About this time, in despairing Eeyore fashion, I begin to mentally catalogue all the things we never did or didn’t do enough of or did too much at the expense of something new & exciting, or don’t have enough time remaining to do again, and in particular all the ways that I myself was not enough and now have no hope to be until another summer (or grandchildren) depending on whether I’m grieving school starting or the family chapter of life swiftly coming to a close.
The thing I like about Pooh is that he and everyone else in the Hundred Acre Wood lets Eeyore be Eeyore.
And who knows, by tomorrow I could be Rabbit or Christopher Robin, and before the week ends—Tigger!
Make an offering of your life. Outside the narrow confines of other’s approval. Risk judgment. Risk ridicule. Risk adoration. Let it all be. Beyond you. Let your life pour like a drink, quenching the thirst of the parched earth.
Pour and pour and pour until you and the earth and all others are one.
Problems give way to clarity, pave the way for new beginnings, force long-needed change.
Resentment is lazy.
You are not here to be your family’s cup of tea.
You have a purpose beyond their pleasure.
The challenge is to love them (and especially yourself) while displeasing them.
Even Jesus disappointed his mother for Christ’s sake.
“Go away! I’m too tired. Leave me alone,” I say, when She arrives like she has of late, composing, even before my eyes are open.
And then I take it back, too afraid am I She won’t come back…
The heat inside rises like a wave up the breadth of my back and over the curve of my breast up toward my face.
The air condition in the hotel room, set low, is no matter. There is a steady fire beneath me.
I consider pouring cold water on the mattress like we did on our pillows when the sticky nights kept my sister and me from sleeping.
But water is no match for the child with the chemistry set inside; though I have taken to cool showers before bed and sometimes upon waking during the night.
Some nights she plays just a little; other times she is tireless; and I wake like I do today, barely rested, but hewing closer to Her because there is less of me.
“There! Are you happy!” I say aloud.
I’ve listened and written, dutifully Her servant these 36 years.
“Please come again.”
Language has power.
Our words, like our lives.
I became a mother this week on a rainy day much like today, but I don’t remember getting wet. What I do remember is my acute embarrassment.
“Please don’t use the sirens,” I said to the ambulance driver.
(Doctor’s daughters don’t do emergencies.)
I don’t remember if Casey rode up front, but I do remember asking if Mary could join me in back. It turns out they were relieved to have a midwife on board.
I watched as the farmhouse and the barn and the Deerfield River feathered from view and we approached the village where I’d moved to teach school two years earlier; but I don’t remember much else except for the mountaintop that we climbed on our way to the nearest hospital, thirty-some minutes away.
As we bounced over Hogback Mountain, I looked out at its three-state view, while the young EMT, fearing a delivery, attempted an IV into my right hand. But she needn’t have worried. I had already told the baby to wait, and although my contractions had been steady and strong since my water broke just before dawn (a good thing since my husband was heading out the door to go fishing for the day… before cell phones), I hadn’t experienced a single contraction after stepping inside the ambulance.
“How far along are you,” my sister asked when I called that morning to apologize. She’d sent her 9-year-old on a plane from Florida to visit us for two weeks and I had promised not to go into labor during his stay. “First babies always come late,” I reminded this mother of three, so eager was I to see my nephew.
“Well, it must be early labor,” she said, “You’re too calm.”
When Mary arrived shortly after that call, I asked if she’d would mind waiting to examine me, so consumed was I by contractions.
She made the same assumption about the progress of my labor given my steadiness.
When she finally did check my cervix, there were three surprises.
“You’re 8 centimeters already,” she said, astounded. “And something else.”
The something else was what resulted in several phone calls to area hospitals and then an ambulance ride down the river through the village and over the mountain toward the big town.
“I am not going out on that stretcher,” I told the EMTs when they arrived in my kitchen. “I don’t want to upset the neighbors.”
Casey had just come in from hanging the diapers on the line, and before we all left out the back door, I pointed to the doughs on the counter. “Will you put those back in the freezer,” I said to him, feeling a pang for the meal we would never share with our home birthing team.
“I bet this is a boy,” I’d joked to Mary in the ambulance, given that I had been told by more than one intuitive that this baby would arrive “after” my due date (not almost two weeks before it) and that the baby would be a girl.
Mary later told me of the third surprise, that instead of a head, she’d felt testicles.
And although I hadn’t experienced any contractions on the ambulance ride, coaxing the baby to wait, she later told me that my labor had indeed progressed. I was fully dilated by the time we arrived in the emergency room.
“She’s in labor?” the front desk nurses said, as I was wheeled past them.
