Sunday, March 27, 2011


I've been spending some time lately going through an impressive compendium of pregnancy writing, most of which has never seen the light of day.

Pregnancy: an era spent filling the gorge between one life and the next with so many words, waxing, speculating. Buoyed by the abstract etching of poetry. Sifting through it is not unlike going through the baby's clothes, one drawer at a time, once she's grown.

Unbelievable she ever fit into this.

The hindsight between now—mother of a 17-month old—and then—months from yet becoming someone's mama, months from giving birth, feels like light-years in distance. Reading a diary from adolescence would feel as far away.

So, I'd like to resurrect some of those pregnancy-pieces in the well-nested context of this very blog. You will see them here and there as a moment when the dinner-conversation turns to reflection before it returns back to talk of buttering the bread.

Here is a poem written within a few weeks of finding out I was pregnant:

Growing Quartz.

This body is going through major renovations.

Walls are being knocked out from inside

and no holler of Timber!

Carpet is removed, torn from roots like deep exfoliation.

Tiny ink blotches of mold by windows and the tub are scrubbed with fever—

had never been noticed before.

Viscera is moved from corner to corner

like furniture

like legs crossed and uncrossing

desperate for the best arrangement, the best lap, for a baby.

Windows are propped open to the steely air,

the smell of wood burning from neighboring chimneys.

In the midst of the construction, the noise, the fog,

a Room in the far corner is decanted, chaperoned

for the new Tenant to do with what she pleases.

(What, pray tell, WILL she please? If she is even accurate, that is.)

As the excavations continue and everything finds its rightful place

like grandma’s spoons on the wall

her Santas on the shelves

baby grows from comma to blueberry to raspberry to medium-sized olive

like a series of Russian Dolls sewn under my skin.

The bellycavern holds court

with the tenacity

of an air pocket beneath the weight of a rock mountain.

Rewarded for its persistence in the refusal to collapse

with prosperous crystal vegetation.

Give me quartz!

Give me amethyst!

One is reminded of the magic hatched

from the conviction

to protect

a place for something to grow.

Mar 14, 2009. (9 weeks.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So It Goes.

And the tally is as follows:
Opal has said her first unprompted sentence.
She's taken her first steps, and continues to perfect the navigating of space with the trotting physique of a puppy, yet vertical. With opposable thumbs.
Sitting Up, Rolling over, Crawling, First Words, all seem miles away.
Like music I can recall only the chorus to, and hum the rest.

My wonderful mama-friend Tiffany said it so beautifully (so beautifully, in fact, that I'm sure I've quoted it before) when she said: kids never look back.
The twittering ache of nostalgia lives in the minds of parents only.
Not to say I want to go backas (as Opal would say) in order to relish these moments, because now they would be second-hand and in the annoying company of hindsight from having already been there.

What I would like to do is protect the phrases that are like fresh paint on the wall, the glances that are like brand new lenses, each and every one of the bye-byes and the lovoos from ever being washed away in the fortune of memories while we continue this glorious on-and-ever-onward movement forward.


(This entry was actually written three months ago, ages in babe-time, and saved in the rabbit-files to rest among so many tied-up clusters of forgotten words. Not sure why I happened to stumble upon it this morning—must've been gifted enough space to loiter and sift. I am just now thinking about how amazingly easy it is to mine for gems during this time in life, how many things she is doing that I wanted to note and add to this entry. But I let this little found-paragraph remain as it was originally—just held it up a little closer to the light.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Little Weaver Bird

Yesterday morning, Opal and I were playing in her room, a gift-box of a room where heat gathers even when the rest of the house is frosty as a mug, as her morning nap-time crept up on us.

She contentedly did her own thing, moved back and forth from corner to corner, placing diaper covers and blankets into the laundry basket as if they were delicate glass going in the curio, arranged them and promptly took them out again.

I stretched my hamstrings (mama yogurr, in Opal-ese) until the sudden point in which she was ready to include me in the action, expressed by bringing over the Halloween Dora book (with over 19 flaps!) and plopping it on the floor in front of me, saying read book, mama.

Sure, sweetie. Climb into mommy's lap.

Notha blankie she said and made her way over to lift a mighty heap of blankets and carry them valiantly back to me, teetering like a the single-leg of a heron caught in a gust of wind. She dropped the flannel jumble onto my legs with a grand ugh.

Great idea, honey. Nice book-reading mass. Climb on up.

Notha blankie! she said in the tone that suggests having been unavoidably interrupted by another prominent agenda.

