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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for Life Category

Things I Miss

Friends Family, Life, My Little Family, Quarantine - Emily - May 21, 2020

MY MAMA’S HOUSE

I miss knowing the angle of the curve into my Mama’s driveway, signalling and swerving onto gravel and back through a tangle of trees.

I miss coming up the final curve of the driveway and honking my horn so everyone knows I’m there.

I miss the few moments of stillness where I turn my car off and get out to get Ari, as everyone makes their way to the back door. A dog barks, and again, and another joins in – someone appears at the family room window and the wooden door swings inward.

A dog bounds out, then another. Sometimes even another. A cat slips through and into the house.

“Hi Emmy!”

I gather Ari and lift her over to the sidewalk, where she is enveloped by dog kisses and avoids swishing tails. Soon, someone has her up their hip to carry her into the house.

I miss warm hugs at the top step, how we can’t wait to get inside before hugging. All the rounds, greeting everyone. There is usually music on in the kitchen and it could be anything from classical violin to Erkyah Badu.

I miss the flowers on the table, and accessing where the meal assembly stands. I miss diving right in to help peel or chop or grate, or, ah – making Shaun do it instead.

I miss bottles of wine being opened, glasses being poured. The usual reminders of who wants red and who wants white. I miss a meal eaten haphazardly in the living room, plates balanced on knees, schooling the dogs to keep them from snitching food. I miss that feeling of no matter how old I grow, this house will always feel like home.

 

DINNER PARTY

I miss the hushed, tense last few minutes before the appointed hour. This bizarre idea that maybe no one will come after all. And then – from the street, a car door slams.

A family sweeps in, we take coats or covered dishes or hold a baby, just so everyone can get in the door. We all hug, and then hug again. One by one and then very suddenly, the house is full. I miss how I agonized over what background music to put on – until the conversation swells and it doesn’t matter because we can barely hear the music at all.

I miss a buffet style potluck spread out from the stove to the sinks, a delightful hodgepodge of all the best snacks and cheeses and some variant of tacos or pizza. Just as before, first one by one, a few people make a plate – and then suddenly everyone’s trying to. I miss how we all try and serve our own kids and each other’s kids, all at once, all on top of each other.

I miss dinner spread out across the playroom, people sitting on wooden chairs and on the rug and perched on a child’s trampoline. I miss the tangled knot of children weaving in and out of their parents, grabbing attention or a bite when needed. I miss watching mamas nurse their babies and pat them to sleep among four different conversations.

I miss the fluidity of the evening, how some gather on the front porch with a beer, some in the kitchen. Eventually, to get the kids to calm down a little, the TV flicks on and we cram too many people on the couch and in the armchairs, and half-watch a movie we’ve all already seen too many times. I miss how we all try and pinpoint the moment just before the exhausted children break and dissolve into tears, how we all try and help each other pack the kids and the empty casserole dishes and the belated birthday or Christmas gifts out to the car. I miss how the house somehow feels a little empty after everyone leaves, how I feel breathless and exhausted from that concentrated period of so many people I love in one room.

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Sehnsucht.

[sehnsucht]

I am going on a journey.

I’m taking a trip back in time. I am packing for me, my husband, and our toddler. We are loading up the car, and we are traveling back to a time and place when things were simpler – or at least seemed that way. I am thirty years old, and in a week, I will be thirty-one; but for this one trip, I get to go back and live in the past – be myself at 8 and 11 and 14 and 21. The past whispers to me, as we settle in the car and get on the road, following the lane markers up the interstate on this drive I have made a thousand times before. I feel all those memories, all the laughter and the mistakes and and the misunderstandings, brushing against me like the wind. Our history can be such a palpable place, just stepping foot in a building can bring back this oppressive feeling of presence, of a time gone by, of people who were once here, once important to us, and now are gone.

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Talking about family is difficult for me.

When I was younger, I thought my family was perfect. Spunky and a little loud and a little odd, but in all the best ways. When I was older, teenage years, early twenties, I thought my family was unconventional, maybe dysfunctional; but all the better for it.