“She’s still in her street clothes,” two others said, as they looked into the examining room where I was lifted onto a bed.
I looked these women up and down too and had thought them orderlies, but one would turn out to be the surgeon, who did her own examination.
“Small,” she pronounced.
“Adequate,” Mary countered.
“Unproven,” she said.
They stood at the foot of my stretcher disputing the capacity of my pelvis.
“Calm,” Mary offered, of my demeanor.
“I’ll give it two hours,” the doctor said. “But the results could be tragic.”
They looked from each other toward me.
“Can I have a minute?” I said.
I motioned to Casey to join me in the bathroom. I closed the door. I kept the lights off.
I had miscarried twice before. Bled through the early months of this pregnancy too. Had Braxton-Hicks beginning at 5 months. Had planned a home birth because I’d fallen in love with a midwife named Mary who told me that she took my little baby home with her each night in her third eye, each and every night.
I had felt so peaceful there in our little farmhouse beside the mountain. The morning’s cloud cover created a cocoon as I labored at the edge of our bed, the skylight overhead where we watched the stars at night a comfort too, the door to the balcony over the brook open to the air, and this blissful feeling between contractions that my mother told me I’d find if I paid attention to the spaces in between enveloped me.
“Remember, you and the baby want the same thing,” my mother said, having birthed 9 children without a single miscarriage or epidural.
She was a Christmas baby like my great aunt, while I followed on the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her grandson was apparently arriving on the Assumption of Mary, coming early to do so.
I opened the bathroom door to bright lights and urgent faces, remembering my bare feet on our soft pine floors, Mary kneeling in front of me, pressing her thumbs into my shin, lending exquisite relief during a strong contraction.
“We’ll take the c-section,” I said.
And then I remember the very last contraction I experienced.
“This will sting,” said the anesthesiologist who arrived in the operating room with a nurse and his long needle while the surgical team scrubbed like I had once done with my father and to whom I had just recently said, just as he had said to me: I never want surgery. (We would each have surgery within 48 hours of each other this very week.)
“Can you wait a minute,” I said to the anesthesiologist, laughing at the absurdity of his warning about the epidural. “I’m having a contraction.”
In the end, they had to yank the baby out of the birth canal so ready was he to be born through me instead of removed by them.
Protocol would not let me view the delivery, but they did let me see him for a flash before they whisked him to the examining table under the bright lights where they pronounced him healthy. Protocol also prevented me from him until the anesthesia wore off.
I’d only had anesthesia once before. Wisdom teeth. The same-day surgery room was set to close and I still couldn’t wake. My roommate, a nurse, in fact, arrived to drive me home while I continued to doze, and she cared for me through the night, ice on, ice off, so unable was I to rebound from the drugs. I was managing a seaside restaurant then, and a guy called the next day for a job. The restaurant had given him my home number. I was furious. Now that same guy accompanied our baby to the nursery while I was sewn up on the table and sent alone to recovery where I strived to wake and feel my legs so that I would be taken to the 4th floor to be with my baby.
I woke this morning feeling similarly drugged, to the sound of rain and a heavy cover of clouds, and although I wanted to rise and write before walking up to Sunday scones at Whetstone Ledges Farm, the absence of light made it difficult to stay afloat, and so I slipped back down under the surface of consciousness again and again.
“Do you feel your legs yet,” the nurse asked, as she covered my shivering body with more and more blankets. To this day the last two toes on my left foot are numb.
When I finally did meet my son, he was tightly wrapped in a blanket with a knit cap on his head as if we had never been one. I put up my hand as the midwife approached with him in her arms. I wanted to see Casey first. We had become parents, apart from one another, instead of at home in on our own bed. He held our baby first, for more than an hour, after I had carried him inside for 8 months.
I don’t remember if the rain lifted that afternoon when I held my son.
I remember feeling that this was Everything.
I remember knowing that nothing would ever be the same.
When I fell back to sleep this morning, I dreamt that most of the tomatoes on the vine in our garden had ripened, just in time for son’s return to celebrate his twenty-third birthday.
His name was meant to be Lila, after my grandmother, who died tragically at the age I am now.
I don’t know when it occurred to me that Lila and Lloyd share two L’s.
Twenty-three years old.
The twenty-third psalm was her favorite and read at her graveside. I think of it every time I walk the road past the silent repose of the Whetstone.
I like the version Bobby McFerrin sings.
“Beside the still waters, She will lead.”
Lloyd has surprised us lately, wanting to be home each year for his birthday after a couple that he spent away with girlfriends.
It’s unfathomable to me that he doesn’t live with us anymore. That the flesh of my flesh is not mine forever. That neither of us would want it to be so.
