Since spring break started, I’ve fallen off the writing wagon. Spring break has been a long time coming and now that it is here, well, it isn’t quite what I had expected, and the thoughts in my head have not been worthy of the pen (or keyboard).
I’ve been cooking — nothing new there, same old routine keeping me sane, giving me a purpose, keeping Gorilla Girl busy helping me in the kitchen. She was surprisingly skilled at rolling dough and cutting out shapes for the homemade
goldfish heart-shaped crackers we made from a recipe at Smitten Kitchen. We added parmesan cheese, though, just to spice things up a bit. Gorilla Girl loved kneading the dough, rolling it, and re-flouring our work surface.
We spent time with my “BFF” from college — we didn’t call them that in those days — but she is here for work and hung out quite a bit with us. It was/is good all around. Gorilla Girl loves the attention of new play mates, and Monkey Man, though he stays on the edges, likes that I have more time for him when GG is occupied with Deanna. On our walk about town, we encountered a strange group of three folks, huddled in a driveway, praying. We heard the words, “Mongolia” and “Africa” and something about the war and numerous mentions of god. It was an odd moment — one that made me wonder what we are doing here, in a house in rural america. We made a quick exit and crossed the street, me, my two adopted Vietnamese kids, and my lesbian best friend, caught in the trap of religious wackiness in the heartland.
But then, we played with a cat in a neighbor’s front yard and spent hours in the park, while Gorilla Girl and Deanna played Madonna, or something. So I got over it, and figured that no matter where we go, we have to face up to the world how we find it.
I suppose what has happened these first days of break is that I have become unwound, just a little. The events of the last few weeks — the earthquake, squashing workers’ rights in Wisconsin, threats to Planned Parenthood — have put me in a frame of mind that feels defeated. Maybe it takes time to recover from that. I feel more hopeful now, even about the fate of unions, if only because I have walled myself off from the news of the world for a couple of days.
Maybe I feel this way because I am rereading The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. I feel a little invisible myself. Being a mom means being taken for granted, often. I know; I’ve been on the side of doing the taking for the first 22 years of my life. Perhaps, not having a mom myself while I am engaged in this act of being a mom throws me off. I have no one to keep me grounded in reality — like I imagine my mom would do if I were going off the deep end about my parenting (dis)abilities. I’m not whining. I like being a parent, I just don’t think I am all that good at it. I do the best I can, but sometimes that seems not enough.
Maybe my invisibility complex comes also from being a mom to a child who didn’t survive. The world has a hard time believing that medicine can’t save all children, and other parents, in particular, seem to want to pretend that it just didn’t happen, maybe out of fear for their own sense of the precariousness of life. Before I adopted Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man, I was still a mom, technically, though my child had died. It made people uneasy. It made them not want to see me.
I even remember once, when a colleague told me how good I looked, despite everything, she didn’t notice that I was wearing dark sunglasses to hide my tear swollen eyes. I took off my glasses, since I was indoors, and she realized her mistake. It is a common one — death is something that this culture of health and life can’t seem to find a way to acknowledge.
I am sure my own mom thought she wasn’t good enough often enough. She must have also wondered what the hell she was up against; after all, she entered parenthood in the days of stay-at-home moms and working class respectability. And then she had to deal with me and my rebellion, and I am sure it made her question what went wrong. Actually, I know. She told me often enough.
So when Gorilla Girl announced at dinner, “I love you more than chocolate ice-cream,” it was a moment of unexpected comfort. Ed told her that she had said something song-worthy, and I obligingly found Sarah McLachlan’s IceCream song on my ipod. Gorilla Girl was not impressed. She continued to try to remind us of all the things she loved us more than — chocolate, ice-cream, cookies, candy. The list was significant.
Meanwhile, Monkey Man cracked knock-knock jokes — “Knock, knock.”
“The chicken who?”
“The chicken who crossed the road.”
Monkey Man is four, so getting his jokes crossed seems a step in the right direction.
Gorilla Girl was on to something. Here’s the thing. I made the BEST homemade chocolate ice-cream ever today, with Gorilla Girl’s help. It was on her mind, this amazing sweet concoction. And if even in the pure presence of the best chocolate ice-cream ever, she can love us despite our weakness, well, then I guess I must be that chicken, crossing the road to
nowhere back on the grid.