of yourself striding gracefully through crowds of people who part when you approach and point in awe at your footwear instead of tripping clumsily onto the little seat above the mirror where several pairs of men’s size 10 Adidas have been abandoned, their boxes strewn about.
The problem is that I am a size 8. Sometimes, I’m an 8 and a half. The sneakers I wanted only existed in size 9. They weren’t “super” big, and I bought them. Walking home, Isaac in the backpack wiping snot all over my collar, I realized the implication of what I’d done. It’s as if I don’t or can’t expect to find what I really need, and so, I settle. It’s as if I don’t have faith enough in the Universe to provide what I need, the right thing, that I’ve learned “good enough” is as good as it gets and might give you blisters, but them’s the breaks. I realized I don’t want to pass this lesson on to Isaac. But so far, I haven’t returned the sneakers.
…Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
Shred in his little fist.
--Sylvia Plath, from “Balloons”
Sylvia Plath’s poem “Balloons” is one I’ve always liked a lot. It’s one of my favorite Plath poems. Okay, let’s face it – it’s one of the few I fully understand. I kept thinking of this poem as we prepped for our big birthday/housewarming soiree. Like so many things, it’s changed for me now that I’m a mom. I see it differently these days. As in, what the hell is she doing letting the baby play with a balloon and put it to his mouth?! Can you say ‘choking hazard’?! Put down your pen, woman, and go supervise your child! What are you? Crazy??… Oh. Nevermind.
Wasn’t I supposed to be online on February 20th, yelling to cyberspace about my little boy turning one? One. One whole year on this planet. One. One whole year as a mom. Both of us are still breathing. It’s a triumph, nothing less. But it’s so hard to find the time.
I want to learn how to write about it. New. It’s what we all want isn’t it? To write in fresh turns what we’ve experienced as a species forever. Ha ha! No, Kitty, it’s not what we all want. It’s what you want. Or what writers want. To explain, somehow, about how it’s too much – bearing the weight of his love (i.e., dependence) and then, at other times, how I just look at him, or at the two of them: my boys, and I am overcome, want to lap them up like milk.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Isaac isn’t feeling well. Just a touch of a cold. Snotty, sniffly baby germs passed on in potentially a million ways. Just as things were starting to settle down here and I got rid of a yucky stomach virus myself, and the house is beginning to look like ours, and the list of outstanding projects reaches from nose to toe, not beyond, this – this annoying little sickness, the week before he turns one, the extra fragility, the warm, weary head, the fitful sleep.
This morning we are playing “open the bedroom door, close the bedroom door” in a happy repetition that could numb the brain faster than a quick sip of ice slush at the county fair in August. Isaac is giggly, proud of his skills, fascinated with hinges, periodically lurching into my lap, smiling and wiping snot all over the sleeve of my sweatshirt. Then, as these things go, suddenly the winds of humor change, and he is whiny, lost, not able to communicate what he wants, malcontent with his surroundings.
I remember a brief episode of heightened concentration that took place not long ago and decide to check his diaper. This action greatly displeases the Master, and he calls out for all to hear of the injustice done unto him.
Will against will, we battle. What would be a quick and simple task, becomes a mammoth undertaking. Limbs flail, promises are made and broken, privacy lines crossed, old wounds ripped open anew. Finally, a truce. The stronger party having succeeded more or less well enough in her mission to at least claim a self-defined victory. The weaker participant is vocal, angry, so angry, pulling away, moving on as fast as possible. Away from the source of distress, disgrace, until he stops. Sits. Turns, crying still. Unsure of where he’s headed, realizing the enemy must also be his salvation.
I reach out my arms and he is there, racing back to where he ran from just a moment before. Throwing his tiny body, his underdeveloped ego, against me and holding on. I rock him, hum softly, hold on right back. I never once think of charging him for any rancorous melodrama in the past, never think about imposing my greater strength.
In a matter of minutes he’ll be fast asleep in my arms, his long lashes wet, clumped into triangle rays below the half-circles of his little, flawless eyelids, forming suns like the ones I sketched in the high corners of my drawings as a child. This is how the impossible is possible. It’s like this. Without memory of any old pain lingering. It is in this moment’s scene. Our newfound peace is beautiful.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
So, we've moved into this house, right. And, it just so happens that it is the perfect party house. It has a huge driveway - ample off street parking for the first arrivals, a yard for BBQs and carousing, and a bathroom outside. No, not an outhouse, a real bathroom. See, there's this unfinished addition in the back that now amounts to a patio with a utility room and extra bath off to the side. Truly, once I can stay up past 8:00pm, watch out, par-tee.
In just a couple weeks, my little one will turn a whole YEAR OLD. Unbelievable. I'm sure I'll freak out more about that in another entry, but meantime, we are planning to put together a kind of combo housewarming/birthday deal soon, and so I was thinking... How many one-year-olds have keggers for their big day? Why not grab the present moment to take advantage of our party house? It could be a tradition, in fact. Isaac's birthday could be a real kick ass time every year. He wouldn't know anything else. It's dangerous but true that you as parent set "normal" for your child. Ha. Think about that one while you're deciding which 80s CD to put in over dinner.
Of course, there is the intrusive outside world. I mean, once he made it to kindergarten, say, he could possibly have questions. Questions like "Mommy, why do other kids have their birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheeze?" to which I'd naturally reply, something in the ballpark of "Cause they're wusses, Isaac, now knock the head off that brewsky and slide it over to your mommy, will ya, kid?"
