Commence round #5. Ding ding ding!
Back in spring of 2014, during those months when I was trying to conceive Jonah, I had a moment in the fertility clinic that I’ve never forgotten. I was sitting in a very crowded waiting area all by myself, anticipating an ultrasound to count the eggs in “my basket.” It was to be my fourth cycle of IUI (intrauterine insemination)–the cycle that would ultimately result in my pregnancy with Jonah. But I didn’t know that then. I was sitting alone, watching the comings and goings of couple after couple and feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. Everyone in the room had a partner–male, female, a mother, a friend.
But not me.
Now, to be fair, my dear friend Kim often accompanied me on these appointments, but she just so happened to be out of town that day, and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I just so happened to be feeling a bit down on my luck. I watched as all these women approached the front desk to check in. “Oh! Hi Susan!” Hug hug. Kiss kiss. “How’re you feeling?” “Oh! Hi Fran!” “Oh! Hi _______.” The receptionists seemed to know everyone by name.
But not me.
It was the same with the nurses and techs who were calling couples into the exam rooms: “Hi there, Cindy!” “Martha! John! It’s great to see you again.”
When I approached the front desk I had to give them my full name and date of birth. There was no sparkle of recognition, no broad smile. Don’t get me wrong–everyone was perfectly kind and cordial–they just didn’t know who I was. When it was my turn to see the doctor, the nurse stepped out of the frosted glass doors, called my name, and had to scan the room until I finally stood and walked toward her.
That’s when it hit me: this was not Cheers. This was a flipping fertility clinic! The last thing on god’s green earth that I wanted was to be coming here long enough to be on a first name basis with the staff! The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I shuddered. I followed the nurse into the exam room suddenly filled to the brim with gratitude. No one here knew me. Thank goodness!
As it turned out, I would only return to the fertility clinic two more times–once for the insemination, and a second time, to see a lentil-sized Jonah’s heartbeat flickering with life on ultrasound.
Fast forward to the present.
This past Friday, I arrived at the fertility clinic for an ultrasound to count the eggs in my basket. Sound familiar? For my fourth IUI of this current season, I elected to do a medicated cycle (Letrazole 7.5mg) to help mature more than one follicle, not because I have any interest in twins (heaven help me!), but to give those chilly and sometimes lazy little donor-swimmers greater odds at hitting their target. This ultrasound was to see how many follicles I had to work with after taking the drug (one good-sized follie at 19.5, and one “maybe” at 16.5), and to measure the thickness of my uterine lining a few days prior to ovulation. The idea behind the look-see is to make sure that all systems are go before I elect to thaw $1200 worth of purchased man-goo, and to get the timing of the insemination right when I do. But I digress…
When I walked into the clinic last Friday, the young woman behind the counter beamed at me, “Hi Dana!”
Moments later, the phlebotomist popped out from behind the frosted glass doors to greet her next patient, but took the time to come over and say hello to me first. She gave me a hug. “I’m so glad to see you back here.” She was the one who had drawn my HCG (pregnancy hormone) levels last cycle. We watched them rise and fall together. I wasn’t sure then that I’d be back. I am.
But, double shit!
They knew me now. I was officially a card-carrying member of the infertility club.
But was I really?
Things are a bit different this time around. With Jonah at home, and home an hour and twenty minutes away, I’m scheduling as many appointments as I can right after work. Stanford’s fertility clinic is only about ten minutes away from the hospital, so it’s easy to ask for the first appointment of the day, then pop over after working a night shift. But that means I’m turning up for my appointments in a blazing red flight suit. Now, unless one of my 14 other coworkers are holding out on me (Scotty G.?), I’m guessing that I’m the only person in a Stanford Life Flight flight suit coming into the clinic to get knocked up. That might have been the giveaway.
And, I was wearing a name badge…
On Saturday night, I gave myself a trigger shot (to enhance my natural ovulation), which meant that I was scheduled to come in for insemination on Monday morning–a non-workday. I piled Jonah into the car and headed down to Stanford. We counted trucks, blue cars, red cars, A JEEP!, and listened to Music Together CDs along the way, but all the while I couldn’t help but obsess over whether or not they were going to recognize me in my civvies.
We walked through the door and stood in line. Jonah flirted with the women in front and back of us, and pointed out all the men in the room–his latest thing. “Mama, it’s a man!”
