Archive for June, 2013


Somewhere near Ellysium

June 24, 2013

We drove out into the country on Saturday afternoon, out of the limits of this not-large-but-not-small college town, into rolling hills, past two tiny towns, and out to visit friends who live in the country. The hills were green, and the day was beautiful, and getting out of town was somehow relaxing and thrilling and familiar. We’d never been there before, but were welcomed warmly and after showing us their chickens and turkeys, their little boy, who’d clearly been looking forward to this for a while, took us to the garage where he’d charged up a mini four-wheeler for Dot to ride.

He showed her how to ride it, helped her figure out turning, and then they took turns. And then he rode it around while she chased him, peals of laughter streaming behind them in the late afternoon air. And the grown ups went to look at the garden while the kids and the dogs played.

This little boy was just Teddy’s age. Almost five. And my heart cracked open a bit to see how well they played together.

I have plenty of idealistic fantasies of Teddy and Bea playing together. I even love their names together and am sad that I don’t get to say “Teddy and Bea” very often. She has friends to play with at school, but when it comes to constant playmates, she has her daddy and me, and both of us are often distracted by unfortunate necessities like work and the need to make sure we all eat. Besides, grown ups just aren’t the same.

None of my idyllic imaginings matched the happiness I saw on my daughter’s face as she played with this little boy, though. I don’t know quite what to do with that.

Of course, they were new to each other, and novelty is an attraction all on its own, but he was so patient with sharing his toys and showing her around even when she upset him by moving his cars and not doing things the right way. They sat next to each other at dinner, played with the dogs together, ran all over the yard together, crawled into the baby’s crib together, ran up and down the stairs together.The adults sat and listened for the occasional shrieks and laughs, watched the dogs’ trajectories in order to figure out where the kids were.

And for a good deal of this time, I was holding a three-month-old baby, marveling at his tiny fingers and also at the way the old bouncing motions came back to me so easily.

By the end of the evening, when it was dark and the super moon was shining down on us in all its glory, I wanted us to move in with these people.



June 20, 2013

I am heading to a conference across the country in about 10 days. I am looking forward to it – I’m not extroverted, but I enjoy the chance to pretend I am sometimes, to talk up my workplace, to learn from others’ ideas and passion and persistence. I get to see some of my best friends from college and hang out and sip grown-up drinks. I am doing committee work I really like, and will be able to meet other librarians I know and smile, and tell them that I’m tenured as of July 1. Which is so much better than having to hustle for job opportunities!

I have new clothes. I will be getting my hair cut and possibly colored, and I’m hoping to sneak in a pedicure (I always say I’ll do this and I never do). I am putting together my conference schedule and my folder of receipts and documents to take with me.

And I am weaning Dot.

It occurs to me that my conference prep is not like other people’s conference prep.

She is three years old now, my Dot, and I know that one of the reasons I’ve nursed her so long is that I never got to nurse her brother at all. When she was tiny, I needed her with me, all the time, especially when she was sleeping. I was terrified that she’d die in her sleep, and I would wake up in the night, put my hand on her belly and send thank yous out into the darkness, over and over. She breathed.

I’ve calmed down a bit – I let her run across the grass at the parks, let her climb the highest and scariest slides and zip down like the daredevil she is. I take a certain pride in the fact that my efforts to keep my fear from making her afraid seem to have been effective. My girl runs and climbs and plays in the mud, and has a fine collection of three-year-old’s scrapes and bruises (mostly on her shins). We don’t care about getting her clothes dirty, or her hair messed up. She plays with a whole heart and I watch her with my own heart throbbing in my mouth, trying to make peace with letting her run free.

But, at night and in the early mornings, for the past three years, she has been all mine to snuggle and guard and hold and keep. At night, her tired, warm little body nestles, her mouth seeks, and after some restless wiggling she relaxes. In the morning, nursing is what eases the way between sleep and waking, the way we welcome each other into the day.

That’s the poetic aspect, anyway, the part I love. There’s a lot of twiddling and pulling and shuffling, sometimes some teeth and some grabbing. I have to wear padded bras or I will embarrass everyone in my workplace with not just headlights, but high beams. And I inevitably fall asleep just minutes after Dot does, meaning that I’m stumbling to the bathroom to remove contact lenses and wash my face at 2:30. I’ve been ready to stop nursing for a while now.

This week, we stopped nursing in the morning. She knows that her milky is going away, that for right now it’s going away in the mornings but that soon it will be going away all together. So far, it has gone something like this:

  • The first day she woke up very early, cried and cried, went back to sleep, slept in late (and we let her), cried a little  more. Then we indulged in breakfast sandwiches at Starbucks before school. Her teachers, who know what’s going on, reported that she had a really good day at school.
  • The second day, she woke up at the usual time, cried and cried and cried, got up for a while and snuggled with my on the futon. Then she told me she was sleepy and wanted to go back to bed. I completely fell for this, and took her back to bed, where she tried very hard to convince me it was nighttime instead of morning. And then she cried and cried. Apparently she had kind of a rough day at school.
  • Yesterday, She woke up at the usual time, cried and cried, and then reluctantly got ready for school, but we did head (again) to Starbucks for breakfast at her request. I hope she hasn’t figured out that there’s not much she can’t ask for just now. She had another rough day at school.
  • And then, this morning – she woke up, asked for milky, and then when I told her we weren’t having milky in the mornings, she got very quiet. She asked me some questions about growing up and we talked about some of the things she can do when she is older and bigger. I told her a story. I sang her a song. I said, “You are my darling baby.””Well,” she said, “sort of.”

Oh, Love.

