Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer in Segments

Summer seems to be sifting away.  It's July 21st so by the calendar, summer is only halfway gone, but for those of us who have put off doing class prep until August 1st, summer is looking decidedly shorter.

Today is the first hot day we've had in weeks.  Mostly it's been unseasonably cool, rain and clouds and wind washing through.  We've chosen to spend most of our time at home this summer, partly because Holden is closed, partly because, at eleven months, you wouldn't be a particular joy to travel with.  So the summer feels more imagistic than narrative.  When I think of the last weeks I think of...

Your two upper teeth pressing through the guns, the thin open bar of space between them.

Your bare toes, the tops dirty with grime from carpets and hard wood, now that you're beginning to crawl.

The figures of the wooden ark spread out on the carpet (anteater, peacock, the chunky elephant) and you in the midst of them while the World Cup plays on TV.  Men in a line, hands covering groins.  Men rolling on the green grass, miming pain.  The handsome former soccer players who sit behind a clean desk during the halftime break, trying to sound articulate.  The plastic wrapper of a string cheese parted, your mouth upturned for the bits Dada offers you as he watches.

Princess underwear hanging from the shower rod, from the line outside; damp princess underwear stuffed in plastic bags and sent home with your sister.

A dragonfly, briefly lighting in the middle of my chest as I pushed you in the stroller across Plum street.

Tiny cymbals in tiny hands.

A cardboard flat filled with blueberries.  A bit of bark hanging from your lip. Your sister bragging about how her bucket is way more full than mine.

Afternoon walks with you in the Ergo because your napping has been an absolute shit show.  How aware I am, as we walk, of how loud it is here in the summer.  The steady drone of cars passing, the louder gravel-growl of the motorcycles, lawnmowers ebbing and flowing, barks behind screen doors, rocks under my tennis shoes, the tapping cane of a man with Elvis sunglasses, kids yelling orders as they round the bases in Way Park, conversations drifting over porch railings.  I track each sound by the way it prompts your eyelids up again.  We move into another pocket of quiet and down they sink, that subtle shade of lavender behind the pink.  Long lashes.  Your cheek.  Mosquito bite on the bridge of your nose.

Animals in picture books with half-moons of of fake fur and fake scale and fake paw.  The tiny scratch of your fingernail across those surfaces in the dim light of 6:15am.

Your study of the holes on the child's carpenter tool box.  Working screws with primary colored heads into each open hole.  Or fitting the neon plastic shapes (orange circle, green square, pink cross) into the corresponding gaps at the top of the toy pail.

Thisbe, lying perpendicular in her bed, Minnie Mouse nightgown pulled up to reveal bug-bitten thighs and Ariel pull-up asking "Mama, what does it feel like to die?"

A hawk in the grass by the railroad tracks.  Wind ruffling its feathers.  No signs of death besides the flies crawling in its eyes.  A rabbit head on the basketball court in Way Park.  The bloody stem of the neck.

Cherries cut into bits on your white high chair tray.  Bits of banana.  Bit of bread with melted cheese.  Scrambled eggs, pale yellow on a blue plate, cut into segments, strands of steam rising.

We are lucky.  For these days of warmth.  For the time and strength to see them as they pass.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Silver Whistle in the Throat

It's the beginning of July and unseasonably chilly.  56.  Grey clouds.  Wet patches on the pavement.  It's been a month of rain.  The Cannon River swollen over its banks, caution tape warning us off bridges, men with bows and arrows picking off carp that froth, disorientated, in the tumult.

This morning you woke at 4:15, I nursed you, and then you refused to go back to sleep, choosing to scream from 4:30 to 5:55 instead.  Midway through the scream-fest I went in to check on you, to make sure you didn't have a dirty diaper or a horn sprouting through your skull, and found you sitting up in the kalidescope light of your mobile, a mobile that you can now turn on by yourself.

You have two teeth cutting through your upper gum.  You've perfected the art of land swimming and easily navigate the space from room to room, making little squeaks of glee as you go, toes pressing into the floor and raising you up and forward.  In the last few days you've finally started to get up on your knees; you rock for a bit and then commence land swimming again.  Bananas are your food of choice, always, followed by bits of bread and cheese, other fruits, yogurt, puffs.  You'll tolerate mashed sweet potatoes only if they're spread on a banana or piece of toast first.

Yesterday we received a flyer in the mail from Rice County, the kind that tells you (with exclamation points!) which milestones to look forward to in the next few months, reminds you that you should talk to your child, instructs you not to feed him peanut butter or popcorn, and urges you not to refer to medicine as "candy."  One of the developing milestones was "begin using more words."  Which is a milestone that suggests your child already has a few words in his or her lexicon, that he or she likes to bust out a "hi" or  a "mama" or a "doggie" now and again.

What you like to bust out is a horrific, ear-piercing shriek.  It's awful.  The other day in the check-out line at Cub you shrieked and everyone within a 20-foot radius turned to look.  Your other chosen vocalization is sing-songey vowel sounds in the back of your throat.  It's quite lovely, actually.  Often you'll be sitting on the rug, happily placing plastic rings on a stick, making your little turtle dove sounds and then, all of the sudden EEEEEEEKKKKKKKK.  Daddy and I then look at each other with mild pain and disgust and rub our ears as though rubbing could ease some of the ringing within.

We've tried ignoring the shriek.  We've tried saying, firmly, "no."  We've tried offering you choices when you shriek, pretending to understand the shriek as an expression of a particular desire.  We've tried shrieking back at you.  Nothing seems to work.

And truthfully, I am getting a little tired of the whole "don't compare your children" thing.  We live by comparisons.  We love bestseller lists and super-food rankings.  We're constantly passing around graphs on Facebook that show which country has the longest maternity leave, which state has the fattest children.  We compare car seats and deck varnishes and sneakers.  Before we chose a life partner we (hopefully) put that person in an imaginary line-up with the ones who have come before.  But when it comes to children, everyone acts like comparing them is the work of the devil.  And maybe it is, but we are raised in a culture of comparison and to pretend that we should be able to shut that side of ourselves off as soon as we have a second mewling infant added to the household is total bullshit. 

Comparisons do suck a lot of the time.  They're dangerous.  But all the same, I brought up the videos yesterday of your sister at eleven months.  I watched her walk--then run--all over the house.  Watched her obediently bring me a book when asked, watched her point to pictures within the books, watched her utter a single, breathy "hi" (and then "dicka," repeatedly. No idea.)

It is very hard not to see difference as deficiency.  Not to see it as lacking.  Or slowness.  Not to see you as below the curve.  Even though I rationally know this is not the case.  Even though I know that even if you are slow or below the curve, that my call is to love you in the exact same way.  Maybe it's the strange combination of slow(er) development but the new intensity of your shrieking that has me confused.  After my former post about your lack of desire, you suddenly seem electrocuted with it, sizzling with a hunger you can only articulate with ear piercing shrieks, contained by a body that will not yet do your bidding.

I suppose thwarted desire always has that effect on a person.  As adults, thwarted desire comes out in ways that look like anger or adultery, fear or depression, violence or anxiety.  When there is a part of our inner world we can't offer to the outer world, a part of us gets mangled, injured, destroyed in trying to keep that desire contained.  Maybe your shriek is the purest version of that experience, maybe the world is filled with thousands of muffled variations of that sound.