On she went to bury mama in a grand mountain of blankets and diaper covers, one exerting arm-ful at a time. She included each and every stuffed animal in the vicinity—including Crib-Crew, The Bottom Basket Forgotten Ones and Major and Minor Fluffy—leaving no plush character behind. Juice-and-water was placed close enough to reach.

I was spellbound, eyes fixed as if watching a Discovery Channel exclusive on Weaver Birds, masters of nest-making. Finally, she took a sweeping glance around the room for a moment of consideration and quietly concluded her work was complete.

Okay, honey. A job well done.

Into my lap she climbed, wiggled and stirred until she had herself effectively swallowed in the pile in a way that was to her liking. She re-handed me the Dora book, saying Hola Dorey—coupled with a subtle grin that indicated a level of satisfaction with her effortsand I thus I began.

Hola! I'm Dora and this is Boots...
we were not even halfway into the first page when Opal yelled UP and pushed herself out of my lap, out of the blessed heap—abrupt and urgent—and out of the room entirely through the door that had not been fully closed. Before I set the book down and resurrected from beneath the load, she was down the hall in search of her next venture.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Royalty, Toddlers and Squirrels.

Everyone was in their Sunday-best. Nina even said she went out to buy a dress special for the occasion. A few dozen of us had lined up on either side of the walkway that led to the house, pockets loaded with fresh rose petals for tossing. We were instructed not to step directly on the elaborate Tibetan blessings that had been chalked on the driveway and not to serve the katas outside of the house, please.

Rinpoche was returning from an extended trip to India, and more importantly, coming out of a year and a half retreat. We were posted outside the tremendous and stately home that his wife and daughter had just moved into a few weeks earlier, a house certainly fit for royalty. After greeting the two of them upon exiting the car, our faces would be awaiting him like a string of caricature-beads, eager, excited, efforting to compose ourselves.

He arrived while I fixated on whether a bow or a hat would be more appropriate greeting attire for Opal, surveying the intermittent cloud-chill. It happened so quickly, the appearance of the patten-leather Suburban, the whooping of the crowd and the flying of petals, the brief and warm eye-contact as he passed by in the midst of a toddler squirming to get out of my arms. We were led into the house and Jesse was quickly called away so I commenced to untangle our three katas from a christmas-light-caliber knot while also monitoring my toddler—mighty proud of her new velvet jacket—who had no intentions of either being held or staying put on land. We were called in to offer the katas sooner than I'd expected and so Jesse completed the untangling as we walked, Opal at our side, approaching His and Her Majesty and the Princess who is 10 months Opal's junior.

A dozen or so steps away from Rinpoche, Opal began to cry. She looked up at the Royalty surrounded by extravagant brocades and impeccable formality and turned tail with a shriveled face and eyes threatening to flood. Jesse scooped her up and handed me a kata, pronto. We offered our bows and sincere welcomes and even though everything wound up in its proper place as we shuffled out of the room, the scenario felt like yet another well-intended conundrum that feels so very common when one is traveling with a young child. Especially in the presence of Royalty.

Currently, the only sort of decorum Opal practices is the kind that involves serving afternoon tea to her Golla and Ragetty (Gorilla and Raggety Ann, respectively). She is nowhere near learning that there even exists a proper kind of behavior intended to accompany specific people or accommodate a particular situation.

Your daughter is looking at me like I'm crazy.
I've had people say these very words to me on more than one occasion, usually at the conclusion of omitting long streams of baby-jibberish, earnest tickle-tickles and peek-a-boos, rigorously attempting to squeeze a laugh out of her. I've long since stopped apologizing and explaining and depending on the situation, I may or may not mention how often she does this to us, too. How we simply have a larger landscape to work with and clearly less at stake. We also, my husband and I, happen to also have the buffer of a good collection of already-moments when we were able to get her to laugh and so most of it feels like icing or a fine cocktail, without too much worry of how soon we can get it to happen again.

It's not that she's unpredictable. She is, in fact, very predictable when we reside in a place that feels safe and familiar, and we use this information by choosing our environments wisely. It's a rarity for us to place ourselves in situations where it isn't appropriate for Opal to be a toddler or where we don't at least have a getataway car idling in back, so to speak. We gather at places where Opal can bounce and trot, yodel and holler with little resistence. We go to Grammy and Granpy's, to parks and kid's museums where a panorama of tiny humans running wild is what's expected. These days, we prefer to invite people to our house than to strap her into a high chair at a restaurant, and if a restaurant is inevitable, we do our damnedest to choose a place with plenty background noise and the space for her to lead one of us in circles with her tiny hand like a pony on a short lead, while other dining parents offer nods and been-there smiles of approval.

