Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Waxing and Weaning

Today the temperature plummeted and wind scraped the rest of the leaves from the emaciated branches.  In front of the car, curled and dry, the leaves went tumbling, skittering, scrape-wheeling across cement peppered with drops of rain.  It's not really legitimate to complain about the weather; the last weeks have been blissful.  The sky a continuous parachute of blue, trees fanning their bronze-ey wares, temperatures permitting us walk after walk without the fuss of mittens or hats or blankets tucked beneath thighs.

Last weekend we went to Trego, Wisconsin for Holden on the Road.  We saw friends and family and went for hikes through the woods and ate doughnut holes and drank too much coffee.  Daddy did a session on the ethics of the PolyMet mine and I did a session on nature writing and Thisbe played the Frozen matching game with Grandpa Mark and constructed jigsaw puzzles with Grandma Dot.

You and I didn't go to Vespers.  Instead we sat on a chair between two wooden bunk beds, beside a dresser filled with your Robeez slippers and Thisbe's cheetah leggings, facing a window outside of which the light stretched from golden to umber behind the black vertical stalks of trees.  I nursed you and while I nursed I sang all of Holden Vespers, off key and out of tune, "God of daybreak / God of shadows / come and light our hearts anew."  And somewhere in there, as the light behind the trees smudged into the darker forms of the trees themselves I decided that this would be the last time I would nurse you.  I'd been thinking about it for a long time.  You've only been nursing at bedtime for months now and I knew that I would definitely stop next month, when Daddy and I go away for three days.

I don't remember the last time I nursed Thisbe.  I didn't think it mattered to remember because I thought there would be another baby and I was so ready to have my body become entirely again my own.  And I didn't feel sad to wean Thisbe.  It felt right.  And OK.  But somehow with you I wanted to be aware of the last time.  Wanted to take stock.  To remember the moment.

But last night I regretted my choice, you hollered when I put you to bed and I thought, at 10pm, that maybe I'd been mistaken, maybe it wasn't time, maybe you nor I was ready.  So I slid into your room and took you out of your crib and tried to feed you.  You didn't wake, not really, you just started to make a sweet sucking noise inside your mouth without actually opening your lips.  I tried to get you to open your lips.  I was the ridiculous mother stuffing her fingertip into her sleeping toddler's mouth because maybe I wanted to know that we were still connected, that my body was somehow still your body, that you needed me still in this most basic way.

But you wouldn't open your mouth.

So I went back to my own bed and sobbed.  Daddy tried to stroke my back but also I think Daddy thought I was a little nuts.  I thought I was a little nuts.
"We're never going to have any more babies," I sobbed.
"Matteus still doesn't talk yet," said Daddy.
"I know," I said, wiping snot on my sleeve, "but I mean we're old now.  This part of raising children.  It's done.  It's gone."
"Well, if you don't want it to be done you could get your IUD taken out," said Daddy.  Not helpfully.

I cried again after class today, driving down Olaf Avenue, the leaves skittering and scraping ahead of me.  Maybe I'm sad because you're a boy and I don't know if or how we'll have a close relationship as you get older.  Maybe I'm sad because I won't be able to offer you this source of comfort anymore, when you inevitably get sick (likely within 48 hours).  Maybe it feels like loss because today in class we read an essay about lynching and an essay about racial captivity and talked about the complexity of the world, victims becoming abusers, telephone poles turning into gallows and maybe the act of nursing just feels simple and straightforward and GOOD. 

When I started this post I wanted to work my way to an enlightened ending, wanted to find a way to make the sadness lessen or make feel more justified somehow.

But I think I needed a ceremony.  A way of stepping across this particular line, a way of marking this choice and this particular ending.  I'm not usually one for smoking sage or burning origami swans with "intentions" written on the wings of henna-ing my hoo-ha (I don't think that's actually a thing).

But this week I could have used a litany.  This week I wanted the strong hands of women near me.  This week I could have even used some floating tea lights bobbing in my bathtub, some imperfect sign of what it feels like to get go of something that doesn't have a name.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Thank you (no, seriously, thank YOU)

Fall keeps flaunting ridiculously glorious days.  50-60 degree highs.  Cloudless blue skies.  Leaves the color of ripe pears sieved with sun.  At the park this afternoon we chatted with good friends and ate clementines and brownies.  You attempted to go down the baby slide for the first time; meanwhile, Thisbe played a lengthy game by herself, barefoot, on a stone wall.  I watched her talk to imagined figures on her right, on her left, and then raise her chin, denying her servants something.

