Archive for January, 2011

Worn

January 29, 2011

I think I might be wound up a little tight.  Gimli gets back tomorrow after 2 weeks away and it’s like that last lap around the track, you just want to slow down and coast to the end.  At least I do.  I woke up this morning feeling like I’ve done nothing but care for my children round the clock for as long as I can remember.

But I do remember, I remember those days of freedom, of long uninterrupted hours to read, work, sleep, talk with my husband.  And before I sound like an ungrateful bitch, I also remember the unrelenting sorrow of longing for a child, the ache of empty arms.

I’m just so tired.

I lost my cool with Illyria this morning, she came to me asking “Mama get the other animal – can’t reach,” but she couldn’t tell me what animal or where, and I finally yelled at her “HOW CAN I HELP YOU IF YOU DON’T TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT?”  I sent myself into time out and banged my head against the door in frustration so hard I saw a white flash.  She was trying, I know, she was trying to tell me.  I guess she has forgotten where she left the animal or it’s one that she can’t say the name of.  (It’s just that she has so many – animal puzzle sets, beanie babies, a Noah’s Ark – she carries them from room to room in her little fist and forgets where she’s put them down.)

Because of rain and potential political unrest, Illyria hasn’t left the apartment since Tuesday.  I’ve been out briefly for groceries while our babysitter’s been here but the kids have been inside for 4 days now.  We have a playdate later this morning THANK GOD.

Sometimes I am so jealous of friends without kids who can sleep in on Saturday, eat a leisurely breakfast while they read the news, and then say to each other “what shall we do today?” without having to factor in nap schedules and early bedtimes.

I know, I know – last night she kissed the back of my head – and this morning Oscar fell asleep warm and soft in my arms while nursing – and they are so precious to me.  I will look back someday and miss these times.  But I also reserve the right to feel and own how worn out I am right now.

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40

January 20, 2011

So in the wee hours of sleepless night after sleepless night, I’ve started indulging in a little fantasy – I realized that by the time I turn 40, with any luck, both kids should be sleeping through the night on a regular basis.  (Yeah, I like to keep some of my notions realistic…).  So it started with this germ of an idea – wow, on my 40th birthday, we’ll be home and the kids will be old enough I can leave them both with Grandma all day… I could take a long nap… see a matinee with my husband… read the newspaper from start to finish… take a hot bath…

And then somehow it morphed into this fantasy of my perfect day, if money and reality were no object.  (See, it starts in Belize and ends in New Zealand, so we’re definitely leaving reality out of the equation.)

We’d book a cottage in Placencia, in southern Belize.  Gimli and I spent a weekend there once when he was doing some consulting work in the country.  Pure white sand beaches, cottages up on stilts swathed in bougainvillea, and all night the shushing of the wind and waves.  So I’d wake up with the ocean breeze, to a breakfast of toast, fried eggs (runny yolks), orange juice, coffee, pancakes with real maple syrup, and the Washington Post.

After breakfast we’d head out (“we” meaning Gimli and I) for several hours of snorkeling, languidly paddling through the aquamarine water where we’d see manatees (we did one time, it was one of the top 5 best moments of my life, I think), sea turtles, nurse sharks, manta rays.  And wouldn’t get sunburned at all.

I haven’t filled in lunch yet, but after lunch there would be a nap in a hammock, drifting to sleep with a paperback novel in my hand.

As evening falls, we’d be in New Zealand sitting down to a lovely meal in a restaurant with cloth napkins and a waiter who looks exactly like my cousin Frank (ok, this is actually a memory as much as a fantasy) – venison and a local red wine, and I don’t remember the rest of the meal because that pairing was so perfect – so I’ll fill in a cheese platter, and black olives, and strawberries, and crostini with roasted red pepper, mushrooms, and goat cheese on top.

And then a movie, and then back to Placencia to drift off to sleep to the sound of the waves…

So that’s my plan for my 40th birthday.  Which suddenly I’m really, really looking forward to.

Abuelita

January 6, 2011

My last living grandparent died December 30; my mother’s mother.