“Yes, it is. And a lady.”
“A yay-dee,” he tried out.
At the front of the line, the receptionist called us forward, beaming. At Jonah. “And who is this,” she asked.
“This is Jonah. You guys helped me make him. And we’re here today to try to make him a sibling.”
“He may be the cutest baby I’ve ever seen! Hi Jonah!”
“Hi,” he said shyly and waved.
“And remind me of your name again?”
Hallelujah! “Freedman. Dana. 10/15/74.”
“Oh, of course! Dana! I didn’t recognize you out of uniform.”
If only being a “regular” here came with a freebie every once in a while. We’ve got this one, sister! This round of baby-daddy’s on us!
Jonah and I were eventually called back into the exam room where we hopefully made a baby in the good old fash–ahem–totally newfangled way: he sat next to me on the table and snacked on peanut butter crackers while Dr. Baker, the same doctor who successfully inseminated me with Jonah, attempted an encore performance.
“I feel good about this one,” she said.
On our way out the door, everyone in the clinic was smiling and waving at us. “Bye bye, Jonah! Bye bye, Dana”
“Bye bye,” he waved.
“Did we make him,” someone asked.
“We did! Hooray!”
“Bye bye,” Jonah waved.
It was official. They knew us. A free round of baby-daddy it was not, but it wasn’t the end of the world, either. If I’m being honest, it maybe felt kind of good.
Here’s to hoping that our next visit to the clinic is one of our last. One that involves another glimpse of a glimmering microscopic bean.
I’ll keep you posted…
Friday morning. Early. 4:10am.
I jolt awake, knocking into my iPad on the nightstand, which immediately bursts into a blue screen of blinding light. A message box appears: “Update Complete,” it says with a patently Apple bleep.
I squint and look away.
“Mama!” Jonah calls out again from downstairs. He’s had a rotten cold for days, with a cough that’s been waking him in the night.
“Mama!” But his voice trails off this time. He is falling back into sleep, which is good, because the unmistakable ache between my low back and pelvis tells me the time has come.
The time for losing.
Only moments ago I was in the throes of a dream, walking up Broadway toward 79th Street, my first New York apartment, with two small cats tucked into my winter coat. What am I going to do with these cats? Tyler (my Siberian Husky in real-time, now) is going to have a fit! How am I going to keep them apart in this tiny little space?
Wait a second. You can’t even empty the litter box. You’re pregnant.
4:10am. I jolt awake. An unmistakable ache.
The waiting is finally over.
When the news came on Monday I was paralyzed by grief. Mothers, of course, don’t get to be paralyzed so I moved through my day as best I could, allowing the tears to seep out as I peeled and sliced apples, blew on bites of homemade chicken soup, and read Hannah the Helicopter eighteen times in three sittings.
“Mama’s a little sad today,” I explained, “but she loves you. She loves her Jonah so much.”
Monday is the only day of the week that I have built-in writing time. Uncle Jimmy takes Jonah for two hours from 5pm to 7pm so I can work on my book. Or, as in this week, my blog, where I put out my distress call to you.
You answered. All of you. Your stories. Your words of encouragement. They gave me hope.
They readied me for this.
Tuesday was the turning point. I went to see my voodoo high prieste–my acupuncturist, Suzanne.
“This doesn’t have to be the end, Dana.”
“But I can’t afford IVF.”
“Why would you think you need IVF?”
The nurse’s voice echoes in my head. We need to talk about your options. “Because this obviously isn’t working.”
“It just did.”
“Dana, IVF is for infertility. You’re not infertile. What you have is a sperm problem. You’re trying to make a baby with about an eighth of what most women try with every month. And the cost–it makes this loss that much more painful. But you have to know–80% of women trying to conceive have at least one chemical pregnancy or miscarriage. This was yours. It’s awful. I know. But most of those women go on to have successful pregnancies within six months of the loss. This doesn’t need to be the end for you.”
I let her words sink in.
“So, if you were me?”
“I would keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”
“Letrazole, trigger, repeat,” I groaned.
“You’ll get your baby.”
I sat with the idea some more.
“Can I do something a little different today,” she asked. “I think I can help you manage your stress.”
She had me lie on my stomach.
