Strange little big-eyed alien

Before having a baby, I appreciated hearing from other moms that the deep/eternal/life-altering mother-love doesn’t always happen instantly. Even my mom, the paragon of virtuous motherhood, admitted she didn’t love me at first. “You were this strange little big-eyed alien,” she said. “I loved my nephew a lot more than I loved you, and you were my baby!” My dad also chimed in to add that he didn’t really love any of us until we were at least six or seven months old.

Thus established, it now feels freeing to confess that I don’t think I loved Moses at first. The primary emotion I had, after giving birth, was Thank God that’s over, not Bring the light of my life to my chest so that I can gaze upon his perfect brow! I liked him, sure, and I wanted to meet all of his needs and keep him safe and happy, but I wouldn’t call it love. Especially during that brutal first month, my primary emotional state was a mix of bewilderment and exhaustion.

Today, now that we are three months in, I am pleased to say that the feeling has come. I think about him all day long now. I want his little body to be close to mine as much as possible. Securing his joy seems like the only task that matters in life. He is also so CUTE. Just the cutest. I don’t care if I’m blinded by bias; it’s all I can think when I look at him. I mean, look at this little doofus:

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The boy.

All this to say: I am happy that the feeling has come. I suspect it will last. And then, soon, in a matter of months, when he becomes more cognizant, his father and I will both have to work hard to keep him from becoming a spoiled little princeling, lest all this overbearing love make him totally unbearable.

. . .

Perhaps it is a sign that I am getting old, but I long for moderation. I want to regulate and conserve my life. I want to use what I have. I want to keep the company of temperate people.

. . .

“The advantage of motherhood for a woman artist is that it puts her in immediate and inescapable contact with the sources of life, death, beauty, growth, corruption. … If the woman artist has been trained to believe that the activities of motherhood are trivial, tangential to the main issues of life, irrelevant to the great themes of literature, she should untrain herself. The training is misogynist, it protects and perpetuates systems of thought and feeling which prefer violence and death to love and birth, and it is a lie.”

— Alicia Ostriker

. . .

A lovely neighbor, the mother of two beautiful boys, sent me an email after Moses was born, asking me how I was adapting to my new life. She wrote, of her own experience with her firstborn son, “I was all strung out and anxious and generally uncomfortable and homesick for my old life for a lot of those early days.”

I loved her use of the word homesick, because I think it perfectly captures this new state of being. It’s a curious homesickness, because all of the trappings of your old life are still there: Your home hasn’t changed. It is the same, and yet your experience of it is completely altered. It is hard not to miss the old ways. I find myself frequently telling Guion, “I miss you.” I feel like I never see him anymore, even though we arguably see each other more than we ever did before.

It is a long period of adjustment, I suppose. At least the reason for all of this internal upheaval is very cute. That helps.

The little myth

September
Tree, from a recent hike.

On the precipice of 30, I am learning how to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. L’art pour l’art.

In my youth, I felt I had to master anything I loved. But then, inevitably, my inability to master a thing diminished my passion for it. For instance, I loved ballet. I loved watching ballets, studying ballerinas. I took ballet lessons as a girl, and then, as a young adult, read Apollo’s Angels and took two beginner’s classes. I was, and still am, a terrible dancer. I am neither strong nor flexible and I have none of the free courage of movement that dancers require. My inability to master ballet itself dimmed my love of the art form. My ballet slippers collect dust in a drawer upstairs; I have forgotten all of the warm-up stretches I used to try every morning. It is a sad and frustrating conclusion to a brief flicker of interest. I never thought I’d become the next Margot Fonteyn, but I expected more from myself. I let myself down quickly.

I’ve been thinking about this false exchange in one particular realm lately. I have loved fiction since I was a child and still do. I read, on average, 50 to 60 novels every year. I study novelists; I drink up their Paris Review interviews; I am obsessed with the craft. And yet, despite all of this, I do not think I can write fiction. I keep trying and loathing myself.

Maybe I will get over it; maybe I won’t. Maybe I will finally write that thing that has been rattling around in my head for years. But either way, I am now repeating to myself the fact that love and mastery do not have to go hand in hand. I can love a cello concerto without ever having to pick up or know anything about the instrument itself. I can adore Italian film without having to learn key phrases. I can devour fiction without having to write a novel. It’s a little freedom I am giving myself.

“Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.” — Robert Penn Warren

I do not think I will ever be in the mood to read Don Quixote. Can I take it off my to-read list, where it has been languishing for seven years?

