I Wish I Were a Morning Poem

That’s all, really. I wish I were a morning poem. Perhaps I am a morning poem.

“I Wish I Were Mexico,” by Beckian Fritz Goldberg

When my father came back from the dead he came back as a smell. He came back as a bus passing comes back as a cloud, fumy and genie-like granting three wishes. He came back as a seaside town. He came back as the great parlor of fragrance thrown open by coconut. Meanwhile the bus was winding past Taxco, the child hanging out the window on a mountain road wanting to throw up. And when the bus turned and held itself mid-air the child died and someone else got on with her life. That’s the one my father returns to because it’s so simple. You breathe. And the bloom of gin comes back like a tree.

Because, being a morning poem, I just am, as poems are. I move deeper than motherhood, beyond the public library circulation desk (new job). I forget to wrestle with whether or not we should put our child on drugs to ease his anxiety and stimulate his ability to comprehend and retain what he’s trying (so hard, he’s trying) to learn. I stop questioning the psychiatrist’s assertion that “I don’t see the autism diagnosis, at all.” I stop judging what I perceive as my husband’s failures. I hear the barge horn blast downriver, the train clacking loudly and quickly across the golf course that moves every day closer to wild. There’s Lucy, by the window, keeping track of me. She is a morning poem too.

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Softer than my deserving

Sometimes a poem or a sentence line up so directly with my experience I must tell it.

Granted, I spent most of yesterday coming out of the blue fog of anesthesia (I guess I have a slippery colon because both the doctor and nurse commented several times that it was a very tricky one to maneuver. “Never seen anything like it,” commented the very punctual and schedule-oriented anesthesiologist when I waved to her in my groggy funk.) So yes, it was a particular challenge to keep track of the boys and their needs while trying to get something on the table for dinner because part of my problem was sheer lack of nutrients.

I discovered G had colored all over his play kitchen in blue crayon. I mean, All Over. And here I thought he was just being super cute, wanting to be like Handy Manny with a pencil behind his ear. It should have tipped me off when he kept breaking the crayons and having me replace them. But like I said, blue fog of anesthesia.

Jonah was dead set on doing an experiment involving vinegar, baking soda, water and a balloon. I tried, I really did, to make that happen; but when I finally got out of my chair and to the kitchen, the black hole of my pots-and-pans cabinet overwhelmed me as I tried to locate the funnel. Enter poem.

Nursery, 11:00 p.m.

Asleep, the two of you,
daughter and son, in separate cribs,
what does it matter to you
that I stand watching you now,
I, the mother who did not smile all day,
who yelled, Go away, get out, leave me alone
when the soup-pot tipped over on the stove,
the mother who burned the muffins
and hustled bedtime, tight-lipped.
You are far away,
beyond reach of whispered
amends. Yet your calm
breathing seems to forgive,
unwinding
into the air to mesh
like lace, knitting together
the holes in the dark.
It makes of this dark
one whole covering
to shawl around me.
How warm it is, I think,
how much softer
than my deserving.

Robyn Sarah

I was the mother half yelling “Can you just do your own thing so I can make dinner?!” while thinking I just need you to take care of yourselves right now. Please. Nevermind all my good reasons/excuses for doing so. None were good enough. But my boys are still like the dogs. They forgive me in a moment. They just want a hug and to know everything is okay with me, that everything is okay with them. I know this will not always be so. They will grow up and it will be harder to forgive, in part because they won’t need me so much. That whole balance of power thing.

But now their forgiveness still “makes of this dark / one whole covering / to shawl around me. / How warm it is… / how much softer / than my deserving.”

rotten tree hug

Influenza Haze

I can’t shake myself of the haze I woke up in this morning; my physical condition casts a pall over the entire day. The sun seems dimmer until is slips behind the wall of overcast sky, which it does so often in mid-winter Ohio. My entire nervous system feels to be tamped down. I shake my head like a dog whose collar is too tight—like our Sophie who wants your attention but does a full body dog shake following every pet or pat on the head—but the shake doesn’t clear my head. Crazy dog. Crazy me. I’m still fuzzy, capable only of the simplest tasks, like staring out our front window. Which is okay. It’s Sunday. But Daniel Deronda is giving me a sidelong glance from the cover of the book on the arm of my chair. Who is he to judge? Okay, he is the bastard son of a nineteenth century aristocrat….but still! Son of an aristocrat!

So this is where a hazy brain takes me—casting insults at a character on the cover of my book. It’s been a strangely relaxing and strenuous week, more emotionally than physically. G was terribly sick with Influenza 2012-13 an accompanying ear infection for most of the week; Jonah caught it too, though it affected him quite differently. He was feverish, laid on the couch for hours (unheard of!) with a blanket up over his head. He slept mid-morning after the fever went away, and then the fever came back. He had restless nights and flush-cheeked days. He complained about his legs hurting. Said they were sleeping and demonstrated the hunched over way he had to walk to wake them up.

Gabriel continues to proclaim (loudly), “Need a Kweenex!” He has that rheumy look about him. He tells me his eyes are hot. He coughs into a square piece of Tupperware (“Need my coughing bowl!”) because sometimes he coughs so hard his gag reflex gets triggered and who knows what will come up (other than the pints of mucous he must be swallowing). How’s that for graphic? The following still life captures the current state of things. I call it “Stop Motion Still Life” after the title John’s playing around with for his new manuscript.

stop motion still life

We sent Jonah to school Thursday. Maybe shouldn’t have, but he seemed to weather it well and he had an extra long weekend (no school friday) to recover. We’ve been working on independence/separation anxiety, and he usually walks himself to his classroom, but I went down with him this once to help him get reoriented. His classmates rushed to greet him (I winced a little at all the hugging, hoping he wasn’t contagious anymore). And I must show you something I saw during that short trip down to the basement classroom of Canton Montessori Elementary. If you have followed this blog for awhile, you might remember a post I made near the beginning when Jonah finally picked up (and cared) about what coloring means. That was a little over a year ago, and we were thrilled to see him attempt to keep his red and green colors inside the apple outlines.

