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Category: amusement

A Wooden Bed on Which to Lay Your Head

My daughter lies on the floor of the hallway outside her bedroom door, an arm sprawled in front of her. The other is tucked in next to her side, her pale ruddy skin a contrast to the cheerful green of her dinosaur pajamas. She is soundly asleep and undoubtedly quite pleased at her independence.

I put her in bed properly a few hours earlier, of course. But Baba refuses to lie down in her bed, no matter how much you sweeten the deal. The very thought of it offends her, though she goes into it easily once she’s fallen asleep elsewhere. And so she has fallen asleep in protest on nearly every other surface of her room; the rocking chair, her personalized L.L. Bean couch and once, even on her changing table. For all of our sanity, I put a rug on the floor and it has become the favored location ever since.

Sure, kid.

But this night, when she managed to crawl halfway out of her room before giving in again to sleep, I turned on all of the lights and took a good picture. I put it as the wallpaper of my laptop, where it is displayed for all of my coworkers to see.

“What is she doing?” they ask.

“Being herself,” I say.

The most wonderful thing about young children is that they are so entirely themselves. Baba has no apparent self-consciousness. When she wants something, she’s willing to throw a fit over it, with no concern about the snotty mess that her face becomes or the unflattering way her skin goes splotchy. As soon as she has a thought, she tells you.  When the thought was hilarious, as it often is, and you laugh, she laughs with you. When she doesn’t know a word, she doesn’t hide it – she just describes what she wants over and over until someone supplies her the word.

It’s so wonderfully refreshing to be around. Even when I just, desperately, want her to put on her socks and go out the door and all she wants to do is stop and play with….whatever…she has suddenly fixated on, I can’t help but see the beauty of her nature. Perhaps this is motherhood, this effortless sense of understanding. Although I try hard to extend it to everyone in my life, to know that a person is more than just their behavior in the moment, it’s so much easier with someone so innocent.  And now that she is approaching three, I value these moments so much more, because I know that they can’t last all that much longer.

And how Baba makes me laugh, just by being her authentic self.

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Human Moments, No. 11

It’s 4:30 a.m. and the doors slams shut behind her.  Baba’s small and heavy footsteps scurry to my side of the bed.

“Mama, Mama!” she says.  Half-asleep, I have already moved over to help her climb in and she does so, settling in under the blankets.  “Mama, Mama,” she says again, clutching my neck and face obsessively before rolling over and thrusting her backside into my chest.

“Hi Baba,” I say.  “Now, shhh…it’s too early.”

“Mama,” she says, pulling my arm over her.  “You put your hand on my tummy.”

“Okay,” I say, settling in with my arm around her as my heart melts.  The warmth of her relaxes me, just as the warmth of my much-missed cat would when he would curl up next to my side.

My eyes just close.

“Mama!” Baba says impatiently.  “Don’t touch me.”  She returns my arm to me, indignant at my daring.

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Human Moments, No 9

By Michael Rivera - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44979295

The children are a mix of ages, from four to seven, but their thin limbs sprawl equally across the newly painted merry-go-round.  Merry-go-rounds are now an artifact of time, an icon of the American landscape that has been sacrificed to this new world of safety and caution, and Baba has never seen one before.  Despite all of my efforts to distract her to slides and swings in the toddler-sized playground, she goes running towards it, arms outstretched like a tiny fun-loving zombie.

Spiiiiins…..spiiiiiins….spiiiiiins….

When they see her, the children on the merry-go-round drag their feet in the dirt to bring it to a screechy halt.  “Wait,” says a little girl with brown hair that is desperately escaping from her fat braid.  “There’s a baby.”  She pulls on the metal bars, dangling her tiny bottom over the edge, her hips moving back and forth with all the energy of someone who hasn’t yet figured out how to sit still.

“Baba, no-no,” I say desperately trying to distract Baba. “No-no, Baba!”  There are no harnesses on the merry-go-round and she’s certainly not stable enough to cling to the bars.  Everything in the New Parent Handbook says that this is a very, very bad idea.

