Friday, May 14, 2010

Days of Appreciation

Letters penned with stiff, concentrating fingers. Sloppy sticky notes scribbled, dry ink splotches exposing brief moments of thought. Envelopes licked and pressed and stuck with tongued stamps. Photographs in frames on sills and shelves; pinned onto refrigerator doors; wedged into vanity mirror corners and slipped into plastic wallet flaps. Books tilted and beckoned from their upright alphabetical positions. Soft, slightly yellowed pages flipped and fanned by thumbs while dust floats and disperses into the sunlight of tall, narrow library windows. Art hung amidst dry museum air, whispered articulations and tour guides dressed in black leggings or spotted blue bow ties. Above beer breathed rumblings and thrown piano key punches, stubbed cigarette smoke lingers like a threatening storm cloud. The sign on the window mustering dust reads "LIVE MUSIC TONIGHT". Paper bills delivered by mail trucks, glass bottles of warm milk by local dairy farmers. Bundled newspapers flung by boys on bicycles. Atop rickety town hall auditorium stages, spitting actors perform Richard III for spectacularly dressed spectators who fan their faces and applaud as the curtain falls. Everywhere voices overlap like tiered cakes -voluptuously voiced pig piles of sweet frosting, ripe fruit and flour. The days of appreciation. The days when dessert and strips of bacon were not so plentiful. Sweets after supper a delicacy, not an expectancy. The days when young men learned to shake hands while girls learned to dance. The days of "clean plate clubs" and picture books at bedtime. The days of handwritten recipes and homemade lemonade. The days when potatoes sat simmering only in stews and not on couches watching football.

Today pie, pork and pornography are plentiful and cheap. Push that button. Click that remote. Drive to that red and yellow window. NowNowNOW, we impatiently demand, while the belt buckles at our bellies expand.

One day, children will not learn cursive with dotted lines and fat pencils. They will never raise their hands; count on their fingers or write full sentences. They will not talk, but type. They will never need to wait patiently; walk to school; build or bake. They will have everything and therefore appreciate nothing. And our old raw American personality of dirt and gumption will be extinguished by their shy, frail incompetency.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


When I think of my mum, the image of a large squishy pillow comes to mind and that is not to say that she is square or made of cotton balls and patterned fabric, but that she, to me, is comfort. And today, to understand this pillow effect she has over me, I am dissecting motherhood like I would a frog in a ninth grade Biology class, carefully with goggles, gloves and squeamish hesitation.

These are the steps as I know them.

FIRST: Spontaneous and/or strategic sex between a male and female where an escaped sperm awkwardly and somewhat forcefully introduces itself to an egg, creating a sesame seed sized speck, a wee white guppy.

SECOND: A missed menstrual cycle; a couple queasy mornings and frantic unexplainable mood swings precede the piddling on of positive pregnancy tests.
THIRD: Chocolate covered pickles and peanut buttered bacon substitute cups of coffee, cigarettes, whiskey and bottles of wine with dinner.
FOURTH: "We're having a baby." They say and write and say and write.
FIFTH: Doctors with cold clear jelly, clipboards and beeping ultrasound machines point to the floating fetus's genitals, saying "It's a boy!" or, "It's a girl!"
SIXTH: Beneath her thimble-shaped belly button, partially-developed limbs kick and punch, stretching her soft skin like pizza dough.
SEVENTH: The bubble in the belly pops, oozing water down her legs as she waddles with her overnight bag to the hospital.
EIGHTH: Refusing enemas with lies of bowel movements, she screams for the anesthesiologist.
NINTH: Florescent white lights shine onto her most private parts, while nurses chant instructions to "push" and "breath."
TENTH: The baby is born; the connected umbilical cord is cut and the female's damp, deflated body separates from one person to two, from woman to mother and child.

Since my birth, our bodies have grown farther and farther apart, drifting like ships with sleeping sea captains, and yet, twenty six years after the day we separated to become mother and child, I still sometimes feel like we are joined at the belly button. When we are apart for too long, breathing becomes panting; sleeping turns to jostling and a deep hollow ache growls in the deep end of my stomach.

My conclusion is this: though the umbilical cord is cut, the woman's womb drained, the baby's clothing outgrown, the child married and moved away: the comfort found within the presence of one's mother lingers forever.