A month after the rally of hatred, our parks are still in turmoil. The Confederate statues are covered up with gigantic trash bags in the morning; in the evening, an unauthorized group of men is tearing them down (which we witnessed last night, walking back to our car). Insipid tourists pose for photos, cheesing in front of the Lee statue, which irritates me to no end. (It’s such an insensitive and weird impulse, to want to pose with this now-infamous statue, which you never would have cared about, much less noticed, before a woman died in the street.)

One thing that has comforted me lately is the presence of excellent local journalists—namely, Jordy Yager. We heard him speak in a panel of other journalists on the topic of race and racism in the news, and I was so impressed with and grateful for his deep grasp of Charlottesville, its history, and the white supremacy that controlled and still controls so many of its institutions. There is still much to be done, but there are many who are fighting the good fight for the long haul.

A bead of sensation (six years)

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© Meredith Perdue

We are celebrating six years of marriage in Berlin today! While we’re experiencing the city with Grace and Jack, I am increasingly convinced, as I look over at Guion, that there isn’t anyone else I’d rather have with me during our European summer—and during the whole of my life, however long it may be.

This passage from Woolf’s diary expresses so much of what I feel about the daily work and magic of marriage:

Arnold Bennett says that the horror of marriage lies in its ‘dailiness.’ All acuteness of a relationship is rubbed away by this. The truth is more like this: life — say 4 days out of 7 — becomes automatic; but on the 5th day a bead of sensation (between husband and wife) forms which is all the fuller and more sensitive because of the automatic customary unconscious days on either side. That is to say the year is marked by moments of great intensity. Hardy’s ‘moments of vision.’ How can a relationship endure for any length of time except under these conditions?

Virginia Woolf, autumn 1926 (A Writer’s Diary)

As all of the days pile up, I am inexpressibly grateful to be accumulating them with Guion.

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© Meredith Perdue

Wedding outtakes

Reading Sally Mann’s excellent memoir, Hold Still, has made me feel particularly compelled to keep better photographic archives. In that vein, I finally uploaded and successfully archived our wedding photographs, which were shot by the incomparable Meredith Perdue.

It was such a delight to look back through these photos, especially the less glamorous or amusing ones that I had forgotten about. Without further ado, here are some wedding outtakes. Just because. It’s a cold, blustery November day, and looking at these pictures fills me with a sunny, Chapel Hill brand of romantic nostalgia.

Abby_and_Guion021Abby_and_Guion087Abby_and_Guion184Abby_and_Guion216Abby_and_Guion316Abby_and_Guion319Abby_and_Guion375Abby_and_Guion535Abby_and_Guion568Happy Friday!

Suffused

Heading to their first home in Spartanburg, SC; Sept. 1953
My grandparents, heading to their first home together (in Spartanburg, SC), September 1953.

I’m working on a project about my maternal grandparents’ love story right now, which basically means I’ve been spending a lot of time hunched over a scanner, weeping. This photo, in particular, just wrecks me. I can’t look at it for too long or I will summarily lose it. He is so handsome and casual, and she is so adorably plucky, perched there on the hitch between that proto-U-Haul and their car.

Why does old age have to be so cruel? I am absolutely crushed by the unfairness of it all.

I think about them, and my parents, night and day, without relief.

(Somewhat related: I’ve decided that I would like to die instantaneously, in a fiery car crash, when I am 75.)

In lighter news, we are constantly grateful for what marvelous friends we have and how much they love and support us and make us laugh and inspire us. This is the main reason we have no plans for leaving Charlottesville.

 

Five years

Five years ago today, I got married to the best man I know. It’s still the best decision I ever made.

A few photos in black and white from that day, by the wonderful Meredith Perdue.

Our wedding (c) Meredith Perdue

Our wedding (c) Meredith Perdue

Our wedding (c) Meredith Perdue

Our wedding (c) Meredith Perdue

Thanks for five excellent years, G. All will be well because I have you on my team.

No faith in your own language

Irrationally proud of myself for coaxing this #orchid to re-bloom.
Orchid No. 2 is about to bloom again!

Sunset
Louise Glück

My great happiness
is the sound your voice makes
calling to me even in despair; my sorrow
that I cannot answer you
in speech you accept as mine.

You have no faith in your own language,
So you invest
authority in signs
you cannot read with any accuracy.

And yet your voice reaches me always.
And I answer constantly,
my anger passing
as winter passes. My tenderness
should be apparent to you
in the breeze of the summer evening
and in the words that become
your own response.

