Tag Archives: Love

soft armor

Walking into the reunion room

I’m startled by the low light, the drafts, and the stale air.

I’m not 38 anymore, picking at imaginary lint balls on my sweater

But 17, anxious, anticipating something hard and hostile crackling behind me.

The bar charges more money for pre-packaged dark beer than for urine from the tap.

I stick with water in unopened bottles, and wait.

Wait for a kind, vaguely familiar face. There’s one, then two.

Some are more familiar than others, some more kind.

And then the phone at the bar rings – my child has exceeded my mother’s capacity to comfort him.

I drive to retrieve him, then bring him back to the banquet hall.

He is soft armor, but his five months of life cover me completely.

Impenetrable.

But beyond the protection he lends me, he has a strange effect on  others.

No one can be hostile to a baby; no one with a baby will be hostile to a simple greeting.

Men remark on the pawprints on the feet of his sleeper – pawprints made by their sons.

Women coo and gently touch his round soft creamy cheeks, asking softly for a smile.

And others as anxious as I am see a chance to sit down with someone who won’t threaten them, who will help them feel less lonely in the drafty ballroom.

My baby doesn’t make all the cliquery disappear, and cokelines still get consumed in the ladies room along with misdemeanor memories.

There are still drunken stumbling people, and others who get angry at the thought of someone wanting to know more, learn more, be more than what they were.

But the baby and I can walk out of the hall, facing forward, into the chill of late November, safely. He is in my arms, but tonight he is carrying me.

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Filed under Motherhood, mothering, mothers, mothers and sons

september

Months of fragments, of the failure of one pill and non-failure of another, of the more frequent surprise of a full night’s sleep, all crawling towards 1 september and the beginning of my favorite time of year.

September, when scorching heat is still possible, but more as finale than act 2 of summer, where the firm and luscious pleasures of Italian prune plums and concord grapes make for an entirely welcome transition to the sweater drawer, and there is no end to the fragrant harvest. Well, at least not until mid October.

Maybe the years of school and later, the years of working for a University or in a college town have conditioned me to see September, not January, as the fresh start of the year. January feels like less than half-done – but September’s promise of what can be learned, tasted, and even what new love might be discovered makes me feel hopeful, and almost young again.

Nora’s morning naps mean abdominal exercises, shower, laundry, and writing to you. Sorry I’ve been gone so long.

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lay it down, let it go, fall in love

The chorus of the title track from Al Green‘s latest album croons its directives: lay it down, let it go, fall in love. The lush strings, growls, and feeling of Al’s 70s groove (which he himself has said has contributed to repopulation in that decade) comes back with such rich, loving, gusto, you’ll conceive all by yourself just by listening. It’s that good.

But what makes Al one of the most emotive singers this side of living is his presence in the lyric, his living and breathing of it. At any tempo, singing straight or falsetto, he’s never half-assed about his message or the urgency of his duty to deliver it.

My own love of Al began about 15 years ago in earnest, and unlike those warming couples in the 70s, alone, where Al’s voice was a balm for my heartfelt wounds. And his songs of love, what people could find together, what he was finding and showing you in lyric and delivery, wouldn’t leave you lonely, but comforted.

So honey, take a moment. Listen to the Right Reverend tell you what it’s all about, and then find the music. You can download or spin up, but once you do, listen to Al. Put your keys down.

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“It’s a woman! It’s a baby woman!”

Many moons ago, the birth of Joanie Caucus’ newest child was greeted in this way in a Doonesbury strip. Our baby woman has yet to arrive, but the tech and the Ob explained the meaning of the three parallel dots/dashes – a kind of visual morse code communicating her emerging femaleness.

And unlike the feelings I had for my first born who happened to be a son, overwhelming love permeated with the sense of his vulnerability, I imagine my daughter coming out fully formed and upright, a smiling Athena without the gladiator sandals who would know how to request the things she couldn’t yet make. I reflect on this grueling first trimester, which resulted in my regular OB prescribing a migraine-preventative cup of coffee each morning, to be her request for the true mother’s milk for this would-be daughter of mine. I see her arranging her wisps of hair together with a pencil from my desk the way her mother did, a coiffure homage to Catharine Mackinnon and expediency, except she will be more accomplished and patient, less judgmental and furious.

All the things I can see for her, all that I wish for her, can’t begin to compare with what she will do once she is on her own. Still, I can’t help but think she’ll already have it done. After all, she’s a baby woman. She’ll decide what she wants, and then she’ll go get it. I wish I was like her already.

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Filed under children, daughter, Love, mother, Motherhood, women

and then, I got it.

I hadn’t seen my father since my 38th birthday, many many grey hairs ago. Before they unionized. Before Ben was crawling, or eating anywhere except Mom’s 24-7 Dairy bar. Before waiters stopped carding H. Before Ben’s first food, steps, words, animal sounds, full night’s sleep. Before my father got new knees, and remarried.

The reasons were not minor.

The end of his first, 36 year marriage to my mom, in the mid 90’s, was as sordid, lowclass and thoughtless as it gets. And what followed seemed to follow suit based on exchanges I heard second hand from my brother and his wife. Word of my father’s over-the-top proclamations to friends from his old life – our past and current lives, in other words – made me wince.

His newfound wealth in the form of a tubetopped sugarmama and her comments to my brother about what our lives were like triggered my only adventures outside low bloodpressure.

