Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not the freaking apple again

(After eating orange almond cookies and reading an article from the NY Times about “greatness” in poetry that was a front to simply weep over the ol' boys club of letters.)

Kitty: “Boys suck. They're mean, they're bossy, and they smell. They want to control everything; and they make war.”

Mike: ”They tried to make cookies, but apparently they made the wrong kind and so they decided to make war instead.”

K: “Who makes cookies without chocolate?? So, you're telling me that all the ills of the world are because women nagged men who in turn felt like they couldn't get things right and so lashed out?”

M: “Pretty much.”

K:”Nice, hon, nice.”


“Do you wanna see my M I made now that I'm 4 that's even gooder than the Ms I usually made when I was 3 and 11 months?”

Friday, February 20, 2009


"Mama, I'll STAY four tomorrow too, right?"

"Yes, Isaac."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the bizarre bits of the moment

Isaac's grandmother always wants to hear about the goofy things he says. Isaac quotes are very much in demand. At this stage – on the precipice of the fourth anniversary of his arrival among us earthlings – the volume of amusing – or not – goofy things he says is such that I really couldn't keep up if I tried.

I admit to becoming one of those parents who, when her child informs her that the frisbee in his hand is really a magical strobe light that sends streams of stars toward other planets, is wont to reply with phrases like, “That's nice, honey.” and go about my business. Because, honestly, it is the rare occasion that I am not required to do something with the magical strobe light myself, or when I am free to roam the house without being accosted in some way by said strobe, or that I'm not begged to make various and sundry stuffed animals speak about their impressions while watching stars shoot off into the galaxy, so that if he wants the washing machine to be a volcano from which explosions of lima beans erupt every 12 hours, except when he presses this special button that only he can see located atop the refrigerator and he must wear Daddy's socks on his hands to protect himself from excess applesauce – a natural by-product of this whole phenomenon, I'm all for it, just let me drink my tea; I'll clean up later.

I know, these years go too fast, and I'm a terrible person for not cherishing more every nano-second. I'm okay with that. I excel at being a terrible person.

But, still, to save myself, if that's still possible, in the eyes of a few, and for the sake of his grandmother, I will leave you with this: Instead of a dream last night, Isaac reports that he had this song quietly playing in his head:

Twinkle little star.
An octopus fell into the mud.
He found water under the mud.
Hippo, hip-hip-hip-hippo.
The lion knocked down a building.

If you ask really nicely, I might upload the video covering an expose on wildebeests. Maybe. If I'm feeling in the mood to embrace the moment.

Monday, February 09, 2009


we thread the needle
of our cars down
the crowded streets
sewing the neighborhood
in exhaust, stitching ribbons
of hurry. Behind us,
our children strapped in
for the ride didn't ask
for this pattern.

Isaac in the hood

I am reminded again and again by my small person that nothing has a value until you place one on it.

Lately, when we get in the car – at 7:50am, say, to drive the mile and a half to preschool, Isaac has taken to asking us me to turn the radio up and open the window. As he explained, he's seen other people do this – Kanye West blaring from their low riders – and he, too, would like to share his music with folks who happen by.

What you must know, however, is that Isaac's favorite stop on the local radio dial is the R&B and Old School station. This means that as our Mazda 3 hatchback cool-mobile heads down the hill, we are rocking out to tunes like the Four Tops' “Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got,” Al Green's “Let's Stay Together” and that all time favorite of the cruisers bad beats - the Temptations spitting “My Girl.”

Sometimes when I sing along Isaac will ask me wide-eyed, “How did you learn that? How do you remember all those words?” I start to explain how we absorb what is around us. How we have almost unlimited capacity to learn. But then, this seems a redundant lesson.

My son is nothing if not generous. And why shouldn't he share the meaning he makes of this insane world with same?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Weather's great. Don't wish you were here.

William Stafford was one of those people who exuded serenity. One of those people who when you heard him start to speak, your shoulders left their place next to your ears and traveled back home. By all accounts he was kind and gentle and onto to some kind of portal to the self. He is one of those people I often find myself longing to meet, though he's been gone some 15 years.

One of Stafford's writing habits was to get up before anyone else in the house and write a poem, every day.

There is a video that was made with Stafford and Robert Bly called "A Literary Friendship" in which Stafford describes a period of time when his then-young daughter started getting up with him. Naturally, this defeated the purpose of getting up early for him. He solved the problem in a very Stafford kind of way - not by telling his daughter to go back to bed or by altering his routine, but by getting up earlier and earlier each day until he was up at something like 3 am and the child finally couldn't manage to join him.

Whenever I get up, Isaac's mama-radar goes off immediately and there he is next to me. Every time, every bloody time. I have a piece of poem in my head and there he is; I want a cup of tea in the dark fog to collect my thoughts, here's my baby; I have a revision nagging at me and think I'll get a jump start on the day's short work hours -- good luck to me with the King of Questions sidled up beside me.

Today, it was 5:45 am, and I couldn't sleep. All I wanted to get to was reading this article and I would have been satisfied. But somehow my quietly snoozing boy who'd been sound asleep since 7:30 pm last night after a tearfully napless afternoon was sitting on my lap before I could even make it to the website.

