Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yesterday I attended a mothers' group playdate. Formally it was an "ice cream social." A big fan of ice cream, I didn't intend to miss it, even though my child is too young to play with the happy, babbling, walking toddlers. My child was, after pitching one of his usual fits about being put into the car seat for the fifteen minutes it took to drive there, finally, blissfully asleep in his stroller (read: torture chamber), so I had hands and, for a moment, mind free.The mothers who turned up all seemed like women I could relate to, would love to get to know, and would find interesting--the type who have opinions about social issues and like to read. I was eager to dig in and get to know them.

Unfortunately for my social craving, each woman was busy being a mother--which meant following behind their toddlers to keep them from tripping into the street, or retrieving a ball that was sent flying into the next yard, or scooping ice cream into tiny mouths. I felt disappointed. I ate my indulgent bowl of ice cream with extra jimmies and caramel sauce silently. I asked a few questions, made a few comments, and was politely answered before that particular mother had to return to her task of being absolutely available to her child.

And as I sat there in my sort of smugness, feeling disappointed not to have discussion with what I knew to be intelligent, interesting women--my own child struck up a caterwauling so loud that I was barely heard shouting over him that I would go walk him in his stroller to quiet him. The stroller walk was a temporary balm. Feeding him even more temporary. Changing him had almost no effect at all.

And so I got up with apologies, barely heard over his plaintive wailing, and madly dashed for my car, trying to speak reasonably to my child that we would soon be home. That his suffering was nearly over. That if he could just hang in there a few minutes more, the lovely rythm of the car would lull him to sleep or at least calm. And in my haste I realized that I was in exactly the same position as those other mothers. That intelligent conversation from my end would also have to wait.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I admit it. I keep trying to find ways to link motherhood to writing so you writing readers of mine will still have something to come here for. Yet it's difficult to do. I'm not really sure how changing diapers or entertaining an infant with colorful toys relates to writing--I can see how it will affect my writing, both in terms of time (not much now, but eventually!) and in terms of content (huge changes to my psyche).

I want to say, though, to all parents who come through here: I had no idea. I didn't realize how hard you were all working, how thankless a job it is (meaning that you can't do it for the reward, only for the joys that come unexpectedly), and how much you could love a person who was only an idea before. Now that I know, I want to apologize to anyone I expected too much from. The early years are all consuming.

These early years are also unparalleled--it's amazing to hear your baby laugh at something you personally find no humor in. I regularly wonder: 'What is he thinking?' When he sleeps, what is he dreaming about?

It's hard to think about writing fiction when there is this real child developing into a person before my eyes every moment. He grows overnight. He is only two months in the world but already he has preferences and expresses himself. That's amazing.

I know, I'm not the first person to do this. But it sure feels like it :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

To the Woman Who Flipped Me Off on the Freeway:

I forgive you.

It's true that I was driving the speed limit, and that's so 1990 (at which point you were only about 5 years old), so I can see how you'd get uptight after spending five seconds behind me on the road. Since everything is all about you, it's a natural leap of logic to assume that I was driving that slowly to purposely upset you--your rage is totally understandable.

Also, you're likely in withdrawal since the new hands-free cell phone law went into effect. You got so used to talking on the phone with one hand and shifting with the other that having a free hand is probably a little overwhelming. Makes a person think crazy.

Plus it's true I drive a sedan--my car isn't sporty and shiny red like yours; naturally you figured there's some old fart in the driver's seat, and you didn't want to get stuck behind a blue hair.

Finally, how could you know that I was driving slowly and carefully because of my infant in the backseat--it's not like you've got x-ray vision for chrissakes!

Really you had every right to flip me off--I was totally behaving like a jerk. Nobody would blame you for expressing your displeasure.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Did I Stutter?

I am a social being for the most part, but at times I can become deathly shy or self-conscious, like when meeting new people I hope to impress, or when I'm presenting a workshop or class, bringing out a kind of super-chatty, "look at me" style of conversation that is over-eager and over-compensating and makes me slap myself on the head later for not being more myself.

When I get like that, I pull out this little line to save my ass: "I'm a writer, not a talker."

Now I get to use a brand new line: "I have a new baby" to explain away everything from shyness to my newly acquired stutter. Days and even weeks after giving birth I stuttered so significantly I worried that I had suffered a small stroke during labor, unaware that this was just my brain on total sleep deprivation. Even my worst night's sleep--college cramming, insomnia or stress related--didn't compare to the constant waking of a newborn baby every couple hours or less. Being articulate simply was not an option.

The only thing to cast aside my fears that I had lost a crucial set of brain pathways in the birth process was that I could still string together intelligible sentences when writing. The words still flowed, even though writing a paragraph was a major achievement.

As I've always said--thank god for writing, or I'd be a terrified mute with absolutely no self-awareness.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Morning light these summer days is an amber glow, like resin painted on the outside of my windows. This is not the sweet touch of sunrise; my state is on fire, and I happen to live nearly smack between the most major of these blazes. There is a thin haze of gray coating the horizon in all directions like a film and a sense that if you breathe too deeply you'll wind up needing an oxygen mask before long. Along with daily news of the worsening economy, the energy crisis and the cave-like isolation of new parenthood, this state of inferno has contributed to an apocalyptic feeling, as if the bomb went off and we're in its aftermath. And while that sounds depressing, it's strangely inspirational to my writing, which I am trying to reconnect with after pregnancy ejected my brain and new motherhood has continued to loan it out.

But it's slowly coming back. Yee haw.