Sunday, October 18, 2009

Inconceivable - Bum Genius 3.0

It’s inconceivable. Young parents now look like kids to us. We are speaking about the thirty-somethings you see in the park, pushing prams that look like Transformers (Optimus Primary Years!), sipping their soy lattes, carrying diaper bags full of eco-friendly Bum Genius 3.0 cloths*, and gathering in Mommy/Baby cliques by the swingsets. We’re envious, we admit it. Our baby-making years are over (we decided after one child we were done), but we sometimes wish for the child who still snuggles, coos, writes little misspelled notes, hugs our knees and says “I love you Mommy.” These days, we’re lucky if we get a grunt of acknowledgment from our “baby” as she emerges from the bathroom after one of her marathon makeup application sessions.

Lots of young parents are stay-at-home moms and dads who blog about their experiences in parenting like a guided adventure tour. Like the aging mother we are, we sometimes browse these sites to be reminded of what it’s like to have a small child, to be new at parenting, to have a sense of wonder and amazement at that gas-induced first smile. There are plenty of blogs out there to read, and each one reveals the personality of the blogger-parent. There’s the advice-giver who tags posts by topic “Discipline,” or “Making Your Own Baby Foods” to the funny dad who chronicles his life with twin daughters. Some parents start with the first positive pregnancy test and write about everything from morning sickness to ultrasounds. One young mother wrote all about her struggle to become pregnant, her miscarriages, a heartbreaking stillbirth, and then finally the joy of having a perfectly normal daughter. There’s a lot of honesty out there.

When we were pregnant, we wrote notes and bad poems to our daughter in one of those black and white composition notebooks, and continued to write in it off and on for about four years, tucking photographs and notes to the tooth fairy in-between the lined pages. An entry from December 31st 1994 recounts the amount of words she was able to say (over 100! wow!) , notes that she called caterpillars “nonnies,” and ends with a promise for a “really great” second birthday. It’s an entry resplendent with the lame fatigue of a new mother. The next entry is the day of her second birthday, which was described as a “toddler whirlwind.”

Maybe it’s the honesty and specificity of these parenting blogs that we’re envious of instead of the new parenthood. There is something to be said for being able to get in the car without all the Graco trappings, for engaging our 17 year old daughter in a philosophical conversation, and making the connections between who she was a child and who she is as a young adult. It’s cool, actually. We try not to dwell any poor parenting techniques we might have employed in the past (Did you know the “time out” is now frowned upon?). However, we sure do wonder about some of the benign phrasings being used these days. “You don’t have the freedom to ___________” is used to discourage negative behaviors. We can’t help but fill in the blank with "You don’t have the freedom to wear mommy’s bra as an aviator cap, put a saddle on the cat, and play ‘Pilot on the Prairie.’”

For now, we’re content with maybe getting a dachshund, visiting with our friend’s new babies (we like being an aunt!), and reading about the most elaborate, Star Wars themed first birthday party ever. It's delicious, vicarious living where we don’t have to clean the blobs of Bobba Fett cake off the floor.

* Since when do diapers have version numbers?


About two or three times a year someone in the household is sick, and the pace of our day slows. Our interests change from to-do list items like “wash all the laundry” to spontaneous rug squaring (we’ve noted our mild obsession with the 90 degree angle). The cats have stapled themselves to the bed of the sick one, there’s a candle burning in the kitchen, soup has been administered. The morning light feels like afternoon light washed through a dirty coffee filter. There isn’t much to enjoy on a day when someone you love is running a fever. We just want them to be well, to eat and laugh, and possibly help with the laundry. But there’s a hint of the past in a house that has nothing to offer other than broth and a gentle hug, which seems like enough for now.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Poem at Work


for Brian

"I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the mark of black lead pencil."

- Joseph Priestley

The man who founded Unitarian Universalism,
a religion based on the art of listening and thought,
also discovered the eraser.

I often wonder
how much a soul weighs
and whether or not rocks
have them. Also, who
discovered invisible ink?

Even the seasons
give us a few months
of rubbed out landscape,
music rests for sustained
moments of contemplation,
poems swim in white space
like misunderstood kids
on the playground.

There is a thrill
in found notes in the margins
of a stranger’s book, some erased,
but the hand so heavy
that the words “allegory
sucks,” have embossed
the page. The writer wished
them to be impermanent.
So much for that.

I have a hard time with allegory too,
ever since a few weeks before my dad died
when he shared the first sentence
of the last book he ever read:
One day you wake up and realize
you know more dead than living.

Then he saw herons
all over his hospital room.

If you press hard enough
with a Pink Pearl you can erase
the ink from a hundred dollar bill
and encourage it to abandon
its life of currency for one
of art.

When I was eight
and philosophical
with a Hello Kitty pencil,
I wrote my name
over and over
just to erase it.
Pages and pages
of little births
and deaths to see
what it felt like
to be real
and then disappear.

I suggest to a friend
who has lost his mother
that he type all his feelings out
and then hit the delete key,
as if it is just that easy.

I still think every heron I see
is my father.

There is no way
to erase thought.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Power of Scent - a List

Inspired by my friend Mark's article "Scents My Sister Loved" in Sniffapalooza Magazine, I've made a list of my own evocative scents. For me, scent equals memory. I've always had a very strong sense of smell, which in some ways is a detriment, but mostly it's a gift. I get mocked for my descriptions of tastes because I correlate them to scent. The most recent instance of this was at a dinner with friends where I described the risotto as having a flavor "that reminds me of the smell of 1970's basement bar." No, this was not a good risotto, but I got to the heart of the flavor.

So here are some of the scents that resonate with me on many levels - some are universal in nature (like astrological "predictions" in StarScrolls at the supermarket), others are personal. This is the scent-stuff that tells my stories. I'll come back to this and add as I remember more. It's hard to make a finished, definitive list!

acid eaten paper of old books
pencil shavings
Country Cottage puffball curtains
lemon juice
driveway sealer
cat fur
a pile of fall leaves
chimney soot
pine tree sap
lychee fruit
olives and feta
basement mold
mint tea mist
toasty scent of a Carhart shirt
stuffed animals
warm baby skin, not baby powder
humid bathroom with hairspray
city street sewage sigh
wet sand
triple-layer college apartment carpet
first heat kicking in
rose oil
melting candle wax
acidic tomato vine
Sunday dinner Salisbury
birthday cake candle wish
snowman mittens
Grandmom & Pampal's attic warmth
onions frying in olive oil
Thanksgiving celery and onion
turpentine and oil paint
air right after rain
air right before snow
summer dusk air
envelope mint
the yellow center of a daisy
inside of a piano (felt, wood)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


It's a good thing I make a decent soup, because my writing sure isn't satisfying lately. With soup, you can toss in all sorts of ingredients from the fridge - spinach, carrot, onion, tiny meatballs. In writing, I over-think every choice until all I have is broth, and then I wonder if I should have just stuck with the water. One drop of it.