In my mid-twenties, I thought the very existence of my family would crack me apart, from the inside, a great splintering, a great shattering. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it much, then, and I’m not really supposed to talk about it much now, for convention’s sake, for manners’ sake. So I don’t.

At thirty, I have decided family are the people we choose to be close to us, the people who may not always be related by blood, but have proven they will cherish us, and protect us. My chosen family is no less holy and divine simply because we are all friends who grew up in complicated families, with loss, with disappointment, with hurt and battered feelings. We are closer for it, because we know what it means to lose the familial ties, those traditional roles. We know what it is to be envious of a family whole, with two parents and siblings who get along, and grandparents and aunties and uncles who treasure your precious self, just as you are. We try to be that, for each other.

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The Stomach Flu.

Just held her sleeping a while today, and it was nice.

The stomach flu is the great equalizer. It sends shivers of fear into the hearts of even the strongest among us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student with midterms looming or a mom of two under two or a marketing manager at a big firm – if you hear someone’s got the stomach bug, it’s an instant retreat. Hide away. Get out the Lysol, blast the Thieves oil in the diffuser. Breathe artificial air until the stomach bug has run its course and the germs are far, far away from you.

No one wants the stomach flu. You hear someone you know has the stomach flu, and suddenly, you’re calculating how many days it’s been since you last had contact with that person, or their household. Did you hug? Did you take a sip of their latte? Did you exchange big, sloppy kisses with their two-year old? Every interaction is cataloging and weighed for likelihood that you, poor fool, will be next to feel your gut bubbling and simmering in that horrible, pre-puke way.

I don’t remember the last time I personally had the stomach flu, and that’s just fine with me. I am completely, 100% aware that writing this down is inviting the Universe to shower the stomach flu on me personally, as I have just mentioned how I  am probably overdue to kneel before the porcelin throne and puke my guts up. I’ll keep you posted.

But my sweet baby girl had the stomach flu last night, and Lord, the only thing worse than having the stomach yourself is seeing your child have it. Spouse with stomach flu? Regrettable, sure. Shaun had the stomach flu back in late February, and I felt bad for him – bought him saltines and Gatorade and told him how sorry I was over and over again – but I also put him in quarantine at the other end of the house, entered and exited the room he was in with a cloud of Lysol before and after me, to make sure no one else got it.

But my Ari, sick? That was bleak. We didn’t know what was up, we didn’t suspect – Shaun headed off for his weekly lithography time at Brokenstone, I had decided Ari and I would stay home that night to try and prevent her from dipping her hands into ink and mineral spirits like she’s tried to do the last few times we went to the studio. And thank God we stayed home. I put some music on the computer, Ari wanted to snuggle up in my lap, not wholly unusual for the first hour after I’m home from work. She’s so clingy in that first hour, since I’ve been gone all day and she wants to make sure I stay within her grasp once I’m home, so I don’t disappear again. But then – she laid her little head on my chest, and we just relaxed for a few, long moments. This is nice, I thought, I never get cuddles like this anymore. Gonna soak it up.

Then – her little head reared back – I heard her make a choking noise – she’s had a runny nose for weeks now, all part of the allergies-turned croup-turned tonsillitis-turned ear infection-turned eye infection she’s been battling for weeks – I thought she was working through some snot – but no – the vomit. Ohhh, boy, the vomit.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Six: Reflection

PART SIX: REFLECTION

There were so many parts of this birth story that were hard to write — and this final section has become one of the hardest. The truth is my feelings on my birth change, sometimes from day to day — depending on how I feel, my general mental health, what kind of comment someone has made lately. Every other post in this series has been 90% ready to go for weeks — but I keep coming back to this one. I keep feeling like I haven’t said enough, or I haven’t said what I meant clearly, or that there’s another message or lesson I need to explore.