I hope the trajectory holds true, that it really is getting easier for her, that when I scoop her up this afternoon, I’ll hear that she had a great day. I hope that when I leave for this work trip, it will put N in a better, easier place. I think it’s very likely that these things will happen, thank goodness. But it’s harder for me than I thought it would be, to let go of this part of her babyhood and this part of my mothering. Maybe in a month or so it will start to feel like the relief I was expecting it would be, but for now I have to resist the urge to hug her tight and damn the sore nipples and slow the growing up as long as I can.


Right where I am 2013, four years, nine months, 26 days

June 10, 2013

Written for Angie’s amazing Right Where I am project.

This past week, I poured some water on the hanging basket of petunias by our front door. And a humming bird zoomed down, his wings thrumming as he hovered by the flowers, by me, and then he dived through the air, away.

It felt like a blessing.

I still struggle with my faith, but I do believe in blessings.

I read what I wrote last year and I marvel because last year everything was struggle and weariness and I had just come to a full and clear realization of all my broken places. And even though the fact that Teddy would have been five this August still brings my mind to a stumbling halt, even though I haven’t made peace with the loss, I feel like there are more hummingbirds and fewer fears in my life now, more adventures and less weariness.

I am still broken, but healing, and more at peace with my broken places. N is more than nine months sober. Dot is three years old. Teddy would be five. Five, the age of kindergarten. Half a decade. But I won’t really know what five looks like until Dot gets there. I learn more about what Teddy might have been as his sister grows. It’s a curse and a gift, this backwardness.

My dreams have been tossed into the ether, far-flung, teased apart, and now I am trying to see what they will turn into. New old dreams with patchwork faces, covered in dandelion seeds and damp with rain. I think I’ll let them take whatever shapes they choose. They’ve been through enough of me trying to tell them what to do and now that I’ve let them go I need to accept their new shapes and wildness.

Some things stay the same – the love fountain that burbles up and refuses to stop – so much love for my little huckleberry who is beyond my reach. I want to know that this love reaches him somehow, but I don’t, so I hope and hope that it does. The yearning still takes me by surprise. I can go for days without noticing it all that much and then it pulls me down, again, and I grasp at all those lost years and smells and touches, cry for the missing smiles and the satisfying weight of corporeal love. I worry at my favorite fantasy – Teddy and Dot, together. I am selfish and greedy. I want them both. I want to smell sunscreen and dirt on their hot little necks, in their tangled hair. I want to referee arguments and tussles, I want to watch them run, together, to the tallest slide at the playground. I want and want and want.

N sends me an article on how single children are happy, intelligent, and well-adjusted. Maybe he is reassuring me, or maybe he senses my wanting and is trying to fend it off. I’m happy not to ask right now, to hold the possibility of another child very delicately in the back of my head, like an egg not ready to hatch or be cracked into the frying pan. For right now I just need to know it’s there.

I hover, like that hummingbird. I feel strong instead of just called upon to be strong. I am hollowed and hallowed, full and continually plucking at the edges of the hole where Teddy should be. I am between dreams and choices and this should terrify me, I think, but it is a strangely restful place to be just now.


Reversal of fortune

June 6, 2013

Earlier this week, I received an email from the president of the university where I work. It sat in my inbox for half an hour as I put off reading it. I knew what it said, you see  – that the denial of tenure decision would stand. It wouldn’t be surprising bad news, but I wasn’t looking forward to reading it again.

Two minutes before my next meeting, I opened the email and read the attached letter, thinking I’d get it over with and then focus on the work at hand with the presence of others as my shield against self-pity. It didn’t say what I thought, what I knew, it was going to say.

The president reversed the provost’s decision to deny me tenure, and as of July 1, I will be promoted and tenured in my current position. No more hoops to jump through, case closed.

This hardly ever happens. Even when the president sets the original decision aside (which is rare), the expectation is that you have to go through an abbreviated version of going up for tenure again – put together a portfolio of your accomplishments, have your Dean arrange for a re-vote, go through another round of proving your worth. Having tenure conferred on you by the president isn’t unheard of, but it’s a bit like a unicorn – no one here has seen it happen before.

It’s also very rare in my set of experiences, that a reversal of fortune is a good development.  I turn it over and over in my mind, trying to find the seams of this most surprising and unexpected thing, trying to figure out how it is put together and why it came to me.

It is very good news, and I’m relieved and happy and resisting the urge to smirk when in the company of certain co-workers. But I’m also weary. It’s like that feeling when you finish a big seminar paper that you’ve been writing for weeks and you stay up all night to push it through and then you hand it in, and you never want to see it again but you can’t stop worrying at it with your mind for a while. Decompression. Shock. Exhaustion. I’ve been on the roller coaster a long time, and really I prefer the more predictable and staid Ferris wheel, or even go carts, which are still fast and crazy but at least allow you to steer.

Also, I let go (or at least significantly relaxed my grip) on certain dreams – impending home ownership, a garden space for Teddy, the possibility of another child, places where I’d planned to be in my career – and I can’t just pick them up again. They were only dreams, but they had some solidity to them, somehow, that I had to let dissipate in order to move ahead. Letting go of those dreams felt freeing and right, and I think it made me stronger and helped me know myself better, but now I’m left trying to figure out what I want in my work and outside of it. I am (don’t get me wrong) thrilled to be in this place, but I’m also wondering if this is where I should be.

I’ll settle into my good news eventually, probably even come to rely on it, but I still feel poised for flight instead of safely settled and nesting.

Not that being poised for flight is a bad thing. And there almost certainly will be a party with drink and song and laughter. Celebrations need to be had, especially as this kind of reversal of fortune should be appreciated as much as possible. I don’t expect to see another of its like during my lifetime.