“I want you to focus on letting go.” She slipped needles into the top of my head, my neck, my shoulders, my feet. “Whatever it is you need to let go of–you don’t need to tell me–just stay with it here and imagine it leaving.”
So I did.
I bawled my eyes out for twenty minutes on the table, and then, abruptly, the tears stopped. Something shifted. I embodied the calm after a storm. I’ve been this way ever since.
Your stories kept pouring in.
Oh Dana. I know. I had one before my first, and then one in between each child. Whenever I think of those losses, I try to remember that I wouldn’t have any of these three perfect babies that I have now if the others had come.
The one last year was the hardest. We didn’t tell anyone. Until now.
I’m sitting in the bathroom bleeding. I’m alone.
But I’m not alone.
Knowledge is power after all.
If this had happened at 4:10am on a Friday morning and I hadn’t known it was coming–The panic. The alone. They might have ruined me. Instead, what I feel is a sense of relief. I can move forward now.
This awful time is finally passing.
I climb back into bed. I’m uncomfortable, but not too uncomfortable to sleep. The memory of the dream returns. I realize the cats in my coat are the two little kittens from Goodnight Moon. Mom dreams.
Except you’re not, and somehow you know–it’s going to be okay.
I put the iPad face down on my nightstand and roll over. No more spontaneous blue light interrupting the night.
I am either about to be very brave, or very foolish. I’m not sure which, but if it’s a little bit of both, I’ll bet the Italians have a wonderful word for it–for brave fool. A word with just as many “R’s” and vowels, but one that rolls off the tongue with a little more grace and elegance than the word I have on repeat in my mind: miscarriage.
Apparently I’m about to have one.
How do I know this?
“Your numbers are falling, not doubling. Be prepared. Call us when you start to bleed.”
“Okay.” But I’m not okay. I’m not not-okay either. I’m numb. And my nipples are on fire and my breasts are huge and I’m queasy as hell. But not for very much longer.
Or so they tell me.
“This was your third try.”
As if I needed a reminder. It was supposed to be the charm. It was the charm. Until now.
“When you’re ready, we should talk about your options.”
“Come have a glass of wine with me tonight,” my friend Lyza offered.
But I’m just not ready to do that. Numbers aren’t real. Cramping and bleeding. Maybe then it will be real. Right now it’s just an idea I’m trying to wrap my brain around as I try to quell the nausea: I’m going to have a miscarriage. It’s almost as surreal as the way I felt a week ago when I got the first call:
“Congratulations! You’re going to have a baby!”
I liked that call better.
There’s a part of me that doesn’t quite believe it–like the twelve weeks of Jonah’s pregnancy when we thought he had Down Syndrome. It’s not that I didn’t believe the diagnosis. I took it very seriously and prepared myself to parent a different child than the one I’d always pictured myself with. I was shocked, almost oddly disappointed, when the amniocentesis came back negative. I was ready to parent a special-needs child. I knew all along, no matter what, that everything would be okay. And it was. Just different. And then different again.
I feel like everything is okay right now, too. I feel pregnant. I don’t feel like I’m going to have a miscarriage.
But I am.
Making a baby as a single person is an odd thing. It’s all about timing, of course, as it is with a traditional couple, but the expense is somewhat absurd–$1150 for a single 0.5ml vial of Baby-Daddy, and that doesn’t include the ultrasounds, the drugs, and the procedure cost for an intrauterine insemination (IUI). And you know so much–way more than you would ever know if you were trying to have a hot weekend of baby-making with your hubby. Like, the thickness of your uterine lining–8.9mm on cycle day 14–perfect for the two big fat follicles (eggs) waiting to be fertilized and attached. And you know whether or not you are pregnant exactly two weeks after the insemination. And you know less than a week later that you won’t be pregnant for very much longer.
Is knowledge power?
Right now it has me weak in the knees.
I have plenty to be grateful for. I have a beautiful 2-year old son who is the love of my life. I could easily have stopped with him. Now I may be forced to. The “options” the nurse was speaking of are not really options for me. I don’t have the money for IVF. Even if I did, it should probably go toward something sensible, like paying off my student loans, or putting it toward Jonah’s college education so he never has to worry about student loans himself. But I’ve known in my bones all along that I’ve wanted to give him a sibling. My reasons are two-fold: As an older parent, I want him to have someone else so that he doesn’t have to deal with his batty old mother alone–so that I don’t leave him alone in this world when I go. And because as his mother I know–if something were to happen to him, there would be nothing left to bind me to this earth, nothing at all. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s the god’s honest truth. The love is that strong. It fills me with gratitude every day. And terror.