I think this poem is about God, but sometimes I think it is about marriage too.

We’ve been married for three-and-a-half years now. Sometimes we don’t listen to each other. Sometimes we forget to pray. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and assess how the other one is genuinely doing. Three-and-a-half years is comparative blip of time, a twitch of an eyelid. Sometimes it feels like ages; sometimes it feels like we’ve only been married for a few days.

We like to ask each other questions at dinner. What kind of restaurant would you be the proprietor of? If you had to spend an entire week with a relative (excepting immediate family), who would it be? What high school friend do you wish you were still in touch with? If you could have any artist write a review of your masterpiece, who would it be and what would they say?

And we listen to each other’s answers, our eyes open, surprised by this person sitting in front of us.

The fermentation master is back in the game. #coldmuch #kombuchaforeveryone
Starting kombucha again.

Lately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of dreams. It is a disorienting experience, and one of the consequences is that the half-finished dream sticks with me throughout the day. Today, for instance, I can’t stop thinking about how Kelsey is going to get all of that molten silver out of her hair, and why it is that Rebecca, my BFF from elementary and middle school, decided to marry a morbidly obese man simply because he wrote her a letter on a piece of yellow notebook paper. When conscious, I had to remind myself, “Kelsey’s hair is OK. Rebecca is already married.” But part of me still thinks that reality is awry.

My fleeting obsessions* in 2013:

  • Ballet
  • Houseplants
  • Fashion
  • Interior design
  • Real estate

(*I define “obsessions” as topics that are suddenly deeply fascinating to me. I then go and read armfuls of books on the subject at the public library and start consuming blogs and websites on said topic, until it eventually ceases to hold my interest. The only two obsessions that have never failed to captivate me are reading and animals, specifically dogs. For the rest of my life, I will be obsessed with books and dogs.)

I wish my obsessions would trend toward more useful things, like personal finance, basic math, the tax code, or local politics. But, alas. I am only interested in the inconsequential.

I’d like to see myself get back into foreign languages, personally. I only practice a little Japanese during my weekly meeting at work, in which I take notes in a mix of hiragana and bad kanji. (I’ve forgotten so much. Gomenasai, sensei.) I’d like to refresh Japanese and take Level I French. I think I’m ruined for other languages, though. I once tried to speak a line of French in front of a French person, and she said, “Hm. Weirdly, your French has an… Asian accent.”

As an extension of one of my 2013 obsessions, I think I’d also like to get obsessed with bonsai.

What do you think I should be obsessed with in 2014?

For Courtney, because she asked.

Happy Year 3

To us!

(c) Meredith Perdue

Yo, G: Here’s an idea. Let’s be married FOREVER, OK?

(c) Meredith Perdue (c) Meredith Perdue

Hard to believe we’ve been married for three years. The days pass in joyful bliss and wonderment with champagne fairies and moonbeams!

But for real. I love this man more and more all the time. Life with him is really, really, really good.

Photos © Meredith Perdue.

Is love an endless feast

Forum2012-SecretDinner-0155
(c) New City Arts Initiative.

“Is love an endless feast, or is it what people manage to serve each other when their cupboards are bare?”

— Krista Bremer, My Accidental Jihad

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A mesmerizing question from a wonderful essay from The Sun; something I’ve been mulling over during this season of Lent.

Kelsey and Alex are coming tonight, and I am occupied with dog transport for the rescue; moving a female puppy and Brando to their pickup destinations (on their way to new foster homes) and then hopefully receiving our new foster puppy today, if he can find a ride from Covington, Virginia. Busy, but I love it. I wish there was a way to earn a full-time living from dog rescue…

Another observation about dogs and fostering them: You start to care less and less about material possessions. My pants are coated with fur? Oh, well. The car is stinky and muddy from multiple dogs? It happens. Just so long as the dogs are happy.

Celebrating Grace

My Scandinavian sister

Baby Grace turns 21 today!

I am thankful for this little marmoset. Creator of all good things: absurdist pop art (of which we are the proud owners of three works, featuring Tracy Morgan, a bearded infant, and David Bowie riding a seahorse), photojournalism, documentaries, yoga classes, poetry, blogs, and perfectly composed outfits.

It is so good to have you in my life, sister. Hope your birthday is filled with stardust of the Ziggy persuasion, tiger kisses, yoga poses, and a smörgåsbord of elitist foodstuffs.

Red lips make the leg pain go away.

Would that I could spend every day with you! Then my life would be complete.