“No-no!” Baba says, cheerily.

“It’s okay,” a young boy says, his words slurred by his missing lower front tooth.  “We can push her.”

“We’ll go slow,” the girl promises.  “Since she’s a baby.”

“Alright,” I say, then help Baba scramble up onto the merry-go-round.  The other children part, making room for her tiny body in that amorphous way that groups of children move when they are en masse.  Baba stands in the middle, smiling and babbling in her joy of being part of the group.  “Sit down!” I tell her, thinking that at least if she sits, she shouldn’t smack too many body parts when the merry-go-round begins to move.  I climb on with her and sit cross-legged on the cold metal, secretly pleased at my flexibility.

And let’s be honest, it’s not just pleased.  I’m delighted to have an excuse to sit on a merry-go-round again.  It was my favorite playground equipment and Baba has given a fabulous excuse to pretend I’m a child.

Spiiiiins…..spiiiiiins….spiiiiiins….

“Is she ready?” the brown-haired girl asks.  “Because my dad has taught us the right speeds.”

“That’s right,” the boy says.  “For babies, you have to go really slow.”  He hops down and begins gently pushing us around, at a speed that would make the teacup ride at Disneyland yawn in boredom.  “And for older babies, you can go less slow.  And for a little older than that, you can go walk speed.  And then, when it’s only older kids, you can go fast.  And then, when you’re five, you can go super fast.”

“And when you’re six,” the girl interrupts, “you can go super-mega-awesome-fast.”

 

 

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This is My Substitute for Pistol and Ball

Sully Pilot Whale
Sully Pilot Whale

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I’ve had the passage above stuck in my head for most of the day.  It has been a challenging week at work, which, combined with the discomfort of late summer, its constant social obligations, and a baby that stopped sleeping through the night, has put me into an asocial mood.

Last night, our neighborhood church threw a fabulous foam and water balloon party for charity.  As our windows continued to rattle from the DJ’s bass through our dinner, dessert and bedtime, I turned to my Beloved and asked him when we became the kind of people that hated a party.

“Since we had a baby,” he said sensibly.

“I wouldn’t mind*,” I whined, “but on a Wednesday? Who hires a DJ for a Wednesday?”

* this is a lie

When I woke this morning, after two overnight interruptions, I found that I walked with Ishmael. When one of my neighbors gestured angrily at me to back up my car so that he could pull a completely illegal u-turn in front of me, I considered pulling forward.  When the train was crowded, I considered leaving my bags on the seat to discourage a neighbor.  When I needed to buy some breakfast — having rushed out the door this morning without any — I considered skipping it because the idea of a polite interaction with a cashier seemed far too difficult to manage.

Just call me Ishmael.

I think Melville could have rewritten the opening of Moby Dick for writers; Ishamel writes about going to sea to solve his funk, but I turn to writing.  I suspect Melville did too.  When I find myself exasperated by the crowds of people that I wade through each day and fantasizing about moving to an isolated mountain top — possibly without my family — I know that it has been too long since I’ve done something that’s creatively satisfying.

And it’s true.  I haven’t written any new fiction since May, and I can feel the tension of my ideas building up in my neck and stuffing themselves down into my trapezius muscles.   I haven’t neglected my writing, but my efforts have been focused here on the blog and in revising my portfolio of short fiction.  The drafts that I wrote over two years of graduate work have been read and revised and revised and read again until I can barely stand to see the same paragraphs even once more.  At the same time, I feel the pounding in the back of my brain of the story that I want to write for Baba, the pressure of the novel that’s screaming for an ending.  I am bursting with creative energy, but trying to be responsible and finish what I’ve already begun before giving in to the urge to burn everything to the ground and start again.

I stretch my neck to try and relieve the tension that grows there every day, but there’s really nothing to be done for it other than to finish revision, send out my portfolio and go back to inventing the ornate lies that soothe my soul and make me a reasonable person again.