So on the occasions when I called (birthdays, holidays), I was civil – but that was it. Following good form for its own sake. I made no additional effort at outreach, and conveniently employed the prissy excuse of their unmarried state as a reason for not making more of an effort. He never offered to fly out to see us, even when Ben was just born. My family was more offended than I was about it – I was just resigned to it, and a little sad. I saved my anger for other things.

Then they got married. Whether I liked his choice or not, she was now his wife. Time was passing, and as my father rounded the corner of 80, then 81, I knew there would only be so much time left, when he might still be able to enjoy and bring enjoyment to Ben.

So, with my job having ended and a quiet, no-traveling christmas leaving us all the time in the world to get sick and recover in a familiar environment, we planned a trip to Florida to see my father and his (now) wife, as well as my birth mother’s family (two cousins never met, my sister, etc).

I decided that any effort anyone made for Ben would be instant positive karma, that I would appreciate it for what it was, and keep my focus on who would be kind to him. And so when my father told me that his wife was making arrangements for us to visit a horse ranch based on Ben’s love of horses, I decided that was a very nice thing, something to appreciate.

For many historical reasons, I felt a great deal of anxiety about the trip, but I knew we had to do it, and that it would be for the best. I plowed through, with little sleep, stomach upsets and rosacea flareups.

We set out from our base in Ponte Vedra to Port Charlotte, with stops at SeaWorld and a layover at a friend’s perfect home in Sarasota. The tension of 7 hours of driving and limited sleep, despite our splendid accommodations, were pooling in my shoulders.

Near the end of the final leg of the trip, we were in deep Florida, all Rudy and Mitt signs, model homes for no money down and with all the swamp you could smell. Cement roadways, which I could imagine in all their white heat starting in April. It felt more foreign to me than the cities of night kanji, or the coast of an old viking empire.

We came up on the last of the streets in our directions, and something familiar – the developer of the subdivision had to be from Boston, with streets named Cohasset, Carlisle, and other Mass C suburbs. At the seaway end of Carlisle, we arrived at my father’s house. Modest, well kept, with sculptures to greet you. A fiberglass dolphin standing on sea foam. A balinese? indonesian? totem of a frog.

My father and his wife answered the door together, in matching t-shirts (their regular wardrobe). These shirts they chose in my honor – hot pink souvenirs from Manzanita Beach in Oregon, a place I’d been and photographed for my father, mother and grandmother.

My father gave me a tour of the house – it has its own style as the outdoor sculptures could only hint at, but is spotless. Everything was well cared for.

That was when I got it. They were made for each other.

My father’s wife packed snacks for Ben, and was kind in her remarks to him. The ranch was a place where she could shine, telling us about her experience with horses after more than 60 years of riding, training and caring for them. She was kind and generous, and she was doing it because it meant the world to my father – just as I was being on my best behaviour for Ben and for him. We didn’t get to stay long enough for Ben to really connect to him – my father is wonderful with small children – which is my only regret.

Well, maybe I have two regrets- the second being that I hadn’t done this sooner, set free the hurt and anger, and just allowed a small amount of understanding and happiness for my father. Thank goodness I wasn’t too late.

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Filed under children, divorce, Fathers, fathers and daughters, grandchildren, Love, reconciliation, remarriage, sadness, Uncategorized

car seat kisses

Everyday when I buckle Ben into his carseat, I take advantage of our closeness and give him a kiss. Sometimes it’s a way to calm him as he wrestles with the straps; or maybe it’s our first – and only –  quiet exchange of the evening, when I can see evidence of the day on his little puss. But there’s something wonderful about that moment, and now I notice the same thing in other cars. There’s a father who gently kisses his daughter’s forehead as he unbuckles; another child looking up and smiling, winter hat still on, knowing mama is going to give her a little smooch.

The tiny moments of tenderness are as fleeting as sunshine in a Seattle January, but they are far more omnipresent. When things get too tense, I can look and see those moments, how love really can be that integrated into the mundane, as easy to tell someone as it is to fasten your seatbelt.

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3.5 and rising


happy biker

Originally uploaded by jdaly.

Ben is officially at 3.5, very much his own person, having one hilarious and insightful language experiment after another. He is doing a lot of comparing, and so far, here’s the tally:

He’d like a baby sister, named Hayley. (His friend J has one.) He has renamed a little teddy bear to be his baby sister.

He’d like to live at his friend’s house, because he has a big bed, a lot of toys, they’re friends, and his mommy never yells at the children.

He’s very comfortable with the size of his tisseman (google danish+tisseman if you’re at a loss), telling us from time to time that he has a very big one.

As for general behaviour:

He is gentle with small children, perhaps because they aren’t coming home with us.

He’ll go anywhere if you can frame it as an adventure where he plays an important role.

His made up songs are classic – I wonder if it’s a genetic curse I’ve put upon him. We tortured Far with a rewritten Jingle Bells at Macy’s before his trip to Japan. It went like this: “Buy some pants, buy some pants, let’s go buy some pants. Daddy needs some brand new pants so let’s buy him some pa—ants!”

He thinks showers are fun, especially when he gets to hold the sprayer.

His language skills are growing – sometimes, I hear replayed phrases, which makes me wonder how much he understands. Other times, it’s clear that he is making language fit his ideas and feelings, and all you can do is sit back and nod in amazement.

Happy 1/2 birthday, Ben. Mama loves you all the time.

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