Posts Tagged ‘Dot’



September 11, 2014

Here’s a tour of the jumbled museum of my brain. It’s a working museum, so things may move as you look around. Also, there are tigers.

Exhibit 1:  I made a budget spreadsheet and N has agreed to fill in his bills and expenses so that we can finally work together on our finances. Like actual grown-ups. I think this is going to be really good. Also, as the daughter of an accountant, I should have done it years ago.

Exhibit 2: On August 23, I will have been married eight years. I’ve been thinking about all the ways in which my life is better for sharing it with N, even when we aren’t especially good at sharing. Eight years might be a long relationship by Hollywood standards, but it’s still a very young relationship in a lot of ways – a grade schooler of a marriage – enthusiastic, learning a lot, making mistakes, growing up a bit more every day. I am looking forward to seeing what our marriage is like when it’s 30 (even though that takes a certain leap of imagination and hope that borders on tempting fate).

Exhibit 3:  I think I need to just write this out: I really want to have another baby. I long for another baby with a longing that’s connected to but not the same thing as my longing to have Teddy back. I really don’t think we can afford another baby, or that it would be a good idea for my family. But I want one anyway. Now that I’m 40, I need to stop telling myself that there is still time. There might be a tiny window of time, but I think, by and large, my decision has been made for me. I don’t know when I’ll make peace with this. I am angry and sad and perhaps not as appreciative of the new babies in my life as I want to be right now. I am trying to keep this from turning into bitterness.

Exhibit 4: Dot has been wanting to sleep in her own bed for the past few nights. For the past few nights, there hasn’t been a baby – okay, a preschooler – in the middle of our bed. Of course, for the past few nights either N or I has been sleeping in her room with her, but I still think it’s progress toward a sleeping arrangement I’ve been looking forward to for a while now.

Exhibit 5: We had our first freeze last night and the maple trees outside my office window are obligingly changing colors. I love this time of year, but everything about it strikes me as strikingly clear, and piercing, and – not merciless, but absolute – in its beauty. The blue of the sky, the sharpness in the air, the hint of frost in the air – it’s the kind of beauty that breaks your heart for loving it. I don’t regret having my heart broken this way, but I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be strong enough to make it to October.

Exhibit 6: I wish there was a class or support group for socially awkward and introverted middle-aged women trying to make friends. When I was growing up my mom and the neighborhood moms all knew each other and had coffee and talked on the phone, but while I’m friendly with several people, I don’t have a community or neighborhood like that. I want one, though, and am going to see what I can do to make it happen.





Ugh, and ugh again

January 29, 2014

N has asked me to “unfriend” some of his family members on fac.ebook. He doesn’t have much of a social media presence, but I do, and at one point or another, his family members have friended me as a way of getting more news about him. I know that these friendships are more about N and Dot than they are about me, but I still don’t like having another person, even my best person, try to tell me who I should connect with online. For much of his family, facebo.ok is the only place where they see photographs of Dot, or get news about what she is doing. My mom and I talk every week, but N doesn’t talk to anyone in his family that often and this silly social media connection is the best connection they have.

So why the unfriending? Well, N’s dad invited all of his grandkids (except one, except ours) on a ski weekend in Colorado. I’m sure they had good reasons for not inviting us or talking to us about it. We live farther away than N’s brother and sister; we have turned down invitations to visit in the past; N’s relationship with his father is prickly; Dot had a busy January filled with dentistry and her first ever dance program; N’s never been that interested in skiing (I grew up in MT, so no excuse there); right now we don’t have the financial resources to fly out to CO and stay in a ski resort. So, I’m sure they have their reasons, but I wish they would have invited us anyway.

If they’d invited us anyway, the onus of not being there would be on us. Our decision and our call. And maybe they didn’t want the rejection of a no from us, which would be another understandable reason, I guess, but I wish they’d risked at least a phone call to feel us out. As it is, they’ve really hurt N’s feelings. Not mine so much, but I don’t have the long family history of divorce and step-parents and half-siblings and rejection and denial that he’s had to deal with. I’ve always known my family is right there for me if I need them, that they want me with them at family gatherings and that if I’m not invited it’s because they already know I can’t come because they’ve checked with me. N hasn’t grown up with that surety. For me this was a “your family is weird” moment, but for him it’s a “my family forgets/rejects me (and my child) again” moment.

And now I’m in this weird place where I can either just unfriend the family members (unlikely), or try to engage in further conversation about this. Neither of which I want to do. I could also lie about it, which I know is supposedly a terrible thing to do, and relationships should be based on honesty and [insert another commonplace about honesty here], but I can’t help but wonder if it might not save hurt feelings all around. It’s not just N’s decision, for one thing: it involves my connections and also Dot’s relationship with her grandparents, uncles and cousins. It’s pretty sad to have your best connection with your grandchild be through fa.cebook, but I don’t want to cut that connection without further thought and discussion.