You still walk as though there's a see-saw inside you but you're getting faster, more adept.  Except when we put you in sleeper pajamas.  Then the hard wood floors become an ice rink and you slide all over the place.  You play for long stretches on your own (thank you, baby Jesus!) and are fairly content at daycare or the YMCA childcare center or the church nursery. 

A few weeks ago, Daddy's book, "Kierkegaard, Aesthetics, and Selfhood: the Art of Subjectivity" was published and then last week my memoir, "Tailings," was released.  My first copies of the book arrived just before you and I were headed out the door to join Gak and Thiz at the library so I brought a copy along. When we arrived in the children's section I swept the book out magically from the diaper bag (beside the red couch that was recetly removed for cleaning after someone spit up down the front of it).  Gak tried to "ooooohh" and "ahhhh" over the sound of you whacking a fake cabbage against a fake log (in the Peter Rabbit display) and Thisbe whining (because attention had been diverted from The Berenstain Bears Teach Us Another Dull Lesson About How to Behave).  I then pointed out to Thisbe that her name was in the book and she quieted and gazed at it far more reverently.

But for a second, before we arrived at the library, when you and I were walking down second street, your hair glinting, your tiny index finger pointing to everything and nothing, it felt like a bell had been rung.  Like all those crimson, marigold, glorying leaves were reverberations of sound.  For this long moment I was proud and happy to have this book in my hands.  I have written with the real hope of "being" a writer since I was 21.  I am very grateful for that walk, for those moments when the book felt like mine and my heart just circled around it happily, tail wagging.

But now the book isn't really mine anymore.  It's out there in the world.  It means that people can buy it or forget to buy it.  Read it or skim it or shelve it between a cookbook and "Where the Wild Things Are" and then never look at it again.  Some people will find themselves, or a version of themselves, on the pages of the book.  And those people could be angry or hurt or upset; they could be grateful or nostalgic or indifferent.  The book being in the world means that I can go to Amazon and watch the rank of the book rise and fall.  That reviews can be written or decidedly not written.  It means that I have to say, again and again, "here, this is a part of me, will you buy it?"  And it means that though my husband will repeatedly tell me otherwise, that I will judge the import of my story and my writing and a small slice of who I am on whether people buy this book.  This is all the truth.

Here is another truth: in church today Pastor Tim reminded us in his sermon that those of us in the pews chose and choose to recognize ourselves first as Christians, before our roles as citizens or teachers or mothers or husbands.  This was in the context of what to render to Caesar and what to render to God.  But part of being a Christian means believing that you are loved, completely and entirely from your beginning by this Being that knit you in your mother's womb. I trust that I am loved by God, but that love often feels vague and amorphous to me unless it's shown in the humans around me.  (And it's also easy for that love to get drowned out by my obsessive anxiety rooted squarely in a gentle waxing toward narcissism.)

And this next part will sound stupid and obvious and banal and cliche, but I when I let people know about the book on Facebook the other night, I was completely taken aback by the outpouring of kindness and support.  I don't mean people were buying the book.  I mean, maybe some people were buying the book, but that's not what I mean by kindness and support.  People just seemed legitimately happy and interested.  Like they really wanted to celebrate with me.

There are also a lot of people dying of Ebola right now.  A bunch of "likes" on a Facebook page seems pretty superficial in light of bodies being left on the street. 

Except, I suppose, that it's a good reminder that our communities, these people around us who bring us cream of broccoli soup and text us recipes and remember our children's birthdays and sing us songs when we're dying and offer us "yahoos" and "congrats"  are what make the moments, all the moments, bearable and rich and holy.

This post is my way of saying thanks.  Not just to you and Thisbe, though I am thankful for you both, but to the people who have been my village for almost 35 years.  Family and friends and mentors and teachers and pastors and colleagues and whoever the one guy is in Estonia that reads this blog.  You're in my village, too, Estonia guy.  And maybe some day I will travel to your good food resort.

Thank you and thank you and thank you.