Balance is hard.  Throw in my job and the responsibilities of motherhood that limit my writing and I feel like I am going to burst out of my skin.  Add in all the other people and mundane  errands that are demanding my time and attention and I can well understand why Ishmael wants to knock off people’s hats.  This is my substitute for pistol and ball, he says.

I know exactly what he means.

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A Very Merry Unbirthday to You, My Dear

Cora-6-MoImpossibly, our daughter is six months old today.  This means a few things.

1. It was exactly six months ago that I was in labor for TWENTY-FOUR hours.  This is a fact that I intend to bring up to the BaBa often, for the rest of our natural lives. Perhaps longer.  If I was going to haunt anyone, it would probably be her.

2. It is now time to try on my pre-pregnancy clothes, in the fervid hope that some of them might actually fit.  I am trying to not build this up to a bigger event than it actually is.

3. BaBa needs to start eating some regular baby food, which I’ve been dreading for months, despite my growing obsession with making the stuff.  It will change her poop from sweet-smelling newborn poop to, well, human poop.  Poop.

4. This is probably the last time we’ll even notice her half birthday.

I read somewhere that parenting is a continual process of mourning — that every day is both a celebration of the child you’re raising and a sorrow for the child she no longer is.  In six months, I’ve watched BaBa change from an inert newborn (she was never tiny) to an opinionated and joyful little person that watches the world with wide eyes and an open mouth, as though she wants to taste every bit of it.  When she’s in her carrier on my chest, her head constantly swivels from left to right so that she can see everything going on around her.  She hates to sleep, even when her body is screaming for it, because she knows the world — which needs exploring — is continuing on without her.

I miss the sleepy three week old that was content to nap on my chest for hours — I still stare at BaBa when she does actually sleep, trying to memorize every line before the topography of her face changes again.  She fell asleep on me last night and I sat with her for fifteen minutes longer than I had to, just to try and catch these moments that I know that I won’t remember. There are days that she comes home from day care having learned a new skill and it’s like we picked up a different baby. Each time this happens, I have to get to know her all over again.

image

Some Things I’ve Learned from Baba

1. Nature is cruel.  Babies are born with an immature digestive system, which gives them a stomach ache for at least the first three months of life.

2. When BaBa’s not happy, nobody is happy.

3. Poop up to your nipples is only a problem if you make it one.

4.  A bath can absolutely be the highlight of your day.

5.  I’m unbelievably lucky to share my life with such a child.

Happy Saturday, all.  If you hear screaming, it’s probably because I just tried on my old pants.

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Woe to the Pears

Shinko Asian Pears“I have some sad news for you.”  Me Beloved’s face was mournful, but his mouth was twitching, which is never a good sign.

“Uh-oh.”

“About the pear tree.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No!”

My favorite fruit in all the world is the Asian pear. I presume that this is because I am a Taurus and value expensive things, because the Asian pear is the most expensive pear I could possibly desire.  Even in Asia, they’re considered delicacies that are often saved for guests, or shared between people, because they are expensive and difficult to cultivate. In Korea, there’s even an entire museum dedicated to them, which gives you an idea of its economic and cultural importance.

They are hard to find here.  When they do come in, they sell out quickly, despite their price tags of $2 to $3 per pear. And while I adore them, I also have a difficult time spending that type of money as often as I would like to indulge my habit.  My delicious, juicy habit.

So I thought I would be clever, since I had just moved into a house with a garden — I thought that I would make my own pears, to give myself the quantity that I would like. I did my research and purchased two Asian pear trees, because fruit trees need to cross-pollinate.   I wasn’t able to get two of the same type, due to limited supply, and one was advertised as less delicious than the other.  I put the less delicious tree on the median between the street and the sidewalk in front of our house as a sacrifice to neighborhood children.  I am not a fool.

The good pears, I put in our front garden, inside our fence.  Then I waited for them to grow.

And waited.

And waited.