Months have passed since I gave birth to Ariadne. Although I began writing her birth story the first week we came home, as I am finishing it, her first birthday is on the horizon. Before I had my own baby, I wondered why mothers waited so long to share their birth stories. Weren’t they burning to share their experiences, their joys and pain? Now, I understand. Now, I realize what a transformative, life-changing experience birth is, whether it happens perfectly as desired, or is massively derailed. It’s not so easily tossed out for the world to digest – sharing your birth story is incredibly overpowering, intensely vulnerable.

I found, the deeper I got into my birth story, the more confusion I felt. Even in the first weeks home, I was moved to tears – sobbing tears, neither wholly of pain nor of joy – when looking at pictures from our days at the birth center, when trying to put into words the huge wealth of emotions I felt that week. My birth struck me as a many-layered experience. Parts of it were painful in the extreme, both physically and emotionally. Parts of it were beautiful, spiritual, and empowering, despite the frustrations. I struggled – do struggle still – how to make peace with this juxtaposition, this dichotomy of the two very different sides to my birth that somehow inhabit the same space of my heart.

Even just writing my birth story forced me to face the parts of my birth that I found painful, disappointing – even traumatic. Writing this has been a form of therapy, certainly – but there were times I did not feel up to the task of working through the disappointment, doubt, and guilt that I felt during that week, and have felt from time to time since. The idea of sharing my birth story makes me feel intensely vulnerable. Giving birth is both the most vulnerable and empowering time of a mother’s life, and sharing our weakest and strongest moments takes a lot of guts, and a lot of strength.

I confess that I delayed writing and sharing this post, because at times, I feared people would judge me. Directly after my birth, I did not feel much doubt about the decisions I’d made. At that point – the aftermath was still very evident, from the huge bruises on my arms to my hideous feet still grotesquely swollen from the magnesium to the follow-up doctor’s appointments to make sure my blood pressure came down and stayed down, and that I remained out of danger for a stroke or seizure. It was easier to take the danger of my ill health seriously, in the first weeks after I gave birth. The scariest moments, the biggest risks and dangers had left their mark on me, physically, and they were not easy to forget, at first. For a few weeks, I continued to feel justified in every decision I had made, because the evidence of their necessity was printed on my skin.

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Birthing Ariadne, Part Four: Birth

[part three]

PART FOUR: BIRTH

I still couldn’t believe those words – I believe I need a C-section – had left my mouth, and then I had to say them again, about 45 minutes later, to the doctor when she returned. In the time in between, I felt a curious sense of relief, this lightness like a huge weight had been taken off of my chest. I felt that I had made the right decision – that voice that had been shouting at me louder and louder to listen to my instincts quieted for a while.

Telling the doctor what I wanted and why was difficult, again. While she and I had our differences then, and have had differences again since, I do firmly believe she had me and my best interests at heart. I believe she was listening to my midwife when she said I really wanted a natural birth, and that’s probably honestly why she let me go as long as she did – under different circumstances, without my midwife’s warning, she might have called for a C-section earlier, but she wanted me to have the chance to birth the way I wanted, even if that wasn’t her way. Even on that day, I understand we had a sort of impasse of worlds, different outlooks and lifestyle, and I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to explain too much to her. I told her the basics of my decision, and after some discussion, she agreed we would do it.

I had thought maybe things would move very quickly at that point, but this wasn’t an emergency caesarian. They had to get the staff, wait for an open OR, to prep me – we had a bit of time, still, before the moment would finally arrive and I would have my baby in my arms.

That time in between ended up being a really beautiful, loving time, and I’m so glad we had it. Lauren arrived back from the dance studio, and just sat by my side and held my hand for a while. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. I felt safer and stronger, having her back with us, having her hold my hand and not say much, but look me in the eyes and tell me silently that she believed in me.

DSCN3818

All of us – Shaun, Lauren, Emi, Jeannie, Kristin and Mama – sat and just – talked. Processed. We discussed everything we had just talked about, all over again, and the more we talked, the more I felt convinced this was the right decision. I was able to calm myself, and gather my strength again – because what was about to come was almost scarier to me than giving birth vaginally might have been. I remember feeling very peaceful during this time, and very grateful for everyone there.

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