Why am I sharing this with you? Maybe, if I had a husband, it would be our secret. We would mourn and grieve quietly, and spare those we love (not to mention perfect strangers) our private pain. But I have no husband, and while I have the most amazing friends, I don’t think this kind of pain should ever be a dirty little secret. Women miscarry, or are about to miscarry, every day. It needs to be let out, given some space and fresh air to run around in, taken for a walk, so that it can finally settle down to rest. I know I’m not alone. Every woman should know she’s not alone, that it’s okay to talk about it. All of it.
Only hours ago I was lying in bed, whispering to my womb, telling this sweet little ball of cells about all the good things to come. Then, the phone call. Now I’m in limbo. Caught between a precious new beginning and a premature ending that doesn’t even feel close to being real. As a critical care nurse, I’m supposed to be some sort of expert in endings, but for this? I’m at a complete loss. Do I whisper now to this tiny being that it’s okay to let go? Because it’s not. It’s really not.
So I wait. And I write.
It turns out that the Italians have two words for brave fool, just like us: Coraggioso sciocco. Pretty. Certainly more beautiful than miscarriage. For the next several days (please god, tell me it will only be a matter of days) I will be channeling coraggioso as I foolishly muddle through the quotidian. Until this baby leaves my body and I can decide what’s next.
Apparently I have options.
Santa had every intention of staying on top of the Christmas game this year, especially since little Jonah would be old enough to appreciate a bit more of the joy and toys than his first go round. Last year was all about tearing paper into tiny little shreds and sucking on other people’s ribbons. But this holiday season, at nearly two, he was really going to get it–maybe not the Jesus-was-born-in-a-manger piece–but certainly the gift-wrapped goodness-under-a light-covered-tree part. As such, Santa really wanted to make it special.
All of the “toy making” for Jonah was done way back in September. His big gift was to be a play kitchen, complete with pots and pans and crates full of wooden food. Jonah has so much fun helping me cook and bake that I thought he should have a work space of his own. And I liked the idea of bending the gender rules just a wee bit. When I found a fabulous navy blue art deco play kitchen on Zullily for $50, I jumped on it. This was in August. When it arrived–in a compact, but immensely heavy box that was a clear indication of some serious assembly required–I immediately tucked it into a closet and forgot all about it. Until December 22nd, when the panic set in. Where in the hell were those Christmas elves when you needed them?
Well, first I should say “Exit nanny,” because that part is just way too much fun to leave out.
On December 18th, as I was walking out the door to go to work, my nanny informed me that she was going to start looking for a new position for the new year. I was neither shocked, nor disappointed. We, Jonah and I, were ready for a change. “The only thing I ask,” I said, “Is that you give me at least two weeks notice when you find something so that I’m not left high and dry without childcare. I would really like a smooth transition.”
She said nothing.
Until three days later, when she informed me that she had taken another position, and that night, the night of the 21st of December, would be her last shift.
Are you f%ck*ng kidding me?
As I mentioned earlier, enter elves…
The Myers Family took over. Lola babysat for Jonah so I could get my last minute shopping done (and return the nanny’s presents while I was at it). Mama Lyza was Lola’s chauffeur to and from my house, and bartender for Papa Bryan, who really needed a beer or 12 while he and Symon built Jonah’s Christmas kitchen–from the comfort of theirs.
Let me state for the record: I am a lucky woman.
I was a little perplexed when a day later Lyza started praising me “for breaking all the gender rules, all at once. You are AMAZING and I love you,” she said.
Now, Lyza is a woman who used to do things like paint her son Symon’s fingernails and toes when she was giving herself a mani/pedi, and didn’t bat an eyelash when he wanted “to wear a skirt like Lola.” I didn’t really think she would find my choice of a play kitchen for Christmas to be that avant garde–certainly not enough to warrant being repeatedly called AMAZING.
“Look at how cute it is,” she said, showing me pictures of the kitchen in various states of construction, from the gagillion nuts and bolts laid out on a piece of cardboard (a sight that would surely have made me cry if I had to assemble it myself), to the cute little silver nobs, buttons, and doo-dads that made it such a special little piece in the first place. It didn’t really register at first, but by the 4th photo, I looked up at her, puzzled.