Because they are fruit trees, in the third year, I expected to see a few pears.  I picked them, but I picked them too soon and they weren’t very good.  So I waited another turn of the year, leaving the pears on the trees until they were fat and plump.  Then, I came home on picking day…and discovered that they were all gone.

Every single pear.  Taken.

They say that there are five stages of grief.  The first is denial.  I went inside the house and asked my Beloved if he had picked the pears.  He hadn’t.  The second is anger.  What kind of person would have taken ALL of the pears?  What special kind of blanketyblank do you have to be? Are you freaking kidding me?

Then, bargaining. Do you think if we hadn’t planted one of the pear trees on the street…?  Depression follows.  There will be no pears.  I don’t deserve these pears if I couldn’t protect them.  Then, finally, acceptance.  We’ll grow more next year.

So we did.  And they disappeared, en masse, yesterday evening.  I wish that I could blame it on kids, but a neighbor saw who took them last year, so I have my suspicions.  My very adult suspicions.

I printed out a LOST PEAR poster and put it out on the telephone pole on our curb, with a picture of our missing pears.  After all, I’m back in denial.  Mourning will come later.  How could it have happened again?

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Superbowl Mania

I do not know much about the Giants, other than that they are a(n American) football team and they are blue. They are not smurfs; they’re rather a lot bigger than that. Some of them have flowing hair, I presume, as this seems to be a rather common feature of professsional football players. I know this because I live with a rabid Packers fan, though I admit I do not know any other kind of Packers fan.

I’ve personally never had the attention span to figure out football, as there’s rather a lot of short bursts of activity followed by a lot of reorganizing and standing about and then there’s the couches with their giant headphones and the guys in the cool striped shirts.

If I had to be involved with football (or, well, more involved than sitting in my living room at my spinning wheel while others watch and groan and cheer at appropriate moments, which I can never discern far enough in advance to join in like I might have an idea of what’s going on), I would want to be one of the people in the striped shirts, because I rather like stripes. They’re striking.

However, when the Giants do win, lots of rather unfashionable people put on these bizarre blue shirts and descend on my morning commute. They’re coming into Manhattan for a tickertape parade, which used to be something we did for minor events like V-E Day and visiting dignitaries, but now is used for sports heroes and the Saint Patrick’s Day parade (and lots of people who seem to think that celebrating Irish culture means wearing green face paint and getting ridiculously drunk and loud at three in the afternoon, which is exceedingly irritating). But I like watching the sports fans come in, because they seem to feel like they’re partially responsible for the victory. And, given by the amount of money that they clearly spent on their unfashionable shirts, maybe they are. They do spend the majority of the day blowing horns of some kind and yelling right outside my office window, but I am twenty floors up, so it is not nearly as bad as it could be.

So here’s to the sports fan, that totally alien (to me) creature – I love your enthusiasm. May we all feel so passionate about something.

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Visiting Time

When I went to your town on the wide open shore,
Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean

It is summer and we live by the ocean, which means that we’ve had a steady stream of visitors for the last month, which is an excellent thing indeed.  I’ve also been doing my share of visiting, having popped down to Virginia in the beginning of June to meet one very excellent baby.  I’m afraid I have fallen rather in love and have been compelled to knit and buy small things.

This was followed with a far too short but excellent visit with a very old friend and a new friend, where we spent most of our time on the beach in both bad weather and good.  There are some friends that you can just pick up with after any amount of time away and the time spent together is so restful.  Too short, but incredibly wonderful.

Last weekend, my aunt came for a visit, where we went to see lots and lots of art in jewelry format.  The jewels were so scintillating that after two rooms, I actually had eyestrain.  I found the exhibit really inspiring from a knitting design perspective; I have some ideas in my head that will be hitting paper soon.  Then we took a day to wander up to Boston, taking the Port Jefferson ferry over to Connecticut, then stopping for lunch in Mystic.  I got to tourist Boston for the first time – despite morning thunderboomers and storms, we made it to Fenway Park (and I sat on the Green Monster) and walked quite a lot of the historic trail and waved at Sam Adams’ grave (why yes, that is my beer of choice) and went shopping at Quincy Market (where I proceeded to get overwhelmed by a cosmetic purchase, which you’d think I’d have gotten down pat by the age of thirty-one).  Dinner was excellent Vietnamese, which sent us off to sleep, only to awaken to a day at the Science Museum, which is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Lightning bolts and amazing ship models?  In one place?  Awesome.