There are times, though, when we inevitably need or want to bring Opal along to something that is not exactly intended or suited for a baby. Inside the home of His and Her Majesty of Shambhala would be glowing example. It's certainly doable, just much less comfortable than average. Feels a little like having a frenetic pet squirrel break free from its cage in mid-prayer during Catholic Mass. One is much more concerned with the possible—probable—destruction of the squirrel than with the sermon.

The story continued when the same petal-tossing welcomers were graciously invited to tea and rice with the Majesties. Aside from the Princess who sat in a beautiful state of calm on Her Majesty's lap, Opal was the only baby. We opted to stay on the outside of the sitting room where everyone, including Jesse, knelt and sipped and spoke quietly. Meanwhile, Opal took a grand interest in the wooden staircase and the thick clunk it inspired beneath her brand-new Stride-Rites as she hollered mo cheese!, referring to the snack I'd been intermittently using to bribe her to be still for a moment.

We were encouraged to join the others, which we did, briefly. Opal luckily spotted the Halpern boys who she made a game of delivering her B and a handful of napkins to. A joke was made about how she learned early to serve, but the laughter was reserved and whispery. Personally, I wasn't able to hear a word Rinpoche was saying as I kept an eye on the little lady who was toddling through a mine-field of cups filled with creamy black tea and plates sprinkled with the remaining dregs of rice.

I assumed I wasn't the only one having a difficult time concentrating in that moment, so I made the executive decision to corral my little squirrel after not-so-long and reside contentedly in the outer-rooms until it was time to go. But, truth-be-told, I was deeply pleased to have had yet another moment of showing up fully, boisterously, warmly, imperfectly, with the gorgeous snaggle-toothed toddler in the lead like Reveille.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hair and Other Parental Renunciations

It was only a few months ago that Opal allowed me to cut her hair and I already look back longingly.

Granted, it was a quick, two-person, less-than-accurate job. She was splashing around in the bathtub with daddy when mommy swooped in, danced and briefly conversed with the Squirting Pishy and cross-eyed family of Good-Plastic Frogs before leaning over with the scissors and snip—snip—snip. I was out of there before either she or Jesse realized what had happened. It was such a fly-by-night affair that both Jesse and I were dying to see how it looked when she woke up in the morning.

It turned out fine. Better than fine, as a matter-of-fact. That kind of luck doesn't come around twice in a row and I knew it would behoove me to plan accordingly.

It is currently a very different story. Opal's hair is so long and shaggy that it snarls into mats and knots every time she wakes from a nap, as if her hair had been battling it out between her skull and the sheets. Truth be told, there is one such tangle at the very back of her head that is immune to any brush or comb, thick like rope and frayed at the end. In the time between its birth and when I finally choose to just lop it off, I attempt to fold it under the other hair, fluff the remaining tresses around it so as to detract from it's loud implication of un-keptness.

Who is she trying to fool? Whisper, whisper.

Opal is now able to see scissors coming from across the room, even from behind. Must be the metallic glint, I don't quite know. The moment I get within a few feet of her precious skull, she begins fiercely shaking her head like a wild thing, up-down, back-forth, as if a Nine Inch Nails tune had just busted through the speakers. And it doesn't help that the aversion to scissors accompanies a resent aversion to barrettes and bows and the like. The life of a barrette that mercifully offers the possibility of keeping her hair from her eyes is short lived. Either she pulls it out or her rumpus toddler ways leave it dangling impotently by a thread before plopping to the floor.

At least there is the option of the hat. Let us not forget the glory of the hat.

There you have it. Not that big of a deal, right? But for some reason, it drives me batty to have a child who strongly resembles the guitarist from an Eighties Hair Band. Yet, there is not much I can do about it, shy of holding her down against her will while perched in one of those barbershop swivel-seats beneath the heavy hands of an unfamiliar hair-stylist, thus instilling a life-long phobia of haircuts.

Get used to it, our pediatrician's nurse said, paraphrased, in the midst of providing reassurance around Opal's oft-selective eating habits.
This is only the beginning. She then handed us a convenient list of what we can and cannot control around the dinner table (You can control what you feed your child, the time, the mood, etc. You cannot control what he eats, what he likes, his weight.) Bless that little list. As obvious as it may seem, it is a tride-and-true reminder of where things often go astray, where the tightness threatens to seep in: attempting to control the uncontrollable.

I find myself whipping up these kinds of lists all over the place, like helpful graffiti penned onto situations, my baby, myself.
And I am, at least temporarily I would say, a better mom for it.