Archive for October, 2012


Little Pumpkin

October 8, 2012

On Saturday, I took Dot to the University’s organic farm harvest festival, and told her she could choose her own pumpkin.

There were giant, orange pumpkins, medium pumpkins, tiny green pumpkins, funny yellow oblong pumpkins, white ghostly pumpkins – more pumpkins and kinds of pumpkins than I’d ever seen before.

There was, however, only one pumpkin that was tiny and yellow and slightly rotten, with a withered brown stem. Dot found it, of course, and it was love at first sight.

I could not get her interested in any of the other tiny green pumpkins, or the small orange one she’d initially liked the best. Nope. Once she’d seen that little yellow pumpkin, it was her pumpkin, and she wasn’t going to let go of it. I should have nipped that pumpkin love in the bud, I know, but she’s never had a favorite toy that has stayed a favorite for long, and I thought she’d grow bored with the pumpkin before we got home. But I drastically underestimated her love for her new friend. By the time we arrived home, she had named it “Little Pumpkin,” and hugged and kissed it many times. And for the rest of the day she played with Little Pumpkin. She swung it by its stem to make it dance, she showed it to her daddy, proclaiming, “This is the one I choose! Because I love it!” She insisted upon sleeping with it at night.

On Sunday, Little Pumpkin had to come with us to the Arboretum, and then Little Pumpkin had to be in the bed during Dot’s nap.

“Does she need a clean diaper?” N asked me.

“No,” I said.

He sniffed the air. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I replied, grimly. “What you’re smelling is Little Pumpkin.”

After Dot fell asleep, I grabbed that smelly little squash and attempted to dry it out in the oven. It works for gourds, right? And pumpkins are related to gourds, right? I set the oven on low heat, made sure the oven light was off, and set little pumpkin in a bed of salt on a pyrex bowl in the middle rack. I crossed my fingers. When Dot woke up, she asked for her pumpkin, and, fool that I am, I told her I’d taken Little Pumpkin to the “pumpkin doctor.” At which point she cried and I frantically promised that Little Pumpkin would be back soon.

Early this morning I sneaked into the kitchen to check on Little Pumpkin, and while Little Pumpkin is no longer stinky, it is also about 1/4 its original size and no longer at all yellow. It has caved in on itself and developed a withered, mummified texture. It’s pretty awful, and bears no resemblance to the Little Pumpkin with which Dot fell in love.

I am a pumpkin murderer, my friends.  A mad scientist pumpkin murderer.

Now I am thinking of various kinds of deception. Because first thing this morning, Dot asked for Little Pumpkin. Little Pumpkin is supposed to be back from the pumpkin doctor today! And while I told myself I’d always be honest with my child, I’m really not ready to have the death talk right now. Not about a pumpkin, dear as it may have been. Also, I don’t want to let her know that I’m a crazy murderer of pumpkins and that I dried her little friend into a withered, leathery, blob in our kitchen. Think of the nightmares!

So, do I try to muster my very limited sewing skills and try to make a yellow fabric pumpkin of the same size and approximate weight? Do I search the grocery stores for something resembling an apricot-sized yellow pumpkin? Do I say that Little Pumpkin was accepted into Madame Courgette’s School of Dance (the most prestigious school of dance for any pumpkin, gourd, or squash, you know), and had to leave without saying goodbye? Do I go to the pet store and tell her that Little Pumpkin has transformed into a goldfish?

I know that last sounds crazy, but somehow I feel like I’d be ready to talk about death if it pertained to a goldfish. More so than a squash, anyway.

Plus, Little Pumpkin strikes me as a good name for a goldfish, really.

Of course, I really just wish that death and decay would stay far away from her forever. A strange wish for this month of Halloween, but there it is.



October 5, 2012

We have moved. Into a house with green walls – bright lime green in the kitchen, a strange and muddy cross between olive and avocado in the living room, froggy green in the bathroom and a mix of these greens in the bedrooms.

A frog’s house. Cozy in the mud. It may not sound comforting, but it feels that way. And it will stay that way until we’ve sorted and unpacked and settled a bit. At which point, I’ll leave the lime green and the froggy green, and pull in some yellows. Find some big canvasses and cover them all in deep blues and ice blues with glints of gold and orange and green and hang them strategically. I have plans.

But for now, the unpacking.

We stayed in hotel rooms for a few days, living out of suitcases, which is a strange thing to do, really, if you aren’t on vacation or traveling for business. I packed mine with work clothes, pajamas, key toiletries, and Teddy’s ashes, wrapped up in the yellow baby blanket my mother knit for him. Grief goes on and on, and changes as it goes, but I don’t know if I’ll ever reach a point where I can not keep his pathetically small earthly remains close to me.

I wonder if any mother of a dead child has put that child’s ashes in storage?

Our bedroom is unpacked (mostly) and the ashes are now back in the dresser. Without television or internet, we read a lot of stories. N reads to Dot every night, I read to her frequently throughout the day, and she “reads” to both of us every day, too.

We read The Amazing Bone, and N glosses over the parts where little Pearl the Pig talks about not wanting to die after the fox decides to eat her. Funny how shy he is of that word, and by contrast, how not shy of it I am. I read the book straight, and part of that is because I can’t help but respect the integrity of a really good book, no matter who the audience is, and part of that is because I have faith in Dot’s two-year-old ability to process what she needs to, and part of that is because I don’t think that it will help her in the long run if her parents are so afraid of death they can’t even name it.

Part of it might also be because Teddy’s ashes are an arm’s reach away in the dresser and that’s a hard thing, but also a true thing about my life and about the nature of life.  I’m not sure how I’ll ever come to terms with that, but I owe it to myself and to him, to N and to Dot, to keep trying.

We had friends and students help with the heavy lifting and furniture. My desk stayed in storage, at my own suggestion. We have limited space, and N needs an office sanctuary more than I do, and if I don’t have time to myself, I hardly need a room of my own (or a desk of my own), do I? I could make this suggestion because it’s temporary, but having made it, I can’t help but be sad that motherhood appears to have cost me my writing corner and my art corner, even for a few years. Perhaps next year I’ll find out I will not receive tenure and then I can find a nice boring job that doesn’t own my heart. A job I can be reasonably bad at, but where I can have a Word document of my latest writing project pulled up on my work computer at all times. There are worse things.

Two nights ago, Dot was wheezing and gasping for air, and while N steamed up the bathroom, I stumbled through the house trying to remember where I packed the fucking thermometer, the damned baby acetaminophen, the stupid medicine droppers. When we travel, I know exactly where the first aid supplies are, but moving so quickly, I lost track. Major mothering fail. After a stubbed toe, and much frantic searching, I found what we needed; her daddy held her in the warm and steamy shower; her breathing eased.

And now – can you be exhausted from relief? I am so grateful for her working lungs and so scared of her vulnerability and so amazed by her strength and so angry (still, and still) that her brother’s lungs couldn’t sustain him.

And so amazed at how the tiniest things can change us forever.