Back to Child
‘Mommy, look!’ ‘What, please tell me it’s not something disgusting again,’ I say, as he’s pointing outside to the filth, slush pee snow and debri left brimming in a sink hole in the street beside the bus stop. Another dirty winter morning.’
‘Honey, do me a favor- all morning you showed me the most disgusting stuff that came out of your nose and butt, can you point to something that you think is beautiful this morning?’
Without missing a beat, he replies, ‘Yes! Look at those birds!’ And there they were, sharp, purposeful, knowing, rising in a pyramid formation from behind a grey building, only to disappear behind another one.
‘Thank you for notic-
“Hey look!’ He interrupts. Again they rose in their gray majesty. And he’s smiling, proud, because he got me. Even I had not expected to be that grateful, twice.
When I feel broke, hopeless, despondent., well, that’s when I feel guiltiest for having him of course. It’s the thing most parents will not say but that I will think at times, looking at my greatest gift, this beautiful creature laughing, being loving, having fun, my favorite fun loving person. But we are running late, like parents all across our free nation, in the bathroom, rushing to get ready for school, America’s school that you can’t help but wonder sometimes is doing more harm than good, chiseling away at what is or was truly great about your child, as you tell him to stop with the questions already feeling guilty yourself as you should have much more time to try your best to answer all those questions or just hug him even if you can’t, and the heightened senses, deafening volumes, and mute auto piloting that comes with being a parent, and again this morning telling him to brush his teeth, we’re late, late, late, wanting on bad days the quiet, to run away, tend to a garden everyday, make arts and crafts, have meals given to you, far away from everybody you’ve ever known who’s ever hurt you.. not wanting to hurt back. A place for the insane in the remote mountains to some, but a place in the minds of most modern day mothers with alarming regularity. A place where all sane women can fantasize, through every era, because through every era, unless you’re faking it really well, our culture has not proven especially hospitable, a habitat not conducive to thriving in female form or along the spectrum of the female form. There is so much more, so much more, and not enough here for us. The thinkers, watchers, observers, attached to reproductive bodies. Hungry, but having to continuously feed to the vast emptiness of modernity while at the same time both fueled and fizzled by not keeping up and not measuring up . Horrific doesn’t even begin to name it.
‘Think of me as Hemingway,’ I tell my husband, only half- joking, the half I don’t want to kill our sex life. ‘A Hemingway type who somehow got trapped in a life making all the meals for everyone, when I used to love cooking, like a chef, for myself first ‘like a man doing it.’ I teach five days a week too, but apparently not like ‘a man doing it,’ when really what I want to be doing somehow as well is writing behind a locked door, entitled to it, like a man doing it. To be a voice and a comfort for thousands of people screaming in their dreams, heavy heads over pillows, unheard under their womb blankets of mortality.. ‘Think of me more like that more often.. ummm.. ‘ could ya sweetie?’
I’m dreaming awake right now. I recently just saw a manly man in a commercial for a cool mop, cleaning up his kids messes in control, a stay at home dad, without words saying, ‘this is how it’s done.’ Parenting glorified and how women would have wanted to be seen for years doing it, still waiting for that same elevation of job status and praise as we do the ‘men’s work.’
I was teaching Bradbury’s prophetic Fahrenheit 451 to my international high school kids, teaching it as I was reading it for the first time not believing how I could’ve missed this one as the metaphors of fire abound and leap off the pages burning ones face from the heat of what surrounds you in the present. The book was on fire at that time for what was to come.. the fictional world where firemen don’t put out fires but instead burn, burn books and the houses that hold them. A writer’s senses on high alert from the early fifties when he wrote it, forecasting how much the eyes on screens, a world fast, loud and easy would be the preferred way, disconnected vapidness over mindful thought. I think of my son’s future as I want more peace, quiet, books. Wondering if he’ll seek the same, want what is sacred and dying. Most of my students, thankfully, loved the book. Hope. They suggested, after finally finishing it, that they should burn it. It was an appropriate joke. Freedom of speech. They would never do it. Even the writer should appreciate it. The last of the book people. Committing the language to their memory and souls if the burners, the destructors should try to take it from them.
I think of the still entitled male writer who does not apologize the way mother writers do with a closed office door. Reading, and escape, and writing to get away and come back, come back full to share and connect before being away again. And the noise of modern parenting, because you live in a small apartment and your kid is not running and exploring outside by a brook, or tending to a farm and chores, being useful, he’s jumping on the sofa screaming, not singing a song, until you find a project for him to do at the table, with pastels and glue, while you get ready, and all you want is quiet from the noise so you can hear your thoughts, and they become this. And that is that you feel bad again. Bad because all those Newtown CT parents that you still think about often who only want to hear the sound of their children’s noise again, and you think about them a lot, because you have that kind of no armor, filterless mind that goes there, along with the thoughts of all the children who are here, unloved and abused, and the parents who lost their children to the ills of our great nation, where once was the sound of noise and laughter, now too quiet, the light in the eyes dim with the hurt that comes with being on numbing high alert. From knowing too much pain. And your ready to face the fear alert is so loud, it’s deafening. Because you know that having children, and watching other people with children is truly heartbreaking. Breaks the heart because you know there is so much fear in it. Even and despite being in the first worlds. Throughout history and throughout class and race, children have wanted nothing but to smile, to laugh, feel you light up when you see them, to feel loved and to laugh. That’s it. But to protect them. How can we do that, really. Give them the armor they will need, the shell that would be good enough to keep them safe, without cracking, without hardening their insides. I challenge you to look around and see from race, to class, power across the lines, and see how many children are really sad, hurt, neglected, depressed, frustration turning to anger that festers until it takes the form of hurting back.. the rich little kids in pain too buried in wants bequeathed, their needs idle and rotting. Just another kind of pain really. Not belonging, being hurt, does not discriminate. And sometimes they never knew there were others like them, until they picked up a book and read that language that reaches and holds, says you belong now, speaks of travel to worlds in that quiet space that is just you and what’s coming through and around like a timeless aura.
I have to remember to laugh with him more often than not. But thankfully, every morning I’m so happy he is here, that I get to love him, even when I’m in a rush, and sometimes there is frustration, but then I drop him at school, and I always, and I mean always, remember to say I love you when he looks back at me, little boy, with big bag on his back. Too big for him. My little turtle with his small shell going into that big building with even bigger questions of security a looming like an ominous cloud above. And they are so small. We were once so small. Back to my child I think after I’ve dropped him off.