Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Detour or Day Twenty-Four (You Decide): Motherhood, Weather and the Unsettling of Minds in the Heartland

Flying at Night

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.
- Ted Koosner

The next day, I woke up in the Stuart City Park in Stuart, Nebraska (population 685). Let me clarify – I was not face down in a puddle of my own vomit or anything. I was in the camper van, camping.

Huge shade trees I could not identify, talked and talked about the wind. I couldn't decide whom I was more angry with about missing the cabin last night – Mike and or myself. Nevermind, though. Same result. I was in a state.

Slights were accumulating. Remember Hot Springs, SD? The lazy river on inner tubes, the happy van? I wanted to stay. Just one more night. We left so fast; we had to leave, according to my husband, to go east. And now, my cabin resort up in smoke. The imperative. Hurry! Go! GO!!

“How come I've only felt the baby move one time?” Isaac asks me.

“Because you're too impatient to leave your hand there longer,” I tell him.

The same goes for his father. It's complicated. No one can be with me in this, and yet, I think I want them to be. I think I do; I spend great swivels of the mind being lonely around my lack of company in it. But on some level, simultaneously, I know it is ridiculous. Others will inevitably fall short; they are not a home to this child. And so I am faced with the question of whether I am enough. Me. To honor it, take care of it, tell my driver when it's time to stop the van.

“You didn't sleep that well last night, huh?” my husband tries. “I wonder why.”

You know the old game of adding “in bed” to the end of every Chinese fortune? My game, the one I have carefully reserved – through desert, the Arizona heat, the Santa Fe cold, the Rockies, the Black Hills, in short, thousands of miles – adds “because I'm carrying YOUR CHILD” to the end of any response. I think it, but don't say it. I will not walk into this trap of my own making. I will remain silent in my righteousness. I hear some preggos have king-sized beds and body pillows.

The boys return from the restroom and report a bird apparently trapped there, unable to find its way out. “That thing's confused,” Mike says dismissively. Later, I will see the bird shoot from the men's room door and notice the nest expertly attached to the crook in the wall just outside of it. She knew exactly how to get out; what she wanted was for them to get out. She was protecting her babies. For this she was dismissed, crazy.

My mother's picture taped up in the back of the van is staring at me. It is almost the one-year anniversary of when she left this planet. Just left. Can you believe it? Left the bowling alleys, the boarded up gift shops, the city parks with their camping spaces and bird's nests. In the picture, she is standing on one of her favorite garden paths next to a sign that reads, “Why Are You Hurrying?”

I am teetering.

Mike has left the radio on for the weather report and then gone out to fiddle with something van-ish. Between books of the Bible, I catch something about a tornado in Western Massachusetts. I think I've made it up. Nonetheless, I switch off the radio so that my overly anxious and imaginative six-year-old doesn't inquire about whatever it was. I text my sister. Yes, tornado. Springfield. Westfield. Four dead. Very close to where we are moving. Westfield is where my in-laws are. Mike returns and I say nothing.

Norfolk is listed as a “major city” along the Cowboy Trail. We find a lunch place and though I am embarrassed of my red swollen eyes, the also-pregnant waitress takes me in kindly. I eat every scrap of my food, and then, we exchange birth stories.

Outside the winds are still blazing hot and strong-armed. I am searching the horizon. I do not know for what.

At the Norfolk Public Library, I overhear two women talking. One has just been to Joplin, Missouri to try to help the tornado victims there. They mention the twister in Massachusetts. The state has been declared a disaster area. “The weather here today feels... (the woman pauses) ... stormy,” she finishes meaningfully.

Someone has an odd-sounding ringtone on their phone and I jump at the siren-like sound.

I discover I will miss poet and native Nebraskan Ted Koosner's visit to the library by less than a week. Why has it taken me 3,000 miles to remember that it's poetry that will help me make sense of the senseless?

I tell Mike about the Massachusetts tornado, and he goes to the van to call home.

There is a rule in metaphor. You never choose a point of comparison that is in reality exponentially more significant than its partner point. Still, I can't shake the desire to recall how after 911, I flinched at the sound of airplanes for months. There was a rootlessness to that time that I can taste now. We are nowhere; this is where tornadoes happen, not the other side of the country where we will try to make a home, a home, how is that done again? my mother is missing, or maybe I am just missing my mother, I will be a mother, I am a mother, how is that done again? The world is upside down, and they won't stop the ride.


Daryl said...

You must must must publish this diary .. you are the most awesome writer .. and I miss your mother too.

Rita said...

Missing Mom, yes, missing Mom. And I have thought of the unfairness of you as a young mother missing Mom.
Glad you did find your pregnant waitress to be respite for the weary traveler.
Hadn't realized Massachusetts was actually declared a disaster area after the twister, but we surely were startled they'd had one. Even Philadelphia had a little twister and a tiny earth tremor.
Didn't know the fortune cookie version, but Mom said kids used to add "under the covers" to the titles of Reader's Digest articles.
Love and peace.

Jani said...

Love the stories. I will definitely need to go through this next year as we plan our own trip East in a less than cool van so that I catch all the good kid things! And, I totally get the missing mom. It was 2 years ago this past Saturday for me.

Susannah said...

I think about the state of mind in which there are storms brewing , and the furrows which form on the brow from the churning internal air. You describe this state so well. I feel the frustration, the self-condemnation, the consolation of the pregnant waitress, the vastness of the loss of your mother. And I know what a great mother you are. I admire how you can put so much down on a page, in so few words. Of course, I thought of you immediately when I heard about the Springfield tornado...

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