Look, if I don't get a book deal, at least I can give my kid a chance at a juicy memoir.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
okay this is bad. now i can't even pretend. my blog looks like the rest of my life. a complete mess. not regularly updated. picture gone. links not working. sad. very sad. if i told you that after this weekend's move and a bit more time to get settled things will come together more again would you believe me? think carefully about that -- i don't want to lose faith in you all and i'd hate to have to sell you this beautiful swamp land i've been itching to get rid of...
Periodically, I find myself having to get reacquainted with my baby. Or, maybe I should revise that statement, with my little boy. Case in point. As Isaac bursts through one developmental hoop after the other, I find myself temporarily left behind, confused as to why our former routines no longer fit, who this little person is, and generally in need of reestablishing our relationship. I find these times extremely difficult and somewhat painful.
These days Isaac has no patience for baby food, little time to eat period, a great love of the VCR, and more energy than one being should be capable of harnessing within 18 pounds of muscle and bone. Me, I’m just in the way. Well, half the time, that is. Half the time he literally pushes me out of the way, racing on hands and knees to the threshold of whatever adventure he sees in front of him next. The other half of the time, I must be close by – very close – ready to stop the fall, soothe the boo-boo, play home base.
It dawns on me that most of us treat our mothers this way for the rest of our lives, and, perhaps, consequently, the other people we are close to as well. Running toward and running from creates the complete circle. How long do you imagine we would have to live before the elasticity wears thin from so much bounding to and fro, and the string finally breaks, and we are content, still?
Sunday, January 15, 2006
If I had time, this is where I would write about all the latest news in my life in witty and dynamic language. I would talk about our imminent move. How it always rains when we move, how stripping the walls bare does something to me, something sad. I would have something to say about leaving the place where Isaac was born, how I worry about the cats, how I haven’t yet called the utility companies. If I had the time, this is where I would talk about the poetry reading I did a couple nights ago, how much fun it was, how I got to go out like a real adult afterwards, how I adore the cluster of old men poets who tell raucous stories of their decades teaching community college over sushi and chit chat with the waitress in Japanese. If I had the time, I would talk more about these poets, because I really do adore them; I’d talk about their humor and their writing and how I am graced with their support. If I had the time, I’d mention my trip to the east coast, coming right in the middle of our move, how my mom is sick and the doctors have prescribed Isaac, about how my friends pile my arms with snow suits and sweaters Isaac can borrow, about how I feel this tower of fleece and wool as love. If I had the time to write, I’d be sure to write about the three miniature roses I got for Christmas, lined up in white ceramic pots one that says Peace, one that says Joy, and one Love. I’d discuss how the cats attacked Peace, dragged it straight out of its pot and left it in bits in the hallway. How I put it back, knowing it wouldn’t make it, and how the fresh red bud hung like a willow tree, weeping.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
About a month ago, Isaac began pointing. At everything. He wakes up pointing. He goes to bed pointing. And in between, he spends his day pointing. We spend our day naming things at which our baby points. “Lightswitch.” “Computer.” “Bird.” “Door.” “Daddy.”
His world is very concrete at the moment, though sometimes we add commentary. (“That’s a tree, Isaac. Isn’t it pretty?” or “That’s the mail mommy hasn’t opened in four days that lives on the kitchen table. Don’t you want to grow up so you can have mail you don’t open?”)
We name and we name and right now it doesn’t really get tiring. Certainly, for his part, Isaac shows no signs of slowing down in the pointing department.
The other day at the breakfast table, we thought we were witnessing a breakthrough. Not content to wait for Isaac to point on his own (100 million times a day), Mike decided to try to prompt him with a particular direction in mind. “Where’s Mommy?” he asked. “Isaac, where’s Mommy?” he repeated (because you must always say things twice to a baby). Isaac turned right to me with his tiny little index finger outstretched. We got a little excited. Okay, we were bursting. Deciding to push our stupid luck, Mike goes in for the encore. “Where’s Mommy, Isaac? Where’s Mommy?” Without hesitating, Isaac points directly at the plate of toast in front of me.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
“Let’s play train,” my husband says to our 10-month-old for the third day running. He pulls out the wooden three-car block train in primary colors and choo-choos it across the living room floor, ostensibly for Isaac’s benefit.
When it halts within arm’s reach of our baby, my son does what he’s done each time his father has brought the new toy to his attention – he removes the blue smoke stack before losing interest and turning again to chew on the book of jungle animals sent from his aunt in Massachusetts. But it doesn’t matter. My husband has found his in and can now freely play with the train as if the baby were involved.
Mostly I find this scene endearing. Then there are the days when I wonder at boys' fascination with trains. When it begins (apparently after 10 months), how it begins. I wonder when innocent choo-chooing takes on higher stakes - moves into high-speed chugging through mountain passes, ends in derailments. I wonder at what point damsels begin to be tied to the tracks, and if they ever notice.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Today’s idea for a working title is “Bathing my Son in the Sink: Tales of a Renter Mom.” We’re moving again. Third time in two years. Not terribly far. A house with a yard. A rent jump (understatement). Just in time for my little terminator to have more room and his parents to babyproof. Not in time to see my bulbs bloom. Not easy to explain the pain this leaves in my heart. And yet, our new place with have a bathtub. Imagine.
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Isaac says to tell you all Happy New Year - May your 2006 be filled with an unlimited supply of Cheerios and always something new to point at.