Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Doris Evans

I've exchanged niceties with an older neighbor lady while taking my morning walk for going on three years now. Our passing conversation is almost always the same. From my side of the street I say, "Mornin'. How're you doing?" She replies from her side of the street, "Have a wonderful day." I stopped seeing her toward the end of my pregnancy and worried. I was relieved to see her again on one of my first walks with Sam when he was just a few weeks old. I stopped her and let her know that I'd missed seeing her. She explained that, due to the weather, she was skipping her walks and doing water aerobics instead. She was a little shy about asking about Sam, but was obviously touched when I pulled back the sling so she could see his sleeping form. She said I'd made her day.

Karl went walking with us this morning and when we came upon her she remarked on our sling. She said, "I sure wish we had those when I had my babies." After we passed, Karl wondered aloud about what our mothers and grandmothers used to carry us. When we circled back home we found her watering her front yard. I stopped and asked how she carried her babies and she said, "Like this," and mimed carrying a baby on each hip. "Two of mine were born 16 months apart." This prompted a conversation about her family: four kids and six grandkids. "We all really like each other and enjoy getting together." Then she asked about Sam. When I told her he was a good, easy baby, she said, "All mine were good babies. A happy baby reflects happy parents."

It was around this time that Sam woke up. She was bolder this time about asking to see him and Karl turned so she could see his big blue eyes. He looked right at her, blinking in the sunlight. "Oh," she told him, "you just made my day." I felt weird not knowing her name, so I asked. When she said "Doris Evans" in the most comforting Texas accent I couldn't have been less surprised. Of course her name is Doris Evans. I introduced myself, Karl, and Sam, and we all expressed our happiness at knowing one another. Then she said two things that killed me. First, she said she was happy she'd get to see Sam grow up. Then, as we made to continue walking, she said her usual, "Have a wonderful day," but then added, "and a wonderful life."

I've run into other grandmothers on my morning walks with Sam and they've taught me so much. Every exchange is filled with pride. Every time I show my baby off to one of these older women we get caught up in a shared joy. I've gleaned from even the briefest of conversations with these women that the happiness and fulfillment of motherhood doesn't diminish, but grows over time. This amazes me. I already feel my life has expanded and become so much better. And it's only been three and a half months.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I keep thinking about this bit from an interview with Patti Smith in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. She was asked if she ever feels lonely. She answered,

"Sometimes the pain still - the loss of my brother, the loss of Robert, the loss of my husband, even the loss of my children being children - we can access a lot of things that cause pain. This might seem really funny, but when I feel like that, I make myself smile. I just sit and physically make myself smile. Because sometimes it makes you laugh, and then you just go, 'All right.'"

Her comment about the loss of her children being children really hit me. As recorded in my previous post, I find it hard to reconcile how fast Sam is growing and changing. Even now, Karl and I jokingly refer to the time "when Sam was a tiny baby." One day I'll feel the pain of the loss of his childhood. I anticipate it even now and feel a twinge. The bittersweet tension between the love I feel for him and the heartbreak that love brings is deeply profound and makes me realize just how fine the line is between joy and pain. So, I suppose, I might as well smile the next time Sam brings me to tears.

Came across this website while researching something for work:


Karl and I saw this woman's work the last time we were in New York. It's funny that I came across her stuff now as I still have a tendency to see Sam as a little creature. A far cuter creature than any of Piccinini's, but a creature nonetheless. (And, yes, sometimes I do feel a little like her beastly mamas - but only glancingly and only on the very bad days.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Just put Sam to bed. It's been one of those hard days, but hard in a way I never imagined. He spent the bulk of the day nursing and sleeping on me (he woke up angry and upset every time I tried to put him to sleep in his Moses basket) so I got very little work done. But that wasn't the hard part. I'm miles from any deadlines so work wasn't critical. It was his vulnerability and need for me that just kept breaking my heart over and over again all day that killed me. I cried when he looked up at me this afternoon and smiled his gummy, drunken smile, and I cried tonight when I saw traces of the face he'll one day grow into taking shape while he slept in my arms. Love this big is hard.

I was warned that being a mother would be hard, but I never imagined that hard meant this. I've always tried to savor the best moments in life and I do what I can to hold onto the fleeting, but this? This takes the cake. How can I slow all this down? Burn all the rapidly passing