Friday, June 29, 2012

something to sink your teeth into

trying to look innocent, eating corn flakes and sporting avocado-applesauce shampoo.

"Does baby have a little toofy?"

There is a stranger goo-goo-gaa-gaaing at my baby on the bike path and I've warned her he may be cute, but the kid takes no prisoners when it comes to biting.

“Is there a toofy in there? Hmm??”

“Um, he has 8,” I tell the woman, who clearly has not taken my warning seriously enough.

She stops, straightens up, drops the gooey smile and looks me in the eye. “Eight?”


“Well,” she says in a huff of exhale, as if offended by my infant's dental progress.

I'm relieved to have snapped her out of her baby talk, though I can see this will end our recently ignited relationship.

You could say Rhys experiences the world through taste. One of his favorite things to play with is the large Rubbermaid container of his socks (all of which are either too big or too small, like a true full moon, they only really fit him for a moment. Aaaaaaand...NOW! ). His favorite way to play with his sock container is to tilt it to his face and catch the falling socks in his mouth. He then grips the captured
sock or pair of socks in his teeth like a puppy playing tug-o-war and, solidifying the analogy, shakes his head from side to side snarling.

The child eats anything he can get his hands on – food, yes, but also any accompaniments – the avocado peel, for example, all the grass he can cram in his face, a cheese stick, stolen from my hands, the plastic wrapper torn open easily with his fangs before I can even react.

At the one play group I've managed to attend at the library, all the other babies were mobile but mine. Rhys surveyed the room with excitement, his chubby little arms and legs kicking and flailing at the sight of the other babes. There he sat on his blanket while half a dozen babies tottered around him or zipped by on all fours and his pleasure grew untethered. High-pitched hoots escaping his mouth, he waited until one of the wee ones got within striking distance and then – blam!-- he'd reach out as far as he possibly could, leading with his mouth wide open. Mama's little attack spider manning his web.

The other day I noticed the netting on his pack-n-play portable crib was torn in two places. Odd, I thought. Until I realized, that, no, it's not been torn, it's been bitten.

I'm thinking his first words might be “Tastes like chicken.”

conducting. the world is his edible symphony.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

two years

I have been on international flights where we landed at the same time we left. Time hovered, waiting for us as we soared some 40,000 feet in the sky. Nothing moved forward.

Is this an analogy for grief? A fantasy world for the mourning? Dickens' broken clocks and cobwebbed wedding dress? Or some free pass - the golden ticket in the chocolate bar wrapper?

It's two years today since we lost mom.

This morning Isaac arrives in front of me in the kitchen and announces he's going on a "nature safari,"then points to the camera hooked to his belt loop. It was my mother's camera. It still has her name and address label inside, still her pictures on the memory card, including the shots of her garden she took a couple hours before the ambulance arrived, the last ones she would ever take in a lifetime of picture taking.

We gave Isaac the camera when he turned 6 years old so he'd have something of his grandmom. He used it on the cross country trip/move, a little afterwards, but I he hasn't touched it or mentioned it for months. Until this morning.

My Mother Never Said Goodbye

It used to drive me crazy.
Okay, talk to you soon.
And then, click. Or it was,
Love ya, dear. Then a rupture

of connection. I'd be left
holding the receiver
to silence. Bye, mom!
I'd sometimes call, eye-rolling
into the nothing. Bye! Goodbye!

Things didn't change at the end.
We were planning hospice; she
was resting comfortably. And then,
click. Just silence. Goodbye

was a formality she didn't see
the need for. Superfluous.
For me, a strange gap
where closure should be.

It's jarring not to hear goodbye
from the woman who taught you
manners, from the one who
pinned your name
to your plaid dress when you were five
and put you on the bus
for the first time.

Once, much later, she put me on a bus again.
I was 20-something, another adventure
I'd half-planned. She drove me
to the station, watched me buy my ticket,

and then stood on the curb, as I settled
into my seat, as the bus pulled back.
She was still watching me while the engine
efforted into drive, which is why she didn't

notice how close she was to the curb, why
she slipped off at an odd angle, breaking,
I'd later discover, her ankle, She continued
to smile and wave, not in goodbye,

but in a gesture that dismissed my concern,
in a you-go-on-I'm-fine kind of way.
And I went on. What else could I do?
The bus was in motion. It was as if

she'd planned it that way and I whispered
to the grimy window, Bye, mom! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

If Isaac Ruled the World (Isaac & Rhys' guest post)

(click to enlarge any images) "Peas every day..."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ode to the Mexican Tacquería in Northampton, Mass

Bless your enchilada-less menu that brings me, no really,
to tears as I stand there hoping for dinner. True depth
of emotion is so hard to find our daily lives.