She smiled. Maybe it was a smirk.
“Is that–is it–pink?”
“Oh my god!” I burst into a fit of laughter. “It was supposed to be navy blue!”
“I wondered.” Lyza was laughing,too.
“But it’s PERFECT!”
So this Christmas, Jonah’s second Christmas, in the year of we’ll-need-to-see-your-birth-certificate-before-you-can-use-this-restroom, no-we-won’t-bake-your-gay-wedding-cake, and Trump-effing-Pence, Santa brought my two year old son a bubblegum pink kitchen. And I couldn’t be more pleased.
That Santa, she rocks!
(Pics to come, I promise)
It’s been a while. I know.
I had a jolly old piece about “killer trees” prepared to post on the evening of November 7th, but I wanted to give it one more read-through before I sent it out into the world.
And then the election happened.
Suddenly, I didn’t give a shit about my trees anymore. And I’ve been struggling to show up here as anything less than a snarling madwoman ever since–reason enough to remain silent.
And I’ll be honest: I still don’t know what to say to you.
I am ashamed of my country. Or half of it anyway. I’m angry. I’m afraid. I’m doing what I can to fight the good fight, but I don’t have it in me to fight here.
So maybe I’ll try to pretend that everything is normal, even though nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ll stick to trees. For now.
Earlier this month, I learned that I have quite a bit more property than I initially believed I had when I purchased my home about a year ago. It was brought to my attention the hard way, by the good Town of Fairfax, when I received a letter stating that a tree that had fallen in the first round of storms–the same tree that I glanced at and breathed a sigh of relief over when I saw that it was all the way down at the bottom of my street–is, in fact, my tree.
That tree was clear across the street and 500 feet down the road. How could it be MY tree? In answer to the question, the letter read “see attached,” which I did. Lo and behold, there it was: a schematic of property lines and, highlighted in fluorescent yellow marker, the sum total of my kingdom, including the useless extra parcel, complete with downed tree.
It was my responsibility to remove it.
Lucky for me, I happen to know a strapping lad with a chainsaw (thank you, Justin!)
This was not the problem.
The problem was the rest of the trees on that useless piece of, ahem, I mean, that glorious strip of land, which is essentially nothing more than an easement separating a bend in the road.
Since the letter appeared in my mailbox, I’ve been lying awake at night thinking about my “killer trees.” There are several–five or six–each with multiple trunks, hulking limbs, and vast spans of foliage weighed down by creeping tendrils of ivy, leaning precariously, menacing the road and the houses across the street.
Something must be done.
Now, I am someone who prides herself in being a good citizen and neighbor. As such, I would love to take care of these trees immediately so that I can rest easy knowing they aren’t going to take out a car, a roof, a wandering mountain lion, a pack of coyotes and/or schoolchildren on bicycles, all of which make regular appearances in my neck of the woods. But I can’t afford to. Really. I just can’t.
I’m a single mom. A nurse. Every dime I’m making is going to my ridiculous Marin County mortgage, childcare, not to mention my godd@mm*d m$th*rf&ck#ng student loans.
Ahem. Excuse me.
To add insult to injury, about a week after I found out the offending tree was mine, I also learned it had knocked off my neighbor’s chimney on its way down.
Of course it did.
And not just any neighbor’s chimney–the crazy neighbor’s chimney.
Of course it was.
This was the neighbor who, when I introduced myself to her for the very first time, yelled, “Is that car gonna go screeching up the driveway every morning at nine because it’s waking up my whole house!” Not even so much as a hello.
“Nice meeting you,” I said in return. “Have a great day.” Oy.
She caught me off guard with the news of the chimney while I was busy raking leaves from my driveway. There was an awkward monologue on her part about how “she thought it was the city’s tree but just learned through a letter that it was mine and she was going to call me or write me a letter but anyway I owe her at least $400 and she doesn’t think I should put it through my homeowner’s insurance because it will take too long and it’s not that expensive but if I insist she’ll call them and who is my provider and what’s his phone number?”
Really? Settle down lady.
But she couldn’t settle down. I finally figured out why. In the middle of our conversation, it hit me. “Where are you from?”
