Well, not completely. But it was harder than I thought it would be. This is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I am ready for a break. Ready for a chance to post when I actually have something to say. On the other hand, the challenge was incredibly stimulating and obviously motivating. I mean, one of the slogan's isn't "Blog today, tomorrow you will be eaten" for nothing!
Tomorrow Pea turns 7 months old and I am going to spend tonight thinking about how that could even be possible. Already? I just barely brought her home! Already? I don't have my body back yet! Already? I don't even have us on a comprehensive schedule yet! Already? I still can't figure out how to have the WHOLE house clean ALL AT ONCE! Already....? And she's more beautiful and funny and lovely and joyful than I could ever have imagined. And busy. Oh, well. Means the next one will be quieter, right? RIGHT? Help me out, here!
Well, not completely. But it was harder than I thought it would be. This is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I am ready for a break. Ready for a chance to post when I actually have something to say. On the other hand, the challenge was incredibly stimulating and obviously motivating. I mean, one of the slogan's isn't "Blog today, tomorrow you will be eaten" for nothing!
Penelope.... whenever I start to write to you the words get all tumbled around and don't come out nearly as lovely or simply as I intend. Thinking about you and everything that's happened the last month makes me choke up, both inside and outside. You are the greatest treasure of my life and every day I say desperate prayers heavy with insistence and desire--that I would always do the very best I can with you, that I would have great wisdom and great compassion, and that I would be a worthy keeper of your heart while you are small and not wholly formed.
Today while we were playing on the floor you kept crawling over to me, as fast as your still-tender knees could go, pulling yourself up on my knees and giving me big, sloppy, open-mouthed kisses. Just as fast, you were back on your knees chasing your toys. This happened over and over and over and I don't know if I can even communicate to you the emotions that stirs up inside my heart. I would love you just as much if you weren't affectionate but being loved by you like this, openly and passionately and slobbery.... well, it's very, very humbling. And very, very precious.
Obviously, I've fallen off the wagon. The NaBloPoMo wagon. The one where I'm supposed to be posting every day. And I did, until the last couple days. So if it truly is more about how you finish than how you start (thanks, youth pastors of the world.... !!!) then I am a Quitty McQuitterson and I suck.
The truth, though, which is more interesting and oh, yeah, TRUE, is that the last few days I've had so much on my mind and heart that I can't even get a single word down. There's so much going through my brain, fast and furiously, that I don't even know where to start. It's truly overwhelming.
Here are a few posts to try and make up for my lazy-ass laziness the last couple of days. Work with me.
Whenever it rains like this at night, great blasts of water hitting the house and spitting against the windows, I get really thoughtful and my mind starts working things over and chewing on big, complicated themes. I'm not exactly sure why, but it probably has something to do with how safe I feel, in contrast to the weather. I haven't always lived somewhere that feels warm and weather-tight, and our little, crappily-constructed duplex makes up for all its other faults (and they are legion) by being rain and wind-proof and by having lovely gas heat that stays inside. I haven't always lived with people that were safe or felt steady, but now I share this house with a man who loves me passionately and genuinely. Even though I'm sure that some days he'd like a break from my neuroses. Tonight the themes I find myself mulling over are love and loss and friendship. How hard it is to keep things alive that are so inherently fragile that something as small as a misunderstood word or a misinterpreted glance can cause months, or even years, of hard work to seemingly go down the tubes.
It is so hard for me to speak openly and honestly when I feel that I've been misunderstood. My typical response is to just take it-- take the accusation or assumption and apologize all over myself just so I don't have to risk causing even more confusion by explaining myself and having that be misunderstood as well. I know it's immature and more than a little dysfunctional, but addressing things honestly scares me. It means truly coming clean about the contents of my heart and being vulnerable, and I have a hard time not seeing that as just another chance at getting my teeth kicked in. If I take such a big risk as to let someone know what I was truly thinking and truly meaning and all the reasons why and all the stories and memories behind it (the context), it feels like they'll have me backed into the corner for sure, where they can make jokes and tell me how silly I am and how lame my experiences are compared to theirs and all the knowledge and wisdom they possess. So once again I nod politely, take the blame, shoulder the misplaced accusation, and silently vow to never open my heart to this person again. Because it's so much fucking work. It's like the t-shirts that say, "My grandchildren went to Disneyland and all I got was this stupid shirt", except this one would read, "I tried to get to know this person and spent hours and hours listening and learning and trying to share and all I got was this bruise on my heart."