He was here last Christmas too, for an extended stay, during which we joined with old friends around a fire overlooking the Retreat Meadows as the sun set over the water.
We were deep in conversation with friends when I felt a swoosh past our circle of chairs, and my eyes followed a woman who, with a flourish, removed a dark cloak.
I lifted my phone and zoomed in to capture the beautiful blues and creamy whites of her wimple and habit but I couldn’t make out what hung from her neck and around her waist.
Her presence seemed to rivet me alone, and I’d lost the conversation, despite the company of my son and my oldest, dearest friend.
Instead, I stood up and crossed the space from the fire to her table beside the waters.
“The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa,” she explained, pointing to the medallion that hung from her neck.
“My sword,” she said standing, of the beaded rosary that dangled from her hip down her left side, “To fight Evil.”
I shared my family’s Mary connection with her, my mother’s Christmas birth, mine on the Immaculate Conception, my son’s on the Assumption of Mary, and even my husband’s on the Feast Day, upon which my mother died.
“You are a Marian family,” she pronounced, and I smiled, thinking how some people enjoy certainty and others questions.
I returned to the fire, taking a seat across from from my friend with whom I attended the same Catholic Highschool. She had recently given me a nightlight that had belonged to her dear mother, and I almost thought to discard this plastic statue of Mary when after plugging it in, the bulb sparked and went black.
But upon removing the plug from the statue, I saw three small words under its base:
House of Lloyd.
Later, as the light faded in the sky over the water, the woman in the dark cloak stopped by our circle on her way out, asking:
“Is this the one born on Assumption of Mary?”
She looked directly at my son Lloyd and said:
“You are consecrated to Our Lady.”
It was he who once saw the blue light shimmering on the land alongside the Whetstone Brook upon which we would later build our home. He was just a boy then.
“It’s blue like the light over Uncle Lenny’s bar in the barn,” my son said, not knowing the word fluorescent, and referencing his first home, the place where he was conceived and practically born and where he watched his little brother come into the world upstairs in the little farmhouse beside the brook just weeks before his grandmother died on the Feast Day of Mary.
“The Blue Lady is here to help you,” my new therapist said, when I came to her grieving the loss of my mother.
I hadn’t been sure about the purchase of the land upon which I stood with my son until that day when I was told to whom the land just across the pond belonged.
I wake in the dark to buckets of air thrown in my face and I cannot place myself…
Wait, Yes, I can. I am back home, my second night here after the trip south (3 states, 5 younger siblings, 4 different beds.)
Why is it that the return home rather than the journey itself always displaces me?
And who is throwing air in my face?
And if this is my familiar, why can’t I orient myself in this space?
Which way is my bed facing? This is a question that arises in the middle of the night after returning from any trip, and it doesn’t make any sense, because my bed has faced the same direction for some time now. East.
Lately I wonder if I have worked my brain, like my eyes and my heart and my knees and my hips, too long and too hard, and so, in stubborn refusal, it won’t produce the simple things like a well-known name or a common word or a knowing of where I am in my own space, and furthermore there are moments– waking moments–when not only the date but the day and even the season completely drop out from under me.
My oldest has been secretly worried about Alzheimer’s. He’s apparently checked the list of indicators and tells me that I am surprisingly in the clear, except for one:
I remind him that I am introverted, and a writer and that isolation is necessary for my work.
“How will we ever know if you’ve lost your mind,” he once said, somewhat anxiously, in the face of something I said in all seriousness that sounded outlandish to him.
I imagine it is his own tendencies and preferences for thought over people that concern him and also the way his mind like mine opens into realms others deny.
“The loss of smell is the first sign,” a friend tells me. Her mother had the disease.
My sense of smell has always been pronounced, but I sniff upon waking today and wonder–Is it fading?
Should I turn the bed south again?
Lately, the orientation feels all wrong although east is the direction upon which we’ve long settled as it lends itself best to the utilization of space and to waking.
Maybe this disorientation is a sign that I’m ready to go. Move one. Begin Anew.
As an army brat, I’ve had detachment disorder to dwellings, even this one that has been around the longest–almost 15 years–unthinkable after a childhood of more than a half-dozen schools.
My boys have the opposite inclination, toward stability; they never want to let this place go. They don’t even like it when I change the furniture around in the room.
It may be that their leaving (my youngest goes to college next month) alongside my long-delayed letting go of parenting younger siblings is what has untethered me.
It may be that this home is the only place where I’ve ever felt at ease enough to truly let my mind go, at least in sleep, so much so that I delight in buckets of wind thrown in my face even if I don’t know where I am.