“Where are you from? I hear east coast in your voice.”
Ding ding ding! “I thought so. Where in New Jersey?”
“I’m from Paramus.”
She ain’t crazy. She’s from Jersey. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.
As for the trees, I decided to take my little problem to my community via the website Nextdoor. I posted an ad: “Desperately Seeking Benevolent Lumberjack”
In truth, I was seeking a “benevolent arborist” but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it. In return for a tree consult, I promised fresh baked cookies, dinner for the whole family, free medical advice, and 50% of the profits when I finally have the money to erect the “Fairfax Flatiron Building” on the useless strip of land and rent it out on AirBnB. I did make it clear that I had no intention of cutting the trees down (so I could forever be known as “she who caused the great Fairfax mudslide”)–I just wanted to give them a little haircut to make them safe.
I received any number of frantic Fairfaxian freak-out responses from those who read the title but not the actual ad: IT IS ILLEGAL TO CUT TREES WITHOUT A PERMIT!!! DO NOT CUT THOSE TREES!!!!!
I also got a number of fun Oh my god! I wish I could help you! You’re hilarious! Can we be friends? kind of notes, which was nice.
But the official answer to my problem came a day after I posted the ad. Jonah and I stopped mid-walk to watch the town street sweeper go by. He’s a truck-obsessed toddler these days, so he was filled with “ooooos and aaaaaahs,” which were audible even over the din of the machinery. Much to our surprise, the street sweeper stopped and shut down right in front of us. “Mama! Truck! Wow!”
The driver rolled down the window. “Hey, are you the young lady who posted about the trees?”
“Young lady? I wish. But yes, that’s me.”
“I just wanted to let you know–I’ve been working for this town, looking at those trees on Tamalpais for the last twenty years. The one that came down? It’s been threatening to go for a while now, but the rest of those trees are fine.”
“Really. They’ve looked like that forever. They’ll be like that forever. They’re fine. Probably for a long while.”
“Seriously. If you want to do anything, maybe cut the roots of the ivy growing around the bases, but otherwise, you should be good. They aren’t going anywhere.”
“Okay. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome. Really. Don’t worry. You’re good.”
I’m choosing to trust him. Twenty years of looking at those trees trumps my three weeks of panic any day.
If only he could do something to quell the four weeks of panic I’ve felt since we were Trumped. That would really be something worth writing about.
Saturday night was a maelstrom of compatriots, weather, and words all washed down with a delicious bit of fancypants gin and juice.
And just like that it was over.
For those of you who missed it (including me), below is a link to my Litcrawl debut, courtesy of my most stealthy friend, Jill Eyres. Photo credits go to none other than the cunning Leah Toeniskoetter. Thank you, ladies, for taking the time to document the evening. I’m so glad you thought of it!
Behold, the prologue to The Kind of Woman Who Would, as read aloud on a very rainy evening in the Mission, on my 42nd birthday:
So, I’m a little behind on this whole blog thing. It seems I’m only capable of juggling seven tasks at once–that eighth plate gets tossed in the air, and suddenly all bets are off. At least (at least!) one of them is going to come crashing to the ground. I’m pleased to report the baby is still in one piece. The dog hasn’t run away. The house hasn’t fallen down. I’ve even managed to finish writing another chapter of the book, but the blog, well…I’m here now, aren’t I?
Part of the problem has been trying to figure out my subject matter. At various times throughout the week I’ve been alternately moved to rant about the election (“Trump will rape you. Pence will force you to keep the baby.” And I have family members who are still actively campaigning for them. Gah!), laugh about my toddler (Hi Facebook. It’s me, Dana. Can someone please call my phone? Jonah’s done something with it.), wax poetic about the return of autumn (hands down my favorite season), and then there’s that whole thing about the clowns…
I think I just dared myself to tackle all four at once.
Notice I didn’t choose eight.
October is my favorite month. The leaves are changing. The days are getting shorter. The sun is sinking ever so slightly in the sky, bathing the hills around my home in an earthy golden glow. Some days are still baking hot, but others crispy cool, giving me an excuse to make soup, buy a baguette, and hunker down on the couch with my knitting again.
Okay, that’s enough of that.