I wish they would have given us a call.




December 30, 2013

“Is she your only?”


I say yes now. I barely even pause. You’d have to be acquainted with this type of loss to catch that barest flicker of hesitation that comes before my “yes.” I say yes for the other people, really. In my heart the answer is always and forever no, but do I want to be the person who throws child death into a casual conversation with the nice guy who kept my child from diving head-first into the hotel hot tub? Not so much. He’s just being pleasant, and I lie in order to be pleasant back.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks being sad and angry and missing Teddy terribly. I get weepy when I see little boys and I try not to think too much about how much more fun Dot would have at Christmas if there was another kid for her to play with instead of all these adults expecting her to behave like a mini-adult. No one to wake her up early to check out the stockings, no one to giggle with on Christmas Eve as they try to fall asleep.

That’s not quite true, or fair, of course. Her father plays with her and laughs with her and tickles her. Her grandfather turned into a little kid several times during our visit, chasing her around the house, elucidating shrieks the likes of which I’ve never heard before as he jumped and pounced and chased her. I played what felt like endless games of pretend and My Little Pony.

But she’s still the only kid in grown-up land.

It’s so foreign to me. I grew up playing with my little brother, surrounded by siblings. All of my friends had siblings. And I always expected to have two. I never thought that there would be such constraints on time and money and energy, that I’d be on the brink of 40 and still paying of debts from my early twenties, that I’d find mothering my very lively daughter to be so all-consuming. I never thought my first would die.

I still want two, a living two. I stare at my birth control pills every morning before I take one, and I wonder, just a little, what might still be possible.

My brother and his wife waited until Christmas morning to find out the sex of their baby. It was very fun up until the moment I found myself in the kitchen with my mom and she was crying because of the news that they’re having a girl. I know she will love both her granddaughters and that she is happy for my brother and his wife, but I also know, because she has told me, that she wanted “one of each.” A tiny part of me hates her for that, and I am trying to come to terms with it, to terms with being angry with her for wanting a grandson when my son, her grandson, is dead. It’s a perfectly understandable desire for a grandparent, and it is not the most attractive part of my personality or something I want to indulge, that I feel this way.

It is also not the best part of me that is seethingly angry with my mother for saying “well, maybe they’ll try again,” as she dabbed her eyes, when her reaction to my saying, over a year ago, that we weren’t absolutely sure Dot would be our last baby was profoundly negative and boiled down to “Oh, I don’t think you should do that.”

There’s more going on than this, of course. N was commenting on all of the photos Mom has of my sister-in-law, and I think he was feeling a bit like chopped liver, as the expression goes. But in this case, well, my sister-in-law is the daughter my mother always wanted – professionally pretty, thin, petite, put-together, successful, practical. Not pudgy and introverted with a head stuffed full of fairy tales and contempt for blow-dryers. Not someone who runs off to work with no makeup and who cuts her own bangs over the bathroom sink and works herself into a frazzle at a job that pays okay, but not as much as you’d expect with all the advanced degree requirements. Mom loves me, but I’ve never been the daughter she really wanted. Which is usually okay because she really is a good mom and really does love me, but it gets to me sometimes.

Next Christmas, my brother and his wife are planning on visiting Mom and Dad, with their new baby, who will hopefully arrive healthy and alive and change their lives for the better. We will be there, too, and I think it will be wonderful. I still miss my brother (the one who woke me up early on Christmas morning) every year during the holiday season, and I love the idea of getting to see him as a father at last.

But after that, well, I think the Christmas after that will be just for us, at home, with our own tree and traditions, with no long travels or command performances for Dot at church or at gatherings of the larger family. N will pull out his guitar and we’ll sing carols, just our little family, and I’ll light Teddy’s candle and remember him without worrying that no one else is. I am more than ready for that.



December 3, 2013

We took Dot to see her first in-theater movie over the weekend. Overall, it was a good experience, even though N insisted we sit in the middle of our row, which made things really exciting when Dot “whispered” in her most urgent tone, ” I have to go potty!” and even though much popcorn was spilled, and even though every time I tried to tell her to be quiet (she had a lot to say) she would glare and me and say “SHHHH, Mommy!” AND even though we had to carry her out, kicking and screaming, after the movie was over because she didn’t want to stop running around and playing in the theater.