It wasn't long ago that I decided to change the way I respond in such situations and of course the tests came quickly. Twice in the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to choose honesty and potential pain, or silence and the far worse pain of my heart snapping closed. I did it. I chose to be honest in the midst of situations that, quite frankly, scared the ever-living shit out of me. Mostly because the things said were out of nowhere and from people whose motives I already have a hard time trusting. You'd think that would make it easier but it makes it worse because I don't know for sure if they really like me or if they just put on a good show because it's the right thing to do. Don't get me wrong--this isn't about receiving approval. It's just that if I have a hard time feeling truly accepted by them in the first place, then it makes the honesty process even harder. Because then my gut reaction of withdrawing seems legitimate and perhaps even called for. But I want to learn how to be open and honest even with people who reject parts of me or even all of me. I want to offer honesty even when it hurts and terrifies me because way down deep inside I know it's the only way relationships have a chance of growing and strengthening.
I did it. The results were mixed. In one situation the other person opened their heart wide open to me as well and we were able to backtrack and pick up the pieces and put things in the right place. Sharing from the heart and emotions and not just the head--why oh why is that so hard for us poor humans? I ended up crying, actually sobbing, with relief. The other one? We'll have to see, and that hurts too because I care about that person a lot and admire the strength and tenacity that I see in them.
I've experienced, and unfortunately been involved in, many "confrontation encounters" born out of misguided discernment and badly handled truth. So help me God, I will never again quote scripture at someone like that when it's the complete opposite of Jesus' way. I've repented so many times. I'm just realizing that that's probably a big reason why I hate dealing with this kind of thing.
Pea got to have sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, crackers, cucumber slices to suck on, and sweet bell peppers to chew on. She was one grateful little girl. And she was the closest thing to a stuffed turkey that we had this year as we now subscribe to the "no stuffing inside the insides" method (it produces evenly cooked, juicy meat with no potential side-effects).
And that highchair? $19.00 at Ikea and marvelously free from layers of frilled gingham, over-stuffed cushions that trap food in secret dark places until the mold is so thick you smell it, and big, clumsy, over the tray toys apparently intended to manically soothe children's innate fear of food and eating. It also doesn't take up a whole breakfast nook. What? I know.
It's Thanksgiving, the holiday that sometimes I think I like more than Christmas. We've had a great day--family, amazing (truly!) food, laughter, Penelope, and so much dairy, gluten, and sugar that my poor little tummy swelled up like a big exercise ball. Jeffrey made a PERFECT turkey (tender, moist, incredible flavor) and his signature gravy that's nice and silky with cream, cognac and thyme. I made bread stuffing with fresh sage, thyme, finely diced onions, celery and shallots, marsala, and some sausage from New Seasons chock full of figs, garlic, marsala and thyme. Then there was the orange ginger sweet potato puree, the mashed potatoes with green onions, the cranberry compote with apples and oranges, and the green beans cooked with bacon and feta. And then there was an amazing apple pie and a perfect pumpkin pie--Jeremy is the new "crust king". I'm going to call him Crusty for short. We just finished watching Mostly Martha, one of my favorite movies and the perfect mood. Off to bed with my roly-poly jelly belly.
Stolen from another blog as I don't have much time today: 3 x 3 = 9, yesterday, today and tomorrow in three words.
Yesterday: Abby, babies, Weeds
Today: cleaning, pears, rain
Tomorrow: dairy, sugar, gluten*
*I've been on a nutritional cleanse, so quite frankly this is what I'm most looking forward to.
It has begun. What I have eagerly anticipated and secretly dreaded. Penelope can now crawl forward. She is thrilled and I am painfully aware of of how much baby-proofing there is to do. Every night in the bath, now, are two, very red, little knees and one very tired girl.