Although I remember her with great fondness, I wasn’t as close to her as I was to my paternal grandmother, and the last 5-6 years she has been declining with senile dementia.  The last few times I saw her Abuelita didn’t know me, and asked my mother who “that young lady” was.  And during the past year or so she’d even forgotten my mother, who cared for her daily.

Her life was so different from mine – she was pregnant and married at 16, and bore 10 children – two died in infancy, leaving gaps that nobody ever talks about.  I don’t think she ever finished high school.  She was raised Catholic and married to a Buddhist.  When my mother was very small, my grandmother converted to evangelical Christianity and as she went so did her family.

My grandfather owned a watch repair and jewelry shop just off the main plaza in Cuzco – you couldn’t ask for a better location.  In a recent moment of lucidity, while my father was singing hymns to Abuelita at bedtime (she became more and  more childlike in the last year), she prayed out loud, “thank you Lord… for the store.”  It made all the difference in their lives.

::

She was my mother’s mother.  Whenever my sister and I would chafe at some maternal decision or strategy that we deemed unfair or misled, we would remind ourselves of how our mom was raised, and of the vast distance between her own upbringing and how she was trying to raise us.  There was a braided leather whip behind the door of the house my mother grew up in, with three strands: “for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” she said; the threat of discipline constant.  When young men came to serenade my aunts under their windows my grandfather would throw cold water on them and my uncles would threaten to beat them with sticks.  So our 10:00 p.m. curfew began to seem more reasonable.

Ironically – or perhaps fittingly – during a long virtual family reunion we had via skype after the funeral for those scattered all over the globe, my mom talked about how difficult her mother’s childhood was (Abuelita and her half-sisters were raised by her single mom; she never knew her dad) and how my mom had to take that into consideration when chafing at things Abuelita did – “she just wanted us to be safe.”  And the wheel keeps on turning…

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Once my mother took me to see where they’d lived when she was a small child.  In 1952, Cuzco was shaken by a tremendous earthquake.  My mother’s family had gone, on a sudden whim (attributed to intuition of Divine origin) of my grandmother’s, on a picnic outside the city and so their lives were spared.  Their home was in ruins.  My mom took me there, a colonial-style building on what used to be the rim of the city.  Huge double doors over stone steps opened into a square courtyard; through matching doors on the opposite side we could see a second inner courtyard, all rubble.  “It hasn’t changed in forty years,” my mother whispered in awe.

After a brief stop to see another equally miserable place they’d lived before moving permanently into a subsidized high-rise for earthquake victims (wires criss-crossed over a muddy courtyard with a privy in one corner) we went to meet a friend of mine at a 4-star tourist hotel in the center of the city.  We sat in the lobby waiting for him, leaning back on extravagantly comfortable sofas, looking at artwork and chandeliers, and I almost couldn’t bear the disjuncture.

I know Abuelita, I see her, through my mother.  My direct memories of her are soft and faded, like her hands.  She made soup and hot tea for us when we would visit.  She had a thin, high voice and diminutive stature.  She sat with her heels together and her hands folded on her lap and always worried that we might feel cold.  She always made her bed.  I’m not sure what else I can say about her – we didn’t converse, but exchanged pleasantries.  I feel her passing most through its impact and reverberation on the rest of the family, especially her children.

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I haven’t talked with my mom since Abuelita’s death; she’s been terribly busy hosting a slew of house guests and working through a tangle of legal documents dotted with misspelled names.  And evidently their downstairs bathroom sprang a leak and is out of commission.

There was no question of me going, really, although we went through the paces of considering how it might work out.  Airfare for one person would be $4000.  It would take about 25 hours to get there.  And I didn’t really want to go.  So I feel like I need to write all this out, somewhere, to mark her passing, to scrutinize my reaction to her death, to remember her, to honor her life.  This is all I’ve got right now.

works in progress

January 5, 2011

I’ve been drafting a post about my grandmother, who passed away between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, enjoy this quote from Are You Kidding Me?:

Oh well, rock and hard place – I’m very familiar with your landscape. Eventually, I will wear a comfortable niche in both of you.