The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

Month: September, 2013

six.

We are halfway through year one. Six months ago I woke up in the dim, beeping non-quiet of the hospital room and felt the instinct to crane my head up over the side of the plastic bassinet beside me and look for the lift and fall of Jack’s chest. He was ruddy and weak and only his little face was visible, with the way he was wrapped in the gauzy white blanket with thin blue and red stripes, and the small white cap. His eyes were swollen and resolutely pressed closed and I hurt so much all over, but if I lay there still, my head tipped toward his, I could forget that and just wonder at the little bean there beside me. Mark was asleep on the plastic couch – he had been awake during the crazy hours from three to five, holding his 8-hours-old baby and reading sports news on ESPN online so I could sleep. Now, at seven in the morning, the shock of the previous day and night was over and I just stared at Jack, the pain and exhaustion in my body preventing me from sitting up, picking him up. Eight pounds, seven ounces, nineteen inches of a person that grew inside of me.

It is so different now! With every one of the nearly ten pounds he has gained he has changed by the measure of a world. He is sitting up, playing with toys, choosing the things he wants and ignoring the boring ones. He eats food! Sweet potatoes I bake and run through the food processor, ripe avocados and bananas that get mashed to a pulp. He opens his mouth with the somber judgement of a food critic, turning his eyebrows down like he doesn’t trust me. And he talks and sings and talks, babbles all day long, saying “ma ma ma ma ma,” which I am sure means his first word is mama, and that makes me feel like the victor. The best is that he and Sidney play all day. He sits on the floor and she hunkers down beside his little body, dwarfing him, utterly aware of her status of “beast” and his of “prince,” likely aware that she could take him out. He grins when she comes around, reaches for her, makes sounds at her. She comes beside him and he grabs those gummy lips that hang down low, rubs his chunky fists on her wet nose, tries to hold onto her whiskers. She responds to every advance with licking — her tongue cleaning up his hands, his feet, his cheeks as if he is her puppy. I snap at her, that’s enough, Sidney, but only because I don’t want him smelling like her dog breath. When she quits, stares up at me with those mournful eyes, he squawks at her to continue. He gets feisty when it gets too late, and screams angrily when I strap him into his car seat. He won’t fall asleep rocking, I have to be standing, swaying with a kind of rhythmic lift and he is usually mad while eating, like it can’t fill his drum belly fast enough. He makes me laugh. Lord, thank you, this child makes me laugh more than anything else.  Six months in…

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… oh, and a happy twenty-ninth birthday to my darling.

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Writing up hill.

I would like a bike – a thick beach cruiser in a lovely color that I could ride to the grocery store or to get coffee or to work. I would not ride the bike for exercise. I would ride it in jeans and flip flops so that I didn’t always have to get in my car. The other night on my way home from a wine date with Hannah it was clear and clean outside, with the warmth of the sun making all colors very rich like a wash on Instagram. I was happy and full of peace. There is a big hill going down First Street and as I crested it I came up behind a girl on a bike. She was wearing a billowing grey shirt, a helmet. Her bike was a little sportier than mine would ideally be, but it had these side saddle bags made out of pink paisley fabric. When the light at the top of the hill turned green, she took off down with two great pedal pumps, and flew. Her bicycle picked up speed steadily as we coasted down the hill. Usually road cyclists make me nervous and I try to pick the perfect moment to edge closer to the middle of the road to pass, but I didn’t really want to pass her. I moved along behind her watching the back of her shirt fill with air and her hair whip behind her like the telltales on a canvas sail. It was the perfect night to fly down the First Street hill on a bike.

It takes guts to do that – to ride a bike on the road. You have to own your space there, to confidently signal which way you mean to turn, to be unafraid of the cars around you, to be okay with the fact that most people will be annoyed and that a few will cheer you on. To embrace the simple nature of riding a bike in a culture that drives cars. And what was clear to me is that that girl has committed to her bike. She has paisley side saddle bags! She probably sewed them.  I was so envious, in the purest way, of the senses I knew she felt going down that hill! It rushed me back to my late childhood, when I rode my pink 5-speed all over town, and the way it used to feel to take a hill on a summer night, for the wind to dull the heat and blow into your eyes so they watered. That feeling of flight, of escape, of weightless immortality.

I got to thinking more about the writing famine that has afflicted my life for the past, oh, two years. When I realized this week that it’s been a full two years since I was in the daily discipline of putting fingers to keyboard I felt terribly sad. When I tell people that I haven’t been disciplined in writing for this long, the usually response is that it’s okay, don’t be so hard on yourself, you had a baby, etc. That is actually not true – any of it. I mean, it is true from the perspective of someone who is not filled and delighted by the art, the meditation and therapy of writing, and I understand that my friends are being kind. But for me, to know the basic joy of writing and not practice, to neglect to use some of my hours for this purpose, is sad.

When I turned left at the light at the bottom of the hill I did pass the girl. Once you turn it’s a pretty steep incline up to the hospital and she probably slowed to about 5 miles an hour. Good for her, I would have been walking and pushing the bike. I passed her then. It’s all part of riding a bike – or writing – or any other practice in life. Some times are effortless and unencumbered, make you say yes, this is what I mean triumphantly. And then, at the end of those, or just before, it’s the opposite. You slow way down, push as hard as you can just to gain an inch. Each time, step, motion is a part, with the key being to keep moving. Eventually, if the movement doesn’t stop, we’ll get where we’re going.  So that’s why I’m up while it’s still dark hitting keys, writing up hill.