On another note, the top four teeth continue their slooooow and painful descent. At this rate they'll be half-dropped by Christmas and just in time for lame jokes about all she really wants.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:48 PM
This blog is supposed to be a simple, unfussy journal of my daughter's first year, what it's like to know her, be her, and live with her. But then I signed up for that silly 'BloMo challenge, the one that requires me to post daily. Can I just say that posting every day on a blog such as this is B-O-R-I-N-G. I've been taking a look at some of the other incredibly accomplished and prolific writers who are also a part of this crazy scheme and reading their work is, comparatively, the proverbial breath of fresh air. They are funny, they are witty, they have lives brimming full of exciting places to go, people to see, and things to do. They are crafty, creative, and imaginative. I feel the need to remind myself, and anyone out there actually reading this tiny, silly blog, that it's whole purpose and intent is as a record for my daughter of what the first part of her life was like. Something I can give her when she's grown that will fill her on some of the snippets and scraps of moments and memories too easily forgotten or discarded. That's all this was ever supposed to be. So forgive me for not being super clever and fall-out-of-your-chair hilarious--one day, maybe, I'll have the time.
On a happier note, here is a photo I took a couple days ago. I can't believe that she's already this big!
I have been working with Pea on animal sounds lately, and copying other sounds that she hears. This morning in bed I made a particularly loud one and she reached over and popped her pacifier into my mouth. Straight in.
There's nothing like your six and a half month baby daughter telling you to put a cork in it.
It seems like everything is falling apart around here. In the past two weeks Jeffrey's had one shirt and two pairs of pants (nice, expensive ones) become no longer suitable for work (though I suppose the hobo look could eventually become white-collar uniform), various light bulbs around the house have suddenly needed changing, our DVD player gave up the ghost (granted, it's been trying since the day after we got it, three years ago), Jeffrey and I each have had a headlight go out on our cars, the power keeps going out in one-half of the upstairs, and our stereo system is now hanging on by a thread. Or perhaps a wire.
And I'm so tired that I can't even take this post any farther.
Pea has added a fourth (fourth, I say!) tooth to the current top-front emergence and today was an often hellish mix of whining, purple-faced crying, and broken-hearted sobbing. I could really use a long, hot soak in a deep, deep tub, a nice box of good chocolate, and a tall glass of wine. Full.
I'm going off to bed to fix what remains of my throbbing head.
Posted by Annagrace at 10:07 PM
I've been thinking a lot today about my heart, and the things hidden deep inside....
It's now been four years since I started questioning the toxic relationships that I called "friends", and began examining what these relationships were truly made of; why they were fast failing. Coming from a classic dysfunctional family (oh, the stories!) I learned early on how to sustain something that should, in fact, be allowed to die. Or walked away from. I was taught how to "missionary friend" someone but not how to be real, how to connect with people, and how to do the hard (and often shitty) but rewarding work of going through life in true community. As a result I was a sucker for two kinds of people: those that stroked my ego but wanted nothing real, and those who offered a fun time but couldn't or wouldn't be vulnerable. It was awful but for a long time I thought it was pretty good. I just couldn't understand why I felt so alone all the time. Now I look around me and see friends, the kind that have earned the title. We've been through so much together--love, loss, happiness, grief, children, marriages, divorce, family trauma, personal trauma, success. We know each other's faults and failures and encourage each other's dreams. There's history and there's trust. It feels so good, so safe, to be so surrounded by people who love me and who I would give my left side for. It's amazing to think that my daughter and future child/children will grow up like this, knowing these people.
I know, though, that I have a tendency to neglect these good friendships, and even, sometimes, take them for granted. I'm determined to take better care of them, to be better at digging in and doing the hard work. I would lost without them, without these amazing people, these incredible gifts. I want Penelope to see me being a true and good friend--I want to somehow spare her the years of toxic weirdness.
