All posts tagged: motherhood

Anna Karenina | edge of evening

Anna Karenina

Though it was a chore to look after all the children and stop their pranks, thought it was hard to remember and not mix up all those stockings, drawers, shoes from different feet, and to untie, unbutton and retie so many tapes and buttons, Darya Alexandrovna, who had always loved bathing herself, and considered it good for the children, enjoyed nothing so much as this bathing with them all. To touch all those plump little legs, pulling stockings on them, to take in her arms and dip those naked little bodies and hear joyful or frightened shrieks; to see the breathless faces of those splashing little cherubs, with their wide, frightened and merry eyes, was a great pleasure. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky And it’s proving a great pleasure, too, to read Anna Karenina. I hadn’t tried it for years and years, but this time something has stuck, and after never making it past the first book before, I’m now over halfway and hoping that it never ends. It’s not Anna …

37

Age doesn’t necessarily bring anything with it, save itself. The rest is optional. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson Last week mainly took me to places I didn’t want to go. It took me to being 37, the age that for the longest time I have not wanted to be because at some point being 37 will mean being older than my father was when he died. I used to be suspicious of people who were 37. They were never as grown up as I thought a 37-year-old should be. They didn’t have all the answers any more than I had all the answers, but I knew that they should have them because they were 37. Then, once I was in my 30s, I realised the impossibility of being as wise and sure and grown up as a 37-year-old parent is to an eleven-year-old child, which is, of course, wiser and surer and more grown up than any 37-year old — or at least this 37-year-old — actually is to themselves. The day after I turned 37 I found …

The Folded Clock & Ongoingness

I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago. It’s eight hundred thousand words long. I didn’t want to lose anything. That was my main problem. I couldn’t face the end of the day without a record of everything that had ever happened. Ongoingness by Sarah Manguso Today I wondered What is the worth of a day? Once, a day was long. It was bright and then it wasn’t, meals happened and school happened, and sports practice, maybe, happened and two days from this day there would be a test, or an English paper would be due, or there would be a party for which I’d been waiting, it would seem, for years. Days were ages. […] Not anymore. The “day” no longer exists. The smallest unit of time I experience is the week. But in recent years the week, like the penny, has also become a uselessly small currency. The month is, more typically, the smallest unit of time I experience. But truthfully months are not so noticeable either. […] Since I am suddenly ten …

After Birth

“A baby opens you up, is the problem. No way around it unless you want to pay someone else to have it for you. There’s before and there’s after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. A blessed few resist any of these, and when you meet her, you’ll know her immediately by the look in her eyes: weary, humbled, wobbly but still standing. Present, if faintly. You don’t meet her often.” If you saw my copy of Elisa Albert’s fierce & funny After Birth you’d see that it’s sprouted little florescent pink tags out of nearly every page: time after time when I thought, yes, that! that’s how it felt, that’s how it was. Because Albert is great at capturing the stripped-down rawness of new motherhood, the visceral, physical, all-consumingness; the relentlessness and exhaustion and isolation. And with uncompromising honesty, she captures a place and time where many …

Five

Half-term and the Moose turned five. He was, quite possibly, the most delightful birthday child ever. We woke him early — just before seven — so that he could open his presents before B left for work. (Usually B is gone before seven; back after bedtime.) We had a visit from old London friends; a day that reminded me so much of those long ago days back when T was small. There was a chocolate cake with chocolate buttons that were meant to say ‘5’ but looked more like they said ‘S’. He turned out the lights as I lit the candles & then blew out the candles before we could get to the end of ‘Happy Birthday’. Later, on the phone to my mum and then my brother he told them about his new cement mixer: ‘You put sand in it and it comes out looking like black mud!’ There was a day when three scaffolders spent the morning carrying scaffold through the house. Each time one of them passed him, Pospy would tell …