I’m not going to lie. Ahem. There is a part of me that wants to launch into an all-out tirade about the decline of Western Civilization. The fact that there is a large sector of our society that has either failed to recognize the overt signs and symptoms of mental illness, or worse, chosen to ignore them in the name of racism, sexism, and partisanship, makes my hair stand on end. And that’s putting it mildly. I worry about the future for my child. And not a generalized will-he-get-into-the-right-preschool kind of worry. I mean a Kristallnacht-1939-dawn-of-the-second-world-war-bone-chilling worry. Trump is a madman. Fortunately, he’s no Hitler in one very particular, and all-important way–he’s dumber than his stump speeches. I’m hoping, come November, the rest of our country isn’t.
But since I do want to keep the tone of this blog largely positive, I will utter a few words that I never thought I would ever say. Ever. Thank you Bush family–Junior, Senior, Barbara, Laura, Jeb. Thank you Glen Beck. Thank you Condoleezza Rice. Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thank you Michael Chertoff and Paul Wolfowitz. Thank you Richard Armitage, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich. Thank you Mom! Thank you each and every Republican who has forsaken, or will forsake partisanship in the name of sanity, humanity and world safety.
So anyway, I walked into Jonah’s room yesterday to find him with his pants down around his ankles and a wad of toilet paper in his hand. “Be-pee,” he said, as he wiped himself over his diaper. “Be-pee.” Weird, but I guess it’s a start.
As for the clowns, they first cropped up in my writing workshop two weeks ago. Not literally, thank goodness. One of my nearest and dearest is working on a memoir too, and the chapter we were dissecting mentioned the fact that her first boyfriend ran away to clown school. No joke–he went off to clown school, became a clown, and joined the circus. For whatever reason, this hit our mentor’s funny bone, and before long we were collectively cackling and rolling, beeping our pretend red noses, honking invisible horns, practicing pronounced pigeon toes and squeaking in non-existent oversized shoes. A day later, this turns up in my inbox, from my Nextdoor subscription:
“A young lady was driving home in the Cascades (my neighborhood) tonight and encountered a man dressed as a clown standing in the middle of the road, just staring at her as she approached…”
It turns out, this a national phenomenon. I’ve heard it has to do with the reprisal of a Steven King novel (“they all float down here”), but my gut tell me it has more to do with a red red face and an orange toupee.
It’s that time of year again–time to hunker down on the couch with my knitting. And try not to gouge my eyes out.
Don’t worry. This will not be a blog about how babies are made. Particularly not about how I went about making a baby, which is certainly different from the way in which most people make babies and an interesting story in its own right, but one I think I’ll save for another time. No, instead I’m climbing out of three weeks of tedious nursing certification renewals (Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Transport Professionals Advanced Trauma Certification to be exact) to tell you the story of how my 18-month old son discovered the moon, and a few other things while he was at it.
There was no space suit. Not unless you count the green Godzilla footie pajamas that could be a space suit if he were old enough to want to pretend he was wearing one, but he isn’t quite there yet. No, it was just our regular Monday night routine. I dropped Jonah off at Uncle Jimmy’s house where the two of them spent the early evening carousing in the park, followed by dinner and manly things like playing ball in the house, turning the TV on and off a thousand times just for the electronic bleep of it, and reading bedtime stories about dars and ducks (read: cars and trucks) so that I could go off to work on and workshop my book.
Every Monday night Uncle Jimmy puts Jonah to bed in his Pack n Play while we (his Mama and writing “Aunties”) attend Uncle Tom’s class, then return home from our workshop for a little late night dinner and dishing. And every Monday night we collectively wake him from a deep sleep where he is all groggy smiles, nuzzles, and hugs, and tuck him into his car seat so I can take him home to bed.
This past Monday night was an unusually warm one for the Bay Area so we weren’t in any rush to get him from the house, out of the elements, and into the car. The moon had just risen when we all–Uncle Jimmy with Jonah in his arms, Auntie Kathy and I–stepped out on to their front porch to say goodnight. It was a waning moon, but nearly full still, looming large and low in the the sky.
Jonah gasped and pointed, “Huz-zah?” As excited as he was, this was not sheer exclamation, but a question, too–his version of “what’s that?”
“That’s the moon!” I said, delighted. It makes my heart leap when he notices a part of his world, particularly a beautiful part, and wants the word for it.
“Moom!” He repeated, pointing. Smiling.
“La luna,” Uncle Jimmy said.