Few things in life are quite as fun as handling a complete and total poop explosion in public, outside, by yourself. Especially when the diaper doesn't even put up a fight, just takes a long look at what is headed for it's soft, absorbent layers and gives up. And then having to completely undress your daughter in the cool fall air, trying to keep her sheltered within the stroller she was riding in as you pile wet-wipe after wet-wipe onto the nature strip. On top of the torpedoed diaper. And the other diaper you used as a mitt. Hoping, all the while, that no one will walk by and comment about the waste piling up on the beautiful grass, so close to this nice park with the lovely trees and the children playing, and the drain with the sign reading, "No dumping. Drains to stream."
I feel like I've been all over the map, emotionally, the past few days. Surprise (oh my god, we're pre-qualified for a GOOD chunk of change!), excitement (oh my god, we could actually buy a house soon!), frustration (how are we supposed to afford that kind of mortgage payment on one income?), anger (I wish we would have done more when we did have two incomes), panic (should I be trying to find some sort of job that I could do and still be with Pea?), fear (how are we ever going to make this dream a reality?), and then peace (I just need to let go of this). Actually, that was just Thursday and Friday. Saturday had its own emotional challenges as we talked with our family about some not-so-fun topics, like death and dying, and the realities of aging and disease. Oh, and we did some holiday planning--it's almost surreal, the mix of topics you discuss when you're this age and when you have elderly family. I think that in the space of a couple house I felt anger, irritation, love, happiness, frustration, sadness, and hope. There was more, but I can't piece it all back together at this point.
Penelope has also been very emotional lately. These three teeth are determined to make her earn their presence and she goes from way up to way down much, much faster than usual. Jeffrey and I started awake at 6:30 this morning, as sudden, high-pitched crying erupted from down the hall and through the monitor. We both ran (literally) into her room and tried to soothe her but with no success. She had turned herself a complete 180 degrees from where she was placed at bedtime and had no covers on. It's been really cold here in the mornings and her hands were icy. Have I mentioned that my baby does not like to be cold? At all? In the beginning, when she was first born and still tiny, it was one of the few pieces of evidence that she was also my child. So I took her back to bed with us and I nursed her and she whimpered for a while and then fell back asleep. Tonight we had my sister and brother over for dinner and she was either really, really happy and talkative, or really, really mad with all the veins in her head standing up and out.
I keep having to remind myself to stay emotionally open to her, because when I'm processing a lot of life stuff and she's really intense it's easier for me to just go through the motions and appear to be doing alright, without really giving myself to her. And that's what she needs most. And it's what I need, too, but I often have a hard time remembering.
When I see her in a picture, like this one, where her amazing personality and radiance come through, it's hard to understand how I could go through some days without remembering or really noticing just how amazing she is. She is truly the best thing that has ever happened to me. But that's how it is, with this mothering thing--you give out so much and all the time that you don't even realize you're pulling your heart back inside its shell until it's too late.
Oh man, I want a house of our very own. I really, really do. And I want to get through the holidays without losing my mind or my temper. I also want to see our family, our larger family, healed in so very many deep, dark places. More than anything, I want to somehow stay afloat in all these thoughts and feelings, stay connected, stay aware. I want to continue to dream and hope, I don't want the bad thoughts and panic to win. I want Pea to see me processing all this stuff and not be afraid. I want to start the new year in a good, peaceful and content place, even if the details aren't what I was hoping for.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:33 PM
Posted by Annagrace at 9:55 PM
As you can see, I'm hitting this daily Nablopomo deadline HARD. Once again I'm squeaking in under the wire. Blogger, or rather the inability to log in successfully to Blogger last night, was a fun issue to have. The power going randomly going out in the office (and upstairs bathroom, and hall, and baby's room) due, we are hoping, to a couple of bulbs being out in said bathroom (they weren't changed because I don't like to see my nose pores quite that clearly) didn't help either. And the torrential rain and subsequent Comcast issues around these parts have made matters worse. And then there's the fact that all these things go haywire ONLY at the one point in the day when I have time to blog. I'm pulling out my tiny fiddle right now.