No effort is wasted

“Just doing the work is the whole battle, we always say: making contact. Sit with the novel, be in it. Turn off the internet so you have nowhere else to go. Only rarely is it satisfying. Rarely is there a great chunk you can point to at the end of a day and say, here is what I did today! More often there’s the vague fear you’ve made no progress at all. Where did those hours go? Where is your work? What is this adding up to? You have paid someone else to be with your child while you did this bullshit? The thing continues and continues to feel like a wreck. But it’s your wreck. And you are working on it, even when it seems like bullshit, eating your time and appearing none the better. No effort is wasted, says the Bhagavad Gita on a post-it I stuck to the bottom of the giant computer monitor. But God, some days are a slog.” Elisa Albert I‘ve read Elisa Albert’s essay Where Do I Write? …

Language development: 22 months

A significant milestone: the Pip-Pop can tell on his big brother. One morning last week, he ran into the kitchen crying, his feet thundering on the wooden floors. I crouched down, taking him in my arms and perching him on my thigh. ‘What’s the matter, Pops?’ ‘Ra-Ra hit yooooo.’ ‘Did Ra-Ra hit you, Popsy?’ ‘Yes!’ He nodded his head and smiled. And, just like that, he turned and ran back to his brother. He’s on that cusp — words clustering into almost-sentences. His ability to tell us things is growing fast. ‘Bit more, Da-da!’ he cries, pointing to his empty bowl. ‘Bit more paa-staa!’ He’s scrupulous about his end consonants — often sounding them a beat late: ‘Ladybir– –d got spo– –ts.’ We frequently hear, ‘Popsy do it!’ And, my heartmelting favourite: ‘Mum-ma help yooooo,’ said as he takes me by the hand and leads me off to whatever he has decided I need to do. Although our older two have had many nicknames — & plenty are still in circulation — he’s the first …

The capacity to work feeds on itself

My children were at that time six, three and one. Their care came first. Doctors’ appointments, reading to them, rocking the baby to sleep, car pools — all that had to be done, and done as well as I could, before I could turn to myself. Confronted by this situation, I made two major decisions. The first was to invest in myself, as needed, the money I had inherited from my family. I simply poured my capital into my work […] The second major decision was to increase my energy output and use it as wisely and as fully as I could. Again fortunately, during the years from 1948 to 1961 I had formed the habit of working in my studio almost every single day. Rain or shine, eager or dragging my feet, I just plain forced myself to work. This habitual discipline came up under me to support my revved-up schedule. I simply got up early every morning and worked straight through the day in one way or another, either in my household or …

The Lowland

She’d begun to write her name, to spread the butter on her toast. Her legs were growing long, though her belly was still rounded. Her back was soft with hair, an elegant line of it running along the length of her spine. There was a perfect loop of it at the center, like the whorls of her fingertips, or in the bark of a tree. Whenever he traced it, as he washed Bela in the soapy tub before bed, the hairs rearranged themselves, and the pattern dissolved. from ‘The Lowland’ by Jhumpa Lahiri Why do we sometimes abandon authors whose work we’ve loved? Looking through my reading notebook, I see that I read The Interpreter of Maladies in 2005, but since then nothing by Jhumpa Lahiri. Her short essay on James Salter’s Light Years was what led me back to her, though actually The Lowland was already in a dusty stack of unread library books beside my bed. On Salter, she writes: Reading Salter taught me to boil down my writing to its essence. To …

We receive & we lose

We receive and we lose, and we must try to achieve gratitude; and with that gratitude to embrace with whole hearts whatever of life that remains after the losses. Andre Dubus II, Broken Vessels We arrive by accumulation. Time twists us by the shoulders until we’re positioned to die, looking backwards. Twisted into the ground. from ‘The Day of Jack Chambers’ by Anne Michaels September is my favourite month.  Days like today: sky high & blue; air like a long, cool drink. On Tuesday, the Moose started school. He was such a sweet boy in his red and grey uniform — so eager and handsome. He pulled up his long grey socks to meet his shorts. The dimple in his cheek showed as he posed for photographs with his sister, with his book bag, ready to go outside the front door. He’s started part-time, so I pick him up at 1 o’clock, after his lunch, and just before the Pip Pop’s nap. This means that I am still never alone. But, even so, I sat …