Summer People

The spring we were waiting for Ingrid to be born, the end of April was just the perfect time I’d been envisioning. Whenever I hauled my big pregnant self up the stairs in our house, I could see, through the sky-blue room that would belong to our baby, the whole white-framed window full of the pear tree outside and its plump blossoms against the sky.

I’d folded stacks of onesies and assembled a crib. I’d pieced hundreds of squares of calico into a baby quilt, matching up every edge and corner. Outside, the weeds hadn’t yet germinated, so the lawn looked neat-ish, and sweet little leaves were poking up out of the flower beds. Nothing was yet unwatered or weirdly blighted around the edges. I imagined the summer: how tranquil and lush it would be, and how our baby would burble peacefully in the sling while I puttered in the garden.

You know what happened: Our baby finally arrived. I loved her wrenchingly, bottomlessly. Also, the blossoms fell off the pear trees, and I cried. All summer I smelled like sour milk, and was sweaty and hungry and exhausted. I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with the baby in the sling. My back hurt from trying, and she didn’t burble, she wailed. The sight of the dandelions and the wilted zinnias filled me with panic. Where had the gentle, ready season gone? Why couldn’t I even water the flowers every three days? Why did everything feel so ruined?

It’s been a slow climb up from that time. I’ve written about some of it. I still can’t explain all of it. But these days I feel really right as a mother, and this is the first April since then whose deliciousness hasn’t also been heartbreaking. Finally, spring no longer feels like something beautiful about to break. I think it's because now I know where the good stuff is.

It's not that I love the warmth and blossoms any less. And it's not that I've gotten any better at keeping up with wildness; the summer I know will come is a mess: There will be muddy footprints in the back porch, and we’ll all be sweaty, mosquito-bitten, dirty, and a little scattered. But that’s ok. It turns out the happiness I’ve found in our family doesn’t have much to do with spring’s neatness. It isn’t a quiet baby in spotless pajamas; it’s two slap-happy kids with avocado on their faces, playing harmonicas, wearing nothing but mittens. Our family isn't a lawn; we’re a dandelion field. We aren’t neat seedlings in rows; we’re a riot of tomato vines mingled with weeds. I have a glorious sort of control in this early, slow part of the growing season. Things do look neat and ready. But my ability to keep everything clipped and weeded and right will dissolve as everything grows and twists and flowers. I’m looking forward to it.


So far this week:

  • The new $70 USB-powered hard drive I bought for work but didn’t have the heart to ask my struggling employer to reimburse me for wouldn’t work. A fixed it last night after I accused him of making my life less efficient. Glad he could do it, but felt incompetent. And guilty.

  • My iPod wouldn’t work for some reason, then mysteriously started working, but with no clear connection to any of the five things I spent time doing to try to fix it.

  • And This American Life and Planet Money and Radio Lab seem like they’ve taken the week off anyway.

  • So I had nothing good to listen to and running felt like a chore.

  • And Turbotax is the slowest thing ever.

  • Probably because I did our taxes at almost the last minute.

  • And I don’t have all our child care receipts and I don’t want to talk to Iris’s old day care director, so we aren’t going to get to take the deduction.

  • Because I was disorganized.

  • Am disorganized. Although I like to think otherwise.

  • I turned in two Signing Time DVDs to the library, each in the wrong case, and the library lost one of them, and now they won’t let me renew anything or check anything out because they believe I’ve stolen something. So I am racking up fines and feel all itchy because I can’t request books.

  • Yesterday I said in a loud, mean voice on the phone to the librarian, “Are you calling me a liar?”

  • Oh my God, I yelled. At the librarian.

  • And A and I are having that reentry thing, which I’ll be able to write about in a funny way in about three days when it’s over but right now seems Not Funny. At All.

  • This blog is ugly, isn’t it? Especially if you look at it in Safari on a Mac. More people would stay if it were prettier, wouldn’t they?

  • Also, this article made me feel boxed in and furious, but I can't gather up enough time or thought to say why in any good way.

  • And I’m afraid that all the lousiness and stress of this historical moment is killing creativity and generosity right and left. Mine included.

  • And worried about not being able to write. Well. Or at all. About things that are complicated or interesting. Without being a cartoon trend-following bad mother.

  • Yuck.

Updated three hours later:

  • A mean, crazy lady just made me cry at work by ranting at me on the phone about something crazy I didn't understand and treating me like a worthless secretary, even though I was extra, extra patient and listened to her for far longer than I should have.

  • Which is probably my comeuppance for yelling at the librarian yesterday.

  • Also, I found out Ingrid's favorite teacher is leaving her day care next month.

  • Waah.



A got home Thursday night. I am relieved, tired, and suddenly more prone to complaining than I have been any time in the past two and a half months. Also, catching up on emails, and hoping I can now squeeze in more writing time than I've been able to lately. Phew.


Brag and Plug: Because I Love Her

Long ago, back when I feared I might never have any children, I wrote a poem. I've written a medium-sized pile of poems in the five—no, wait, six! God!—years since then, but this is still one of my favorites.

I'd never published a poem, or even tried to, but late one night when Ingrid was just a little chunky thing, I saw that Shannon had published an essay in an online journal called Literary Mama. (If you haven't checked out Literary Mama, do. It's fabulous.) Reading Shannon's essay, I was both impressed (as always) with her smarts and a tiny bit jealous. I want my writing to go somewhere good like that, I thought. And, on impulse, half-asleep, I sent them that favorite poem.

And then I forgot about it for maybe nine months or so, until one day I got an email from the very kind poetry editor asking if the poem was still available. It was, and they published it, and I felt famous and thrilled for a while and then forgot about it.

Until last summer, when I received an email from Nicki Richesin, who was putting the finishing touches on an anthology of essays about mother-daughter relationships. She wanted to know if she could use a big chunk of my poem as an epigraph to one of the essays. Ooooh, was I tickled.

The book, Because I Love Her, was released today, and I'm telling you about it not only because I'm so unaccountably thrilled to be in print, on paper, in a book, in such good company, but also because, hey: easy Mothers' Day gift idea. Buy one for your mama, and as a bonus you can peek through at the epigraphs before you wrap it and try to guess which one is mine.