A line stuck out at me from Jenn Shapland’s recent (and excellent) work on the life of Carson McCullers
[He was] a writer who never wrote.
(In regards to Carson’s husband Reeves McCullers)
A writer who never wrote. A writer who never wrote. I would not want to be remembered that way, but I very well could be. I find refuge in language during certain rocky junctures but when the waters are calm I get lulled, I get lazy- as I recall- It’s a little difficult to remember, because recent years have been so challenging. My writing shelved not because of sloth but because I’m trying to keep the goddamn ship afloat.
Notebook scribbles. She was a writer of notebook scribbles.
My son is medically complex. My daughter is dynamic and active. My kids need me but I need this. So I will keep finding ways to arrive to the page, to express and explore and fumble and reach and keep doing whatever it is that we writers do.
Her first tooth erupted on Saturday after a prelude of drool and night nursing. She is six months old, it seems too fast, but isn’t that the way it always is? For every new milestone represents a loss as well as a gain. She’s a different baby this week than she was last week. She is the river I can never swim in twice, the shifting clouds, the unfurling leaf. I gasp as I smile, I embrace the new child I meet while I long to hold her a bit longer as she is, to keep her small.
Perhaps it’s the curse of an older mother. We know the heartache of loss, and these mini ones sting old wounds. I’ll never know what kind of mom I would have been in my twenties, but I suspect more like my own, with a sunny optimism that pushes away the painful realizations. Or maybe not. Maybe it is part of me, this longing to have things be as they are, yet also different. Maybe Mom experienced some of these feelings too, but I can’t ask her, and she never would have shared with anyone if she did, for she kept close vigilance over her darker thoughts and generally did not give them the dignity of breath. I can only go my memory of her and her words, spotty and inaccurate as that can be:
Do you miss me being a baby?
No. I always feel like I love the age that you are. It’s fun watching you grow up. Plus babies are a ton of work.
Well, then. Was she protecting me? Giving me the answer I wanted to hear? Or was that really her truth?
I guess I want to shield J from my sorrows, the twingy sadness that comes with every leap forward. I want her to feel my love like sunshine, warm and shining, not heavy or mournful. Her victories we can share but my grief will be my own to hold.
If I were to claim any part of her as my favorite, it might be her hands. They dance when she is alert, fingers waving,coaxing the air into becoming her own invisible instrument. When she is startled they bunch up into tight fists and she gives them a shake or two. Often a finger or five can be found in her mouth, shiny with drool. Lately she has started to explore the opening and closing of her hands. She touches fabric or skin or anything really, and her little starfish fingers joyfully leap forward only to immediately spring back to nestle her palm again. Open close, open close. And sweetest gestures of all happen during nursing, as more frenzied activity slow to sweet caresses. She feeds quietly, eyes closed and gracefully, ever so gently traces her fingertips along the outside of my breast, my sternum, my chin. The very light touch of her fingers, so tiny, not yet hardened by life’s labor, feels more like a brushing of butterfly wings than the touch of a human, but here she is, real and mine. 6 months after her birth I still check her breathing while she sleeps. You are okay? You are okay.