Well, he’s still not much of a color-in-the-lines sort of guy. For awhile he made these crazy paper sculptures out of recycling and glue. But what I saw in the hallways leading to his classroom was his work as a portrait artist. Granted, his style isn’t particularly neat, but his drawings were—from my biased perspective—the most original. He paid attention to detail. He exaggerated certain traits and minimized others (check out Jimmy Wales’ tiny ear), turning them into a kind of caricature. I’m impressed. Delighted. Proud. And so thankful he’s at a school that tends to follow his lead rather than dragging him around by the hand at every step. So here they are: Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) and Jim Bezos (founder of Amazon.com) eat your heart out!

jimmy walesjeff bezos

Puppy Love

Our dogs have this endearing/slightly gross thing they do. Sophie sprawls on her side (on the wood floor if she’s hot, on the dog bed if she’s not) and Lucy commences to lick out her ear. Lucy is thorough. She will spend maybe ten minutes cleaning and licking, and it reminds me of the way monkeys pick bugs off of each other, or of a mother rubbing her child’s back in slow, soothing circles. The gross part is the sound when Lucy’s being particularly fervant: sllrrrrrrp, sllrrrrrrp, sllrrrrrrp.

The analogy carries to this funny little ritual Gabriel and Jonah have fallen into. Overcome by love of his brother, Gabriel will grab Jonah by the neck (it usually happens when they’re sitting next to each other at the table) and bring him down, as you will see in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Directly following, he will sometimes play with Jonah’s hair or pick at Jonah’s ear. When he’s doing the ear picking I’ve several times told G to stop, to which J responds, “No Mom! I Like it!” The initial takedown is often followed by a period of chillin’:

Figure 2

As you can see from the picture, G’s right hand is still in motion as he plays with J’s ear. Jonah would stay in this position for a very long time, but Gabriel has moved on to the manic love phase, in which he pulls Jonah’s head up and gives him a proper (if strangulatory) neck hug:

Figure 3

Look at Jonah’s face. This may be the mellowest I ever see him. He’s moved (or been brought) down from Tigger land and is firmly inhabiting Pooh (this is an analogy his PT and OT use to help him recognize his emotions and general body commotion). When I see a picture like this, I can’t help but fast forward a bit in the boys’ futures. Gabriel is the big brother in this picture. Despite being four years younger than J, he may always be.

The lovefest continues as Jonah lets Gabriel gnaw on his chewy necklace. [Note the abiding Pooh-like countenance, and also the striking resemblance to his father.]:

Figure 4

We are seeing that day they said would always come. It’s nearly here. We glimpse it through the kitchen window looking out to our backyard. Jonah and Gabriel are becoming friends. Send them outside, and the odds are good they’ll play, together. They regard each other with a surprising degree of respect, even admiration. It’s all a phase, I know, but some of it will stick. I’ve never had a brother, but I know a little bit about sisters, and in the echelons of human relationships, mine occupy a place unto themselves.

[As I prepare to hit the Publish button, all hell’s breaking loose in J’s room. Trouble at the window box. Better head…]

Fighting Fires, Cleaning Messes

7:53 a.m.

Jonah was insistent. But Jonah’s always insistent.

“He made a big mess Dad. Come and see.”

Much tugging of arms and clothes.

“He made a big mess Mom! Come and see!”

“Jonah, you’re supposed to be brushing your teeth.”

“But Mom, I have to Show you!”

In the interest of getting things back on track, I allowed myself to be led down the stairs, into the dining room.

Now let me be clear. Gabriel’s two. Every meal involves a mess. Almost every diaper involves a mess. Giving G free time alone in the playroom usually involves a mess that also involves messes in the kitchen, front room, entry way and basement. Entire shelves of books get cleared. Drawers of kitchen utensils. Stray nails (once a way can be found to reach them) get pounded into walls (one of G’s new favorite past times is unloading wooden puzzles of their pieces and trying to hang them on the wall—which involves, you guessed it, pounding, and the removal of whatever picture was previously hanging in that spot, often to the disadvantage of said picture). Diapers get dumped from their bins. Blocks from their boxes. Charcoal disks used to light incense are converted to a fine black powder by G-powered steam rollers.

So how bad could it be? Not so bad, really. But we’re down a complete box of Honey-Nut, Gluten Free Chex. And for once, Jonah wasn’t being particularly dramatic. He just ran into that problem of finding and speaking the words he needed when he needed them.

I am certain a good share of those addictively tasty morsels (so much for giving up wheat if all I’m going to do is chow down on sugar laden rice cereal) were “cleaned” up by dear Sophie (note dark dog shadow behind the glass door).

So started the day. Add to that an explosively dirty diaper (I haven’t gotten poop on my jeans in quite some time), and it’s hard to escape the feeling that some days are just assigned the lot of fighting fires.

[Postscript: I just found myself shouting one of those slow motion “NOOOOOOOO!”s as I heard G dumping the puzzles we just finished reassembling and stacking in their rack. Who’s got the drama? Mama’s got the drama.]