I am not William Stafford. Nor, you may have noticed, do I possess his infinite supply of patience and acceptance. And I'm just gonna take a wild guess here and say that patient healing soul or not, when that man got his ass up at 3 am, he didn't also have to make breakfast and haul his kid to school 4 hours later. I'm just going out on a limb here and say that his wife picked up the non-writerly slack in the family.

It has been one of those weeks. The kind when I want to send my family postcards from a lovely nook of country - very far away. The afternoons are too long and I guiltily find myself wondering if that new "Bob the Builder" DVD has come in at the library yet. It is the Only-Child week - the kind of week where I tell myself "See, this is what you get!" and my singleton dances on my every nerve, from atop his throne that happens to sit right at the center of the Universe.

It is a vicious circle I live with -- The more I need space, the more my son senses something and clings. Isaac is very similar to me emotionally. I understand his moods and his reactions and his needs - and they drive me batty. Some might call this pay back. Sometimes I call it part of the learning. But that's just the William Stafford in me talking.

Just Thinking

Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.

No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held

for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Been on probation most of my life. And

the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments

count for a lot--peace, you know.

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,

bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one

stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.

-- William Stafford

Monday, February 02, 2009

if I had a hammer

Barn's burnt down--
I can see the moon.

When we first moved to California, we got an apartment that was a good apartment, one that we felt lucky to have landed – both because of the housing crunch at the time and the fact that prior to that we were living in a tent. Should I have to mention we had no jobs? – and me, the about-to-be-grad-student, with no prospects for getting one.

We stayed in that apartment for 5 and a half years. Longer than I can remember staying anywhere for quite some time. At about the five-year mark, I got antsy. Maybe we should move. I was aided in my thought process by a rat-bastard property manager that was dumber than mud and with whom I had multiple heated arguments. Most of them involved some invasion of privacy and loss of garden. We were renters in a majority owner-occupied condo complex and enthusiastically ignored. I've written poems about this experience. They aren't pretty.

Mike wasn't so sure about the move. I couldn't explain in any real terms why (besides the manager) I wanted out. It just seemed like maybe it was time.

After getting really ripped one night at the bar around the corner and complaining loudly about each of our neighbors as I gripped Mike's arm while teetering along the path back to our place, we decided it might indeed be that time.

We found a new place and voila! the move was on. Two months later our new landlord called to say she wanted her house back. And so began our next 5 years – move after move after move. My friends hauled away furniture while I lay curled on whatever soft thing was left, queasy as all get out, 6 weeks pregnant. Then, for Isaac's first two birthdays we celebrated by moving. If we refer to something in the past or if we look at pictures, Isaac will ask whether it was in the old house, the old-old house, or the old-old -old house.

Nowadays, we talk about the possibility of having our very own house some day. Of buying one or building one. When I first brought up the concept of buying a house, Isaac went pensive for a long time, then came the questions: “How will we get it home? Will it fit in Auntie Bridgett's truck?” Since then, my boy has moved along with us in our dream. Sometimes he'll tell me about how when he gets bigger we'll have lots of trees in the yard. And lots of grass and lots of garden. He'll show me just how crazy he'll run around when we have all that space. He speculates on how many pomegranate trees we will have in the orchard.

Not one to dismiss his history, however, Isaac has also started to talk about the time when he can come back to this house, “when this house is old.” Despite the fact that we have many fond memories accumulating in our current locale, pretty much all of Isaac's conscious ones, and are about to celebrate – imagine – his third birthday in a row! in this same house, he, quite frankly, can't wait to knock it down.

Demolition as high on his list of interests as building, he describes to me in detail the demise of our hearth and home. The windows is his room are going first, or, some days, the front door. BAM! SMASH! Down it will come – WHAMMO! Crumbling into tiny pieces under his direction and ambitious agenda. And then this wall, and the bathroom that mama's always hated anyway – VROOM! CRUNCH! All of it razed. He'll be using his current tools – sturdy colorful plastic numbers our friends Barb and Chris got him when he turned one, plus the piece of oak branch he uses for a jackhammer.

When I first arrived in Hungary in 1994 to take a job teaching English in a secondary school, a woman who remains a friend to this day, Anna, toured me around the city. It was an odd kind of circuit. Every so often, she'd point and say something like, “See that spot over there? There, where there's nothing. That's where the Lenin statue was.” “There?” I'd try to confirm, never sure I had the right spot of nothing picked out, scanning the plaza or bus station or street corner. “Yes,” she'd say, “There. Just there. You see?” “Uh-huh,” I'd say, not wanting to be disagreeable.

While the metaphor doesn't carry over so smoothly – our house is not a Lenin statue, not a representation of oppression and loss, sometimes you have to get things out of the way to move forward. Even things that aren't obvious obstacles. I'll admit I've started to fantasize about when this house no longer stands – in the figurative sense – hoping (because we're allowed that emotion now) that this will be the last one we can't paint the walls of, the last one we look at on moving day and say, “Why wasn't it ever this clean when we lived here?” Maybe it's no Lenin, but it's one in a line of rentals, a line of not-ours. Maybe the last one.

Share Related Posts with Thumbnails