Posted by Annagrace at 12:14 AM
This morning, in an attempt to get at the phone I was holding and using, Pea managed to grasp the bottom sheet of my bed (from where she was sitting on the floor), pulled herself onto her knees, and then attempted to raise herself into a standing position. One hand was pulling desperately at the elastic-edged sheet and the other was scribble-scrabbling at the top edge of the mattress. Irritation and desire seem to be the greatest motivators, right now. I am certain that what will finally motivate her to crawl forwards will be my plate of breakfast/lunch/dinner, set just out of reach. She is getting up on her hands and knees and rocking now, but so far whenever she tries to actually go somewhere (other than backwards) she gets over-eager and launches herself out onto her tummy, arms and legs moving frantically side to side. Like she's being chased underwater. Sometimes while she's doing this I call out, "Into the deep, Penelope, into the deep!"
I've noticed that baby milestones are another area where mothers like to compare standings. When Pea was first born it seemed that everywhere we went at least one person would ask if she was sleeping through the night, relate either their story or "a friend's" story (whether it was really good or really bad depended on how I'd just answered their question), and then sort of randomly walk away. If what I'd shared about Pea's sleep habits had been more positive than their expectation or experience, their walking away always seemed like a sign that I'd stolen their thunder, never mind that they were the ones who'd brought it up and never mind that it was very nice of me to answer their (often nosy) questions. And if what I'd shared had been less positive, their departure always seemed triumphant. This was incredibly irksome, of course. I had no idea that parenting was at it's core a contest, and that the best way to handle our daily challenges is to let every stranger with a brand-new baby know that you are intrinsically better at this than she. Now the questions have moved on to bigger things, like crawling, walking, and talking, things that apparently are strong indicators of whether or not Penelope will grow up with dreams of one day bagging groceries for a living.
I will never ever hold her back or discourage her from achieving anything, great or small. But I am also very content to let her develop at her own pace and according to her own time-line, for I believe that messing with a child's innate path can cause so much present and future distress. Pushing her to do something that her body and mind, and even emotions, aren't ready for may just mean "keeping her on schedule" for now, but this could be a slippery slope of unfair expectations, too much pressure to conform to one-dimensional standards, and then learning and behavioral disabilities. And more importantly, a very unhappy child. These questions are hard for me, unless I can really tell that the person asking them is simply being neighborly or really interested in getting to know me. I hate feeling prodded into joining the contest.
Penelope is six months old and prefers to stand on someone's lap rather than sit. She can crawl or scoot backwards but not forwards. She has three teeth on the bottom and is presently cutting three to match on top (I applaud the symmetry). She laughs, chatters, coos, and blows raspberries, she gives big open-mouthed kisses, and she sings. She is very affectionate and very social. She can play by herself but would rather play with someone. She loves being read to as long as she can help turn the pages. When you give her both of your hands, she immediately pulls herself up into a standing position, regardless of whether she was lying down or sitting up. She rolls over and over and over. She knows how to make her toys work and how to get them to make sound. She loves to be outdoors and we have hope that one day she will be less opposed to the beach. She sleeps through the night and has a hard time napping consistently. She eats some people food and still nurses. I have stopped manically studying baby progress charts, and started ignoring random doctor's and strange mother's websites on baby development. Instead I'm getting to know her every day and trying to listen for the tiny things, the hints of who she really and truly is. I'm feeling more and more confident that if anything is ever wrong I will know. Not because of who she is in comparison to some strange lady in Fred Meyer's kids, but because I know her.
I know Pea is desperate to walk and that whenever we go near a set of stairs her feet start peddling like she's trying to climb. And I know me, the child who was afraid of heights and never really did anything dangerous--a new mother's dream. Was it a product of my environment (crazy, at times) or simply who I am? Who knows? But the next twenty or so years of my life are sure to be much more exciting than the first twenty-eight.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:57 PM
The plan was to use this month of non-stop blogging to full advantage, scribbling down more of the chance memories and happenings of our days and weeks--at least this week, this rainy first week where we've been trapped indoors and have so much time to finally put into print the many mental notes. Except it hasn't happened that way at all, so far. Here it is Wednesday and my sketched out plans for this week's writing are gathering dust, not words. And the thing that scares me and frustrates me and generally makes me crazy is that there is so much. So many moments going "poof" and disappearing forever. So many little tiny things that happen during the day and are starting to go almost unnoticed.
