Let Me Weep

I am a midnight writer
I am a sole survivor
I am chemicals colliding

Awake late in the night with a baby in my lap, I have turned the tv on low, the mist from the nebulizer clouding the screen. Though the steroid drugs wafting from the machine should amp my daughter up, she is limp across my thighs and sweating damply into the crook of my elbow. It takes twenty minutes to give her a full treatment, until the hissing starts breaking up and popping sounds come from the ampule of liquid feeding the machine. I run my finger down her velvety arm, feel my pulse quicken.

Years later, I find that an afternoon Diet Coke takes me past the edge of hyper over-exhaustion and into sleep. What should stimulate me — caffeine — sometimes helps me rest. I drink it in the bright sun streaming through my window and then lay on the couch, drifting. My daughter and I, it seems, have our own rules about sleep.

Continue Reading…

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If Then That

if-then-that

She was born fourteen years, six months, and thirty days ago, right on her due date, after a quick and powerful birth with most of the labor at home. She was 7 lbs 8 oz, two pounds heavier than her older sister, but we marveled at the similarities — her thick, curly black hair, her deep blue eyes, the slight jaundice that kept her under bilirubin lights for a day or two.

She came home and we all fell in love with her immediately. Her extra two pounds made sleep and nursing and everything so much easier, and it was like a dream compared to her sister’s nightmarish infancy. Like her sister, she was healthy and hearty, and in photos of the two of them at one month, two months, three months, they were impossible to tell apart. Until she got old enough for her eyes to turn the same dark brown as my mother, with long gorgeous eyelashes, they could have been the same baby.

At 12 weeks, I went back to work, photos of my two dark curly girls on my desk, side by side, baby and preschooler, carbon copies. Every few hours, I locked the door and pumped. Every night, I picked them up from daycare and buried my face into their necks that smelled like the daycare’s baby wipes, and we went home and ate takeout or macaroni and cheese and peas, with the baby gleefully nursing and then, eventually, eating jarred sweet potatoes and carrots and bananas and spinach. I felt a twinge of guilt — should I be making baby food? it doesn’t take that long… — but instead, we sat on the living room floor and cheered as the baby crawled between us, filling our time with each other.

I could have applied to graduate school, like I’d planned, but work was going well, so well that I thought I’d give it another year, not shake things up until the baby was two, or maybe three. I got a raise. “I can’t believe how well you’re doing,” my boss told me. “I was a wreck when I had my second baby!”

“Well, she’s a great sleeper,” I told her. Continue Reading…

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Easy Valentine

easy-valentine

 

 

I spent Valentine’s Day at O’Hare Airport, mostly.

That’s the punch line, but the lead-up is that my husband David — my organized, thoughtful, careful, good-planning husband — usually does everything logistical for our travel. He always has. There are these clear, colored plastic file folders into which he has, for at least the last couple of decades, placed copies of our boarding passes and hotel reservations, photocopies of our passports, printouts of hotel reservations, lists of things to do. They have neat notes in the margins, sometimes (“spoke with Marla at the front desk, they will have a Pack-n-Play ready, 7/16). I used to get frustrated that it seemed like this was the only thing he ever did when it came to our travel — I packed up the kids, canceled the mail, used up the milk in the fridge, made sure we had sunscreen, and on and on, a mountainous pile of tasks, while he sat in his office printing things — but the truth is that his jobs meant we would always get there and always had a place to stay and (usually) appropriate beds for everyone. Continue Reading…

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Where To, Lady?

where-to-lady

Today, I could work on this web site or this other web site. 

Or I could spend some time writing that essay or commit to the next chapter of can I start calling this a novel?

There’s laundry piling up, and there are appointments to schedule.

Also, what am I making for dinner?

My life for the last seventeen-plus years has trained the focus right out of me. Continue Reading…

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Roll and Be Rolled

lake-michigan

 

I grew up along this lake, just two hours north of where I live now. When I was a girl, I wasn’t allowed to walk the crumbling wooden path down to the beach nearest my house without an adult, but when I was a teenager, I was given permission to walk just a block further south to the wider, gravel path that led all the way down to the beach and also to what my family called “the overhang.” That was as far as I could go alone, but it was so much better than not getting to see the lake at all. From the overhang, I could see it and smell it, could hear the sound of the waves, and could sit and write my teenaged poetry and sing the songs no one wanted to hear anywhere else. In a neighborhood with nowhere else to go — no stores or parks or libraries for miles around — the overhang by the lake was my sanctuary.

Oh my goodness, those terrible poems were everything to me. I wrote all the things I couldn’t say, shared all the hurts and the unrequited love, the injustices, the overwrought outpourings of a girl who wanted so badly to run away.

Look how far I ran: I took this picture last summer, on the same lake two hours south of my childhood home, less than a mile from the house where I live now. How far did I run? Not far, and very far, depending on whether I count the distance in miles or resilience.

There’s so much I’m choosing not to write now, on a bench near the lake or otherwise. Some things I find myself pulling back from the page because of superstition, worried that naming them will make it hurt all the more if they don’t happen. Some things I know have to wait their turn in the light of the screen, to protect the privacy and the feelings of the people who aren’t ready to have their story told. But even so: I clutched those poetry notebooks to my chest for years — decades now — and few have ever seen or read them. So why not write anyway, for myself, to hold for the decades it will take to free the words?

I’m trying hard not to hold anything tightly. Words trap feelings, somehow, and sculpt fluid images into frozen statues. I could hold a scene in my hand — the expression on her face, the way he held his coffee cup — and pin it to the page, but then when I returned to look at it in a month, six months, a year, it would always be just-so. I would not be able to turn it around in my hands, see it from another angle, play it out with the volume lower or higher. I read that memories are always distorted; we are remembering something only the way we remembered it the last time it came to mind. Our brains keep tweaking it, making it better or worse or more interesting or more dramatic. If I write it, I lose the opportunity to recreate it later.

This year, things will happen to me, just like every year things have happened. I’m trying with all my might to let the events that shape my year wash over me, rock me to one side or the other, and not to pin the outcome — any outcome — to the page. My career could tilt in one direction or another; old friendships seem to be gently falling out of season; shifts are happening in the generation above me; my older daughter will go to college somewhere; my younger daughter reminds me less and less of the frustrated, sick girl she once was. It’s all changing. I don’t know where my life will land.

I’m practicing coating my body with an invisible layer of something soft, something breathable, something cushioned, to protect me from the rocks on the shore, to hold me safe inside as I’m pushed all about. I’m practicing rolling over with the tides and the waves, rolling while things roll over me, being patient with where things settle and for how long.

I’m not a fan of new year’s resolutions or step-by-step plans. I’m learning to roll and be rolled. I’m listening to the water.


This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com. This week’s prompt was “my word for 2020 is…”

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