The social life continue this weekend with some more very dear friends coming up for a visit and barbeque and FIREWORKS IN THE BACKYARD.  We’re not all that patriotic, but we sure do like setting things on fire.  Just hopefully not ourselves.

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Schumann: First Loss

In this week of uncertainty, where the impossible keeps happening (I mean, not only is Osama bin Laden assassinated, but Newt Gingrich is actually running for President), I thought I might bring you a little music.

So, without further ado, here is an 8 year old playing the piece of music that I’m struggling with for my piano lesson this week:

I think…I’d better get back to practicing. For my own dignity.

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The No Good Real Bad Messed Up Day

I should have known when the day started out with plunging a clogged toilet.  I woke up in the middle of an ice storm that blanketed most of the country; and my country is large.  It was not the foot of snow that we’d been promised on top of the several other feet of snow we’ve had this year, so some small mercies.  But not really, because snow does not make you slip over and over as you walk to the train….the train which is now running on a weekend schedule due to the weather, which translates to once per hour.  During rush hour to Manhattan.  And they had the nerve to charge peak prices.

So, needless to say, the train was a little congested.  By the time we’d gotten three stops ahead of mine (which is, fortunately for me, only three stops from the end of the line, so I had a seat), there were so many people jammed into the aisle and cubbies of the train that one of the conductors announced to the other conductors that she was stuck into a cubbyhole and could not open the doors to her cars.  She advised that no further stops be made, which would have been just as effective as continuing to stop.  But we did continue to stop, which was good, because another stop down, it was announced that there was a passenger on the train with a medical emergency.

If you don’t commute by train in a big city, you might react to this news with some sympathy.  The rest of us are made of harder stuff, because inevitably the ambulance and passenger removal will require at least a half an hour of sitting on the track, which also means no trains behind you getting through either.  By being so rude as to have your heart attack/stroke/baby on a rush hour train, you have just made thousands of people late for work.  And they’re mad at you.

But I wasn’t mad at you, not this morning, because I had a seat.  A seat I’d been sitting in for so long by the time we finally pulled into Penn Station that my legs were cramping and I was thinking of very little else than whether or not the bathrooms in Penn Station were going to be clean.  Commuter trains are not made for two hour long train rides, which is what it was.

So I went on to the first stop of my day, which was a visit to where our servers are hosted.  On the way up in the elevators, power flickered.  My elevator dropped.  I screamed, but then it stopped, so I told myself to calm down and push the help button.  Eventually I got out, with no broken bones.  Small mercies.  I climbed the other seven flights of stairs to where I was going.

I had two things to do there, one of which was impossible because of the incompetence of a vendor.  The other thing was to pick up a box that had taken me several days to make our hosting people admit to having.  I said I’d be by at nine to pick it up and they said no problem.  I showed up at 9:40, due to all of the above, and no box and no one who knew where the box was.  Around 10:20, it was finally delivered to one very irritated bird, leaning against a chain fence with her arms crossed and a glare on her face.

But as I was told, all’s well that ends well.  I went from there, trudging through huge icy puddles and slush, to my office.  At last, I was planning on using the company Starbucks card (whoohoo, dot com perks) to buy myself a cup of coffee, which would just suit me fine and cheer me up.  So, naturally, as I was unfolding the card from its receipt, it went bouncing straight down into the radiator vent.

Hysterics commenced.  As did the dismantling of the radiator.

Life improved with coffee.  It always does.  And yet, there’s still the commute home to consider — we’re going tonight to see another possible wedding venue – the Stewart Manor Country Club. Could we possibly dare to get married there, after such a day?

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