“Yuna!” Jonah turned and immediately pointed toward the house.
“Yes! Luna’s in the house. You’re right!” Kathy laughed. Luna is the name of their pet parakeet who lives in an elaborate enclosure in their kitchen. “Luna the bird is inside. Luna the moon is up in the sky.”
“Moom.” Jonah pointed to the sky. “Yuna.” He pointed to the house.
“Yes,” I reaffirmed.
Someday he’ll make the connection.
On the drive home I started thinking about all of Jonah’s words–from his firsts, “woof woof” and “Bubba” (the name of the family dog that has become the signifier for ALL dogs). And even before “Mama” came “trees.” Then dars and ducks–he will even distinguish between the “vroom vroom” duck and the “quack-quack” duck when asked, the latter of which sounds more like “cock cock” but we’ll save that for the blog where I tell you about how I didn’t make a baby. Or something.
The words he has now are all concrete words for concrete objects and I wondered when he would make the leap from concrete to abstract? Luna the bird to luna the moon.
We’re working on it. He knows my morning cup of coffee is “hot.” He reminds me everyday, just as he knows the oven and kettle are hot, too. We’re also working on “art.” I live in an eclectic community. Many of my neighbors have paintings on their gates, sculptures in their gardens, and collections of what I might otherwise label “junk” if I weren’t trying to teach my son kindness. As we walk through the neighborhood, we always stop to look.
“Art,” I say, showing him the weird Scooby-Doo-style swamp monster covered in Mardi Gras beads that hovers over a large wooden doorway at the top of our hill.
“Art,” he repeats.
This may in fact backfire on me someday.
The next night he made a new discovery. In the bathtub.
“Huzz-ah?” He pointed and asked.
Here we go. “That’s your penis,” I said.
“Pemit,” he repeated.
“Pemit.” Then he crinkled his nose and laughed.
For every moon, a penis. I laughed, too.
But on Wednesday morning, as we sat together rocking in the chair in his room, my coffee in hand, Jonah with his milk, he gestured toward the mug and said what I thought to be, “hot.”
“Yes, hot.” I wasn’t about to try to explain luke warm.
He said it again, only this time I heard, “art.”
“Art?” I asked.
“Art,” he repeated, then used his little finger to trace the geometric pattern on my mug.
“Yes! Art!” I exclaimed. Luna the bird, luna the moon. “Art is on the wall. Art is on our walks. Art is on mama’s coffee mug. Good job, little man!”
He smiled a milky smile, the bottle’s nipple still pinched between his teeth, and I beamed right back at him. It was a few beats more before he crinkled his nose, released a hand from his bottle and dropped it down to his diaper.
“Pemit,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Pemit.”
I’m taking a little break from storytelling this week in the name of shameless self-promotion. I’ve hit a literary milestone and I ain’t too proud to shout about it. After more than fifteen years of celebrating my birthday by stumbling buzzed through San Francisco’s Mission District in search of literary enlightenment, I have at long last been invited to take part in Lit Crawl…as an author!
For those of you not-in-the-know, Lit Crawl is a literary pub crawl, the culmination of Litquake, a week long Bay Area festival of words that has been bringing writers, readers and drinkers together every October since its inception in 1999. Throughout the Mission (and parts beyond) authors gather at various venues–bars, restaurants,storefronts, banks, galleries, laundromats–to read, discuss, and wax poetic about all things literature. The scope is broad. Three years ago I went from listening to fiction over gin martinis at Dalva, to the memoir of “Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls Speak Out” at The Beauty Bar, to a barbershop quartet singing the poems/songs of Leonard Cohen IN a barbershop, entirely on foot (hiccup!), all in the course of about two hours.
This year I will be reading as part of Memoir Pool, my dear friend and mentor Tamim Ansary’s group of writers. I have been workshopping with Tamim since my early days in San Francisco (1996! Twenty years! Oy!) and it was in his Sunday memoir class two years ago that my book came into being. Now, for another shameless plug, if you’re even thinking about writing memoir, start Here.
Now then, where was I? Oh yes. Come help me ring in my 42nd year with a cocktail, a smile, a chapter from my book, and some of the finest memoir you’ll see this side of the Mississippi. We’re not reading until Phase 3, so come early and wander the Mission and experience all that Lit Crawl has to offer.