I like the concept of Disney’s Frozen and it did something wonderful in that the love interest wasn’t the main point of the younger princess’s story, but someone who helped her with her quest. This was something Tangled did, too, and I was glad to see it again, and especially glad to see the way the movie played with the “true love’s kiss” trope (no spoilers, but it was pretty cool). Dot loved the princesses and the songs, I loved the trolls, N loved watching Dot stare, rapt, at the screen and feeding her popcorn (when she was sitting still, which was a lot of the time, but not the whole time).

But I’d forgotten how Disney loves to dispatch parents at the beginning of their movies. Yeesh. It wasn’t nearly as brutal as Nemo, but I wasn’t ready for that part of the movie. (Tarzan is the absolute worst for this, in that the human child’s parents and the baby gorilla are both done away with at the beginning. I haven’t watched that one since college, and may never watch it again just because my heart breaks for the mama gorilla and then I get really mad about being so easily emotionally manipulated by a movie.) It’s a pity Dot didn’t have to use the potty at that particular moment, but she hasn’t asked us questions about it at all so far. She’s just starting to ask us questions about what dead means, but it’s clear to me she doesn’t get that it’s permanent. That’s the hardest thing for me, too, so I’m not surprised.

I’ve been thinking about Teddy a lot lately and I’m sure part of it is the holidays, and part of it is that my brother and his wife are expecting, and part of it is probably just me. And, oh, I miss him. I miss his baby self and I miss knowing who he’d be this year at almost five years old. The missing isn’t the hard part, really. At this point in my life, it’s just part of who I am and what I do. The hard part is feeling like I can’t tell anyone about it. N would be worried, and so would Mom. Friends and coworkers would listen and then wonder when I was going to move on. But this is what it looks like, me moving on. I play with Dot and cook Thanksgiving dinner, and am grateful that my daughter is just about toilet trained; I buy Christmas presents online during Cyber Monday and plan out what kinds of cookies I’m baking this year and try not to forget stocking-stuffers and worry that I won’t be able to find a good gift for N, and I miss my son. I miss him when I’m busy and when I’m not, and this morning when I woke up to the first real snow of the season, it was beautiful and magical and I wanted to cry because he wasn’t here to see it. And that doesn’t make me a tragic figure or someone who can’t laugh at a joke or get stuff done, but it’s always there. I want it to be there, I loved him and love him still and love has to manifest somehow, after all. But I do mind not being able to be open about it without people worrying about me.






November 1, 2013

I am not a good neighbor.

I’m not a bad one, either, but when we moved last year I didn’t bake things and introduce myself to the people living on my block. I probably would have, in retrospect, if I had known that my daughter would make such a point of repeatedly running out the front door, stark naked, refusing to come inside until I caught her and dragged her back.

She’s only three, and I don’t want her to feel at all strange or worried about being naked at this age (it’s a short enough time that any of us gets to be that comfortable in our skin, after all), but I also worry about how others might be looking at her, from their own front windows. Also, you know, dangers lurk in the lawn – the occasional thistle or bramble, something that might cause slivers. Dog poop from the neighbors’ little black dog.

I somehow enter a conversation about tipping at restaurants and mention that I tip extra when I eat out with Dot and somehow people start talking about parents who can’t control their kids and I cringe because she has run around a restaurant before. She has climbed all over booths. Not without consequences, but she’s young and kinetic and sitting still while her parents eat a full meal is, clearly, one of the most boring things ever, even when we work really hard to include her in the conversation and entertain her. I think sometimes even when parents are working hard to help their children get used to societal norms and rules, their work is ignored if it doesn’t result in obvious obedience and silence. I don’t think we’ve ever spoiled anyone else’s dinner or grocery shopping trip, but there are times when I can’t “control” my kid and still have to pay the tab or buy milk.

I stepped out to extinguish the pumpkin lights last night, standing under the porch light that my father fixed while he was visiting. I was wearing some pajamas that have seen better days, and I suddenly remembered the woman who lived across the street from me when I was growing up. How Mom would talk about her, half pitying, half wondering, this person who did her gardening in her bathrobe and after dark. This neighbor we didn’t know that well even though we lived in one of those small towns where everyone talks about what everyone is doing. All the time.  And now I wonder about that neighbor’s story, whether she minded that people talked about her, how she grew into someone who didn’t let that stop her.