Being tired doesn't help. Being tired is actually the main reason for all of this. That and days spent on the edge of emotional sanity. I seem to have lost my center recently, and am fast losing my ability to cope with a cranky, fragile, teething creature. I know I just need to breathe more, jot things down as they happen instead of storing up and storing up and then losing it all. I know I need to sleep more and kick this new night owl habit. It's not helping me be a very good mother to a baby who's also at her wits' end. I know, I know. There are just so many things on my mind right now. So many thoughts and emotions and things I'm trying to figure out. And I'm in this weird time-space where the days can be so slooow and so looong and yet life is rushing by so quickly that it's like I'm watching it from inside the passenger car of a high-speed train.
I'm going to bed now. I'll see what can be done about this in the morning.
Posted by Annagrace at 11:57 PM
For the fifth day in a row it is raining. Not nice, quiet, sit-by-the-fire-and-sip-dreamily-from-your-hot-cocoa-rain but massive, torrential, house-beating rain that makes you wonder if you have emergency candles left, where the first-aid box is, and if having a back-up food supply in the garage wouldn't be such a bad idea. A river near us was expected to reach flood stage an hour ago. It's not too near. Just near enough. It's been kind of nice, with the way I've been feeling this last week, to have an excuse to stay in, to not feel guilty about all the places we aren't going and all the exciting things I'm not taking my daughter to do and see. But now we're starting to feel cooped up.
And did I mention that there are fruitflies everywhere? They showed up a few weeks ago and apparently liked what they found, for they have yet to leave. Don't they have a life-span of, like, a day? My kitchen must be an incredibly good climate for fruitfly love. And there are also ants. Tiny sugar ants and I can't figure out where they are coming from but just when I think I've finally killed the last one, out pop five more. The other night I fed Penelope dinner in the kitchen as usual, stopping from time to time to kill a fly or smash a few ants. Then we went upstairs to get her into the tub and just as I finished undressing her I noticed several black things in her hair. You guessed it: ants. There were ANTS in my baby's HAIR. I felt like a gorilla mother, picking nits off my baby's scalp. Except I didn't eat them, of course. Tonight I picked a couple off my shirt sleeves as I listened to the continuing, thunderous downpour.
Can I make just one small request? If I'm going to live in the tropics, I would at least like a great, freckly tan that lasts all year. Oh, and a view of the sea.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:11 PM
Penelope Aoife.... you are six months old. To be more accurate, you were six months old on Wednesday, on the first, but it's taken me a few days to wrap my head enough around the concept to even write those words down, to see them in print. Where does Mama begin, lovey? Six months and three days ago, at four-thirty in the morning, just as day was breaking on a beautiful May morning, I gave the final, difficult push and you were suddenly in this world and real. Seconds later our wonderful midwife held you up, belly-down, on the palm of her hand so Daddy could cut your cord and I could get as close to you as possible, and you lifted your little mushroom-cap head and gazed all about the room. The first thing I remember are your eyes, so very dark and brilliant, and the little cry you made as you stared at me, at your daddy, and all the hospital staff standing around.
Who was I before? What did I do and why did it matter? Of course I had a life, a full one at that, and I was under the impression that I was doing "important work" with a "great future" ahead of me. During the long months of being pregnant I would, from time to time, have a strong suspicion that everything in me was changing at a core level, but I didn't even know how deeply until that moment I laid eyes on you. Carrying you changed me, birthing you changed me, and knowing you and loving you changes me every single day. If I do nothing else well in all my life, if I can be to you half the mama you deserve I will feel that my life has truly counted for something. I have never loved anything or anyone more than I love you. And from the moment I held you for the very first time (finally!), I've known that I would literally die for you.
Posted by Annagrace at 9:56 PM
"A blog post a day keeps the house in disarray".
That's how it goes, right? I'm of part of this craziness here, a challenge to post every single day in November. The good news is that it's really causing me to dig deep and finally write down some of the thoughts that have been stewing around in the back of my mind for a while. You'll see them in print over the next few weeks. The bad news is that on days like today, when I actually have Important Things to Do, I am not in the right frame of mind to journal my deepest thoughts and emotions. However, I am in the right frame of mind to enjoy a good laugh and this post, by one of the more famous woman bloggers on this here crazy internet delivers some good old-fashioned belly laughter. At least for me. Be sure to check out ALL the comments as that's most of the fun.