Praise to your tasteless beans, lukewarm pile in a Styrofoam box;
they won't burn my hungry boy's mouth, their lack of spice refusing
to detract his focus from the beauties of spring that surround us.

Light and love go with your bored, surly employees, not one
of whom is Mexican, but who here, in this Land of Opportunity,
can nonetheless work in a self-proclaimed ethnic eatery,
stepping up to the counter as they do, to offer me, a stranger,
their assistance.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

This Tiny Body Curled Against Mine

its mouth wide, waiting for the breast
and there I am, placed in the family
of things. Just another mammal.
And, yes, I want exactly 
what the doe and the fox mother want –
for him to one day rise, sure
in his defenses and walk
on his own power through the woods.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


It's one of those times when I think: "What kind of stars exactly have had to align to find me here in this moment -- sitting in my car on a Tuesday night in rural Massachusetts in the parking lot of a Big Y supermarket listening to The Cure on the radio and eating Poptarts?" I know many of you have likely asked yourselves that very question probably a million times.

It is the Great Baby Escape 2012.

Life paths are funny things. Say to me 20 years ago - "You will have two kids and be excited when you haven't burned the lasagna!" And my 22-year-old self will laugh, "Screw off!" and skip carefree across the Ponte Vecchio while awaiting the end of the Italian train strike. Say it to me 3 years ago and I will laugh equally hard  before zipping south on Highway 1 toward a writing retreat along the Big Sur coastline.

Rhys is 10 months old today. Unless you are adjusting for his four-week early birth. These days I think of it mostly in terms of getting a jump start on that sleep deprivation.

I am at a wall. This is hard. I am tired. More than tired. My friends are far away. I am sad.

Every day I encounter people whose paths I ponder.

The podiatrist who sees me for 7-minute meetings in a dingy little office every couple months and asks with a shrug and not a glance at my little piggies how everything is going but has never inquired about my lifestyle or factors affecting the issues with my feet and who can squeeze me in three weeks later when I'm in pain... is this what he dreamed of doing with his time on this earth?

The TV meteorologist who shudders at the rain in an Everyman kind of attempt at camaraderie and asks leading dramatically-presented, pre-commerical break questions such as, "Will we see any improvement by the weekend?!?" ...does he sleep well at night believing he's contributing to a better world?

The contractor, who you are supposed to imagine building something with tools and his hands despite his sharply ironed pink designer label button down and perfect hair, and who uses your name too much ("Kathryn, I'm glad we could meet today. Let me ask you a few more questions, Kathryn...")...what did he want to be when he grew up?

And me. Who knows. Who knows what I wanted. All I want now is sleep. But do remember this -- the world needs saving, people. Choose your Poptarts carefully.

Take a stroll into a flashback post...This time last year.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Writer's Almanac

Every morning, for I don't remember how many years now, I get the Writer's Almanac in my email inbox.

I don't always read them, sometimes I am just too busy, and other times I've stuck my straw into the eternal spring of hope again, sipping, sipping, and thought that some better, more relaxed time would arrive to me where I could open the little missal and read it in luxury – quietly, while drinking tea, retaining all there was to know, growing inspired by a line of the poem or the life noted within to go off and write my own ditty that would be published somewhere fabulous and – well, gosh, why not – picked up by the Writer's Almanac.

I keep these unread messages and do open some on occasion. But there are many I haven't gotten to. April 18, March 5 and May 2 of this year, for example, as well as a trove of other unreads that go back a ways: December 26, 2011 and October 13, 2011. And I know there are many many more. Maybe someday I will open December 1, 2010 and see whose birthday it was, learn something.

Reading the Writer's Almanac you get a sense of a life made tidy by an intern or two, reported in that plodding Midwestern voice of Garrison Keillor. No matter what cruelty, insanity or banality the author might have been subject to as a child or dished out as a young adult or witnessed in old age, everything sounds perfectly natural and under control. The years dodging alcoholic parents, the three arrests, the ultimate decision to become a chicken farmer, take up a mere line and a half. Facts are facts and life's most treacherous turnings are spun into now plain and logical-sounding phrases that begin with “so.”

So, he spent the next 17 years traveling in South America.
So, she quit school at age 9.

And, of course,
So, he decided to become a writer.

You have to appreciate a format in which writers are made to sound sane and whole, where all of the drama and heartbreak of life is woven into a synopsis one can chew like a sweet digestive all because it's someone's birthday. They were here once. Maybe they still are. They wrote a book. How much richer we all are for it.

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