Some days I feel like I’m not doing so well acclimatizing to societal norms myself. Like a messy-haired cave woman brought forward in time against her will. I can put on a bit of polish long enough to get by, and it’s not entirely fake, but it’s an effort most of the time. I’m not good at holding up conversations with strangers, and I watch my child anxiously, hoping the tigers don’t creep out of the forest to pounce, even while I try not to be anxious. I can talk about Shakespeare and multimedia learning theory but thrumming in the back of my brain I’m cawing out death, fear, love, protect in a sort of primal chant that seeps through, eventually. Even with friends, I can’t avoid being awkward, making missteps. And this autumn I’ve been missing Teddy with what seems like renewed fierceness that I think has something to do with wanting another baby and knowing it’s not a good idea to have one, at least not right now.

Last night N and I took Dot around the neighborhood for her first evening of real trick-or-treating. We peeked through several doorways at other human beings who were just as awkward as I am, all with their own signs of being messed up. There were sleep deprived new parents, older folks who smelled of years and years of cigarettes, college students who had forgotten to get candy for trick-or-treaters, people who looked at Dot with wistfulness I don’t presume to interpret. And all of them smiled at my daughter and listened to her enthusiastic “trick or treat!” and her more quiet “thank you.”

It made me feel less alone in my messy awkwardness and helped me remember that I’m not (for worse and for better) all that unique. I’m just a part of humanity – messy, interconnected, grieving, loving, growing and aging, getting-through-the-day and wondering-what-it-all-means humanity. Halloween, mythologically speaking, is supposed to be a time when the doors between worlds are thrown open. I am grateful to the people in our neighborhood for opening their doors to us and making me feel more a part of the world, for a reminder that I am surrounded by good neighbors and that becoming one is within my reach.



October 22, 2013

I want a cocktail that reflects the mix of happiness and jealousy that I am feeling right now. Two parts happiness, one part jealousy. Or maybe three parts happiness and one part jealousy.

I want to make the jealousy component smaller than it is because jealousy is an ugly thing and because I don’t want it to distract from the happiness that is mine since my brother informed me last week that he and his lovely wife are expecting. They are nearing the end of the first trimester, so only a few family members know right now, but after long years of trying this is incredibly good news. I want to be an aunt. I want to see my brother get to be a dad. I want to see my sis in law holding a baby in her arms. My fingers are crossed and will remain so until May.

But they have everything. They did everything right. They are both successful and organized and have the baby-ready house and the large family car. My sister-in-law is professionally beautiful and works in television, and I am guessing that six months after giving birth she will probably be back to wearing a size three. And writing these things here makes me feel like an un-funny Bridget Jones, all petty and silly and focusing on the wrong things, but I had one thing that they didn’t have. One thing that made me think that in the grand scheme of things, if you measured my life and my brother’s they came out about even. He had the money and the smart career and the house and the savings account and I had my daughter.

And my  mom and dad visited this past weekend and it became very clear to me that I am the family screw-up, with my credit card debts (that I’m paying off, but still) and my rental home and my husband who is killing himself to finish his dissertation and my three-year-old who is strong-willed, not yet potty trained, has imperfect table manners, doesn’t listen when her grandmother tells her “no” and who spent a good part of the visit wanting to watch My Little Pony videos instead of playing with her grandparents. My mother, who loves me and has raised me well, is also the person in my life who makes me feel scruffy and insecure. She loves me, but I don’t think she’s ever been satisfied with me (except for the year when I lost forty pounds). And she made it pretty clear when she was here that she thinks I don’t know what I’m doing as a parent –  that I let Dot have too much screen time (probably true, that last, but not something you want to hear as criticism from your mother) and that I should invoke more discipline, push the toilet and the table manners and the respect for elders more than I have. I know it’s hard for Mom – she raised us by adhering to James Dobson’s books, and whenever we misbehaved, spanking could be easily invoked. We weren’t spanked often, but the threat of it played a large role in keeping us in line. And while I don’t think my brother and I had unhappy childhoods (quite the opposite) or grew up maladjusted, I do sometimes wonder what or who I might have been if corporal discipline had been out of the picture.

I spend a lot of time talking with Dot when she’s angry. I spend a lot of time telling her the whys of our rules, a lot of time sitting with her when she is mad or crying or screaming, a lot of time helping her to tell me why she is angry or why she wants to do things that she knows she shouldn’t do. I am doing my darndest to raise her well, to raise her to ask good questions, to know her own mind, to be compassionate and caring but not nice in the way I was raised to be nice. I don’t want her to always put others’ feelings before her own, but I still want her to know that the feelings of others are important. And she is very strong-willed, and sometimes I think being an only child makes her see herself more as another adult than as a child, partly because outside of school her playmates are me and N, so sometimes telling her no is hard, and sometimes getting her to do things she doesn’t want to do is hard, and this method (not that it’s anything so formal as a method, really) of parenting takes a long time, and it’s not quick or neat, and it hurts that my mother doesn’t see this as valuable parenting work, but as a problem that I’ve failed to solve.