Posted by Annagrace at 5:01 PM
Pea and I took a walk one afternoon this week in what looks to be the last nice day around these parts for quite some time. This has been a stellar fall--straight from the textbooks, exactly what fall is always cracked up to be: mornings knee-deep in cushion-y fog; a slow burn of sunlight melting frost and showing up the smoke over chimneys; nights cold and dark and clear, with the bite and snap of winter but a sly promise to wait for a bit. We walked through two of our favorite neighborhoods, trying to breathe in and save for later these last bits of my favorite season. There were yellow and orange leaves covering some of the sidewalks and I purposefully plowed the stroller through their carpets. Over the scatterings of empty walnut shells left by squirrels. Over the poisonous-looking berries fallen onto the street and opened by car tires, red juice leaking into drifts of pine needles and loose gravel. This particular afternoon the sun hadn't made as much of an effort and by three o'clock or so it had retreated, back behind the cotton-batting clouds.
We walked and walked, me thinking and praying and trying to be aware of all this color and beauty and change and Pea sleeping, tucked inside the stroller in a coat and blanket and her first pair of mittens. She slept deeply--the uneven sidewalk and general debris seeming to intensify her slumber. So many emotions and fragments of memories began to come back, pulling at the edges of my thoughts and bringing scenes and moments before my eyes in tiny glimpses of startling color. And then nothing. Vanishing like the plumes of smoke hanging over the yards of the brick ranches and white colonials. Now I can hardly remember any of them, and it's only been a few days, but I do remember some of the fleeting thoughts that came with them. Thoughts about fall, October, November and the things that can take me back to this season in an instant.
To me, fall is Miles Davis' album, "Kind of Blue". The whole entire thing. Partly because it played in the background when a long-ago friend and I drove to Seattle. It was the end of fall and Seattle was of course a good bit colder than Portland, but my old, blue Ford Escort hatchback stayed nice and toasty and we talked and talked and Miles played and played, the whole way there and the whole way back. I could hum entire chunks of it by the time we returned to Portland, and if memory serves me correctly we were only there for twenty-four hours. That friend is no longer in my life, through so many odd and confusing circumstances that now, some seven years later, I can't clearly recall the beginning of the end, much less the end.
Fall is classical music on the radio on overcast Saturday mornings in Kentucky. I was eight, nine, and even twelve years old and I wanted to take ballet so badly I would cry about it under the covers at night. There are many reasons why I couldn't, and didn't, but mostly it's because we didn't have money for it, and anyway, I was terrified of giving my father one more arena in which to prove that I wasn't perfect and never would be. Growing up, I always felt especially alone this time of year--but for some reason I also felt especially hopeful. Somehow every fall, when faced with such scandalous beauty of leaves and light, and frost so thick it was like snow had fallen in the night, I knew that one day he would no longer be able to keep my heart his prisoner. I knew I would find a way out. When he died it was summer, and the first season I had in my entire life without him was, fittingly, fall. Corinne Bailey Rae's song, "Choux Pastry Heart", brings up some of the same thoughts and memories. Not sure why, but it is sweet and sad and talks about loss.
A newer memory occurred in early November of last year. It was evening, the curtains were drawn, the fire was lit, and I was lying on our mushroom-colored velvet couch listening to Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. I was warm and safe and out of the cold, and behind me, in the kitchen making supper, was a man who loved me and who's love, in many ways, had saved my life. As I lay there, drowsily attempting to read, a tiny, tiny baby of only four months or so gestation began to kick madly away inside of me. Little bubbly movements that increased when the music volume increased and lessened when the music quieted. That little, kicking creature is at this very moment snapped into fleecy, white ducky pajamas, and is lying on the other side of this wall, fast asleep in her crib. Warmth and safety, love and dreams. Incredible, breath-taking grace has taken me from an anxious, frightened childhood to a deeply happy and (mostly) calm adulthood.
I guess what this season means to me, more than anything, is change. Tangible, smoke-sharp change. Things falling off and dying and breaking open to show their true insides. Things burrowing deep underneath a slowly freezing world--burrowing deep enough to live again. One day. At the same time that my childhood world was turning on end, the same time that my father was sexually abusing me and that my mother was completely disconnecting, the same time that lies were told me about God and family, at the same time that my world was dark and cold and empty, a steely hope began to burrow its way deep into my soul, past the lies and shame, past the fear. Fall, more than anything, reminds of this: that all this flaming color just moments from death is only the outside thing, the shell....the shadow, the pretend. What is true and what is real always stays alive. Even if it has to go underground for a while.
Now it is raining--big blasts of cold rain are pouring down the office window and splattering against the walls of this house. Change keeps coming.
Posted by Annagrace at 8:16 PM
Hopefully she won't be back in a stroller then, but if you've had a good life, done everything you set out to do (or at least one or two things on the list), and generally done your part to make the world a more tolerable place, then I say you are pretty much entitled to your choice of perambulation devices. Golf cart? Sure. Jazzy? No problem. Stroller? Who cares? So pretty much what I'm saying is, I'm hoping to raise my daughter in such a way that she deserves a stroller ride at sixty-five. (And here you thought my ambitions were moderate to low....)
Posted by Annagrace at 1:14 AM
Penelope's third tooth made it's official appearance Monday, October 9th, three weeks ago. I say official because baby teeth like to come to the surface, freak everyone out, and then retreat for a few hours. Or a whole day. Or a week. Anyway, I'd been feeling something on her bottom gum for a few days but that Monday afternoon I pried her mouth open again, in search of the cause of her anxiety, and not only could I feel it, I could see it. Shiny and white and new and all popped through her poor swollen gums.
That whole week Jeffrey and I had some of the worst sleep of our lives as parents. It wasn't quite as bad as the first week after Pea was born when, high on adrenaline and zonked on hormones I was absolutely certain that I was going to lose my mind, but it was close enough. I know we are incredibly lucky to have a child who has slept through the night from about three weeks of age, and I know that as a result we have no right to complain about ANYTHING. But I really like a certain amount of routine; and as having a full night's sleep is part of my routine, I felt wacky after the second night and near-psychotic after the fifth. I believe that babies also thrive on routine (though admittedly, some don't seem to know it) and Pea lived up to that statement by waking up cranky and dramatic and fragile after each bad night. And then, just when we were beginning to think that all the naysayers were going to be right, that full-on teething had irreversibly changed our baby's near-perfect sleep habits, we went back to normal. Just like that. Almost exactly a week later. I cannot say thank-you enough. Motherhood just in and of itself is a very precarious, emotional place, and without adequate physical resources to draw from it can get very dark and very bleak very fast. I guess now I've lived both sides of the baby-sleep debate: whether or not long, unbroken sleep is really good or necessary when the whole point of parenting is to lay down your life for your child, etc. etc. I know it was only seven days but it was more than enough time for me to feel absolved of the supposed sin of not co-sleeping, of not nursing her every single time she ever cries out in her sleep, of not purposely waking my child every two hours to make sure she's still alive, and all that other nonsense. I have come to the conclusion that not only is long, unbroken sleep good for the wee bundle of joy (who is not exactly "wee" anymore, it's true), it is also necessary for a parent's mental health, good eating habits, sane and rational thoughts about their friends.... and believing in God. Granted, these things don't often coexist in the best of environments. But I'm just saying that in order for them to have a CHANCE at coexisting, good, deep sleep is a necessity.
We've now moved on to teeth numbers four and five. Some days her gums are swollen and some days they aren't. Sometimes I can feel something close to the surface on the bottom right side of her mouth and sometimes I think that something is going to break on the bottom right. Either way, this means she could have five teeth on the bottom and none on top. If only they'd broken sooner--I could have traded in her Halloween pea pod costume for a little monster outfit and she would have had the cutest little under-bite to go with it. On the other hand, I'm still getting a full-night's rest and that keeps the bigger monsters at bay.
Posted by Annagrace at 8:13 AM