May 31, 2013

Serendipity and The Secret Garden

Friends, tomorrow is June. June! Which means the students I didn't teach these past months are celebrating their freedom, the crab apple blossoms I blinked and missed this year are ripening into fruit, the thunderstorms I lovethe big and juicy onesare crackling on the horizon, and I must sneak in one more post before spring turns to summer, if only to share a few green-season quotes with you from Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. Quite by chance, it was the first book I read after Elliot was born, and I can't imagine I'll ever forget that serendipitous match. I read this story of Mary and Colin and Dickon when I was a young girl, of course, but I had forgotten how much truth swirls off every page. There were grand intentions of writing an essay about it, or at least a poem, and sharing that with you all, but instead I have become a master at the art of clipping small fingernails and mining out ticklish spots between the delicious rolls of my son's squishy skin. A fair and easy trade.

I hope these words nourish your spirit and inspire you to step outside and savor somethingthe wind on your face, the pebble in your sandal, the perfection of clouds at dusk rippled with light.



"She flew downstairs in her stocking feet and put on her shoes in the hall. She unchained and unbolted and unlocked and when the door was open she sprang across the step with one bound, and there she was standing on the grass, which seemed to have turned green, and with the sun pouring down on her and warm sweet wafts about her and the fluting and twittering and singing coming from every bush and tree. She clasped her hands for pure joy and looked up in the sky and it was so blue and pink and pearly and white and flooded with springtime light that she felt as if she must flute and sing aloud herself and knew that thrushes and robins and skylarks could not possibly help it. She ran around the shrubs and paths towards the secret garden."   (Chapter 15)
"The wind swept in soft big breaths down from the moor and was strange with a wild clear scented sweetness. Colin kept lifting his thin chest to draw it in, and his big eyes looked as if it were they which were listening—listening, instead of his ears."  (Chapter 20)
"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one's heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun—which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one's eyes."   (Chapter 21)
"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow."   (Chapter 27)

May 11, 2013

Fields of Gold

I'm not sure what I thought would happen exactly after I did this thing called giving birth. I knew I would be called mother. I knew I would have a son or a daughter. I knew my husband and I would be parents. But as concrete as these words are, from the other side of now-knowing, I can say they feel like shells, shells full of light, but empty of the true weight that fills them when a baby that was hidden is brought into the visible world and placed in one's arms. I look at my son, and daily I think, pregnancy was work, birth was labor, but it was easy, so easy, far too easy for the fact of him, that he is real and really here.

What had I heard would happen exactly? Loss of sleep, a lot of diapers, warmth, deciphering cries, learning to soothe, learning to dress and bathe and feed someone small, and love--letting a new kind of love in. And each of these things has occurred, over and over. Yet they are not what has happened, not really.

What has happened is I wake in the deep of the night, less now, as Elliot is three months old, but still at least once, and I hear him next to me, stirring. Sometimes he is dreaming, or working with all his might to free his fists from his sleep sack, or raising his legs straight up just because he can. I touch his hand then, now fully free, and he clutches my finger in a way that is familiar to both of us, and often, seconds later, he slips back to sleep. When he is hungry, I scoop him up and I smell his hair, and if I think about it, amazement floods me. That I have entered us into the circle. That he exists in the way that I exist in the way that the earth is finally, beautifully green.

What has happened is that around 3:00 every afternoon exhaustion settles on my shoulders like twelve pounds multiplied by three months and I look at my son and I say, I love you, child, but is it fine if I don't sing? if I don't read you another book? if I don't lift you to your feet and let you stand between my hands, which is something you adore, but which in this moment would be too much? What happens is I lay him on his blanket and I reach out my hand, and he takes my finger, and I close my eyes for just a little while. And when I open them, he's still all right, still beside me, soaking up my face with a curiosity that is all his own.

What has happened is there's a third person living in the home my husband and I have made. This person is happiest when peering over our shoulders, like a bird. He stares and stares at the ceiling fan. He talks and talks to Panda. We say Good Morning, and with his tongue and his saliva and his throat he trills back through a smile as wide as the slats of sun coming through the blinds. What has happened is that I hold a piece of orange up to his nose, and his eyes get rounder. The ukelele or guitar comes out, and he is entranced. The breeze on the deck touches his face, ruffles his hair, and it is a wonder for me to see it: the moment of meeting some part of the world for the first time.

What has happened is that my wrists ache in a way I never anticipated, but as Eva Cassidy's voice sweeps us into another dusk, I hold my boy anyway, and we twirl and we spin and we sway, and I hold him and hold him and hold him.

I'm not sure what I imagined would happen exactly after I became a mom. The truth is, my husband talks about Mother's Day, and I think about my mother and his mother and our grandmas, and not myself, not right away. Maybe this will change when Elliot starts to speak, claiming me. Maybe it will happen next week: some feeling that I am not who I once was, that everything is different. Or maybe not. Maybe I am the same. Maybe I have always been the Emily who holds Elliot, who shares the smell of oranges, who tires in the afternoon, who wakes in the night deep from a dream. Sometimes I forget that he is a boy, by which I mean, sometimes I forget that he is not me.

What has happened is three months ago George and I said hello to a child and he is a part of our lives now. And whether we change or just become a wider version of who we've always been really doesn't matter. What matters is him and him and me, and the delicate and definite moments of our days.

Whether you're a caretaker of children, animals, or the earth, 
Happy Mother's Day, all! May you feel blessed.