The thing that hurts most is the fear that I have spoiled, that I am actively spoiling, my daughter. Because I do hand her the tablet after school so that she can watch videos while I cook dinner. I do let her eat too many sweet snacks, I haven’t been able to turn myself into the type of drill sergeant who could easily make both Dot and her father agree to an earlier bedtime. And on top of this, I don’t own a house, am decidedly overweight, rarely spend time on hair and makeup, only made tenure by the skin of my teeth, and have to take a day off work in order to clean up my home. It is all too easy to worry about what kind of role model I am, what kinds of bad behaviors I am modeling. I don’t get to raise Teddy, and somehow, having lost that experience, it feels extra important that I do a good job with Dot.

And now my brother and his wife are (hopefully, hopefully) going to have a wonderful little baby who will grow into a wonderful child who will most likely never through tantrums when the grandparents are visiting, who will be polite, go to bed at seven pm every night, and will be relatively perfectly raised. I can’t wait to meet this little baby, but I am having difficulty shaking off the fear that his or her existence is going to mean that my darling Dot will also be cast as the family screw-up.

Also, I really want Dot to have a living sibling. I really want another child. I’ve been feeling this longing for a baby like a sneaky, stabbing pain for the past couple months, but it would be irresponsible on several levels to pursue another pregnancy. N is just not into the idea, and at this point, I think we can either eventually own a house or have another child, but not both. Which feels like another failure on my part, actually.

Maybe writing this all out will help me to let the next few months be about my brother and his family instead of giving into the temptation to make their good news somehow all about me, which would be a pretty horrible thing to do. I am giddily happy for them, in spite of my own baggage. And giddily nervous for them, too. Unfortunately, we all know more about what sorts of things can go wrong than most families.

So I need a cocktail. So far I’m thinking of calling it a Friendly Nemesis or a Smiling Green-Eyed Monster. Maybe gin, maybe absinthe. Definitely bitters. Name and mixology suggestions welcome.



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.


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.



September, and thank heavens

September 10, 2012

The weather has cooled, the leaves are just starting to show a edges of red and orange, glowing flecks of yellow. The sunlight feels clear and clean – distilled into it’s most unsullied form. Tonight it may storm. Tonight it may freeze.

The wind blows carelessly-held papers, willy-nilly, across the campus mall, over the green lawns, and then into the oblivion of trees and bushes. Whoosh!

And I remember how I love the wind, it’s blustery kisses and wild mischief and the way it finds every weak spot in your roof or coat, the way it sings across prairies and jumps out at you around buildings.

We are holding on. Some days are hard, but N and I grip each others’ hands and even though he keeps on insisting that he owes me some sort of apology for not being Fitzwilliam Darcy, and even though I never know how to respond to those apologies – part of me really would like to run away to Netherfield but as much as I appreciate Darcy as a literary character, I’ve never set out to find him in real life or seen him as a realistic model for a man – we do all right. (Of course we do all right, says the undaunted and certain part of my brain; we both love Jane Austen, Seamus Heaney, and National League Baseball – that’s a few lifetime’s worth of conversations right there. And as any reader of Austen knows, you can tell when a couple is suited because they have good conversations.)

We had a weekend of long walks and adventures with Dot, who seems to grow brighter and funnier and more stubborn and louder and more amazing and loving and exasperating and miraculous with every day. She had her first swim lesson of the school year, and I was so proud of her for waiting her turn and listening to her teacher and for trying new things. I’m so proud of N for summoning up the strength to be such an amazing Dad even though he carries the weight of worlds on his shoulders right now. My heart bursts with love.

My most recent article was accepted with only minor revisions, and I’m currently working on two others with colleagues. I create websites and plan events and review books, and work at the reference desk, and answer questions online and write and wish I had more time to read. I am busy, and sometimes that is stressful – especially at the end of a full work day when I realize I forgot to plan dinner – but sometimes it feels really, really good.

It’s a sweet, hard, melancholy, lovely, world. This September world. I feel whispers of Teddy returning to my ears and the void of missing him doesn’t have the vacuum-like horror it held last month. He was here, and beautiful, and loved. The trees know his name and my valiant rosebush that has survived a summer of negligent watering in an undersized pot, knows it too. Teddy, my Teddy. Little Huckleberry.

I’ve taken down my previous post. It was important to share it, but now I need to hide it away for a while. I’m so grateful to all of you who commented and commiserated and offered the support of your thoughts and words.

The burdens aren’t all lifted, and I’d never expect that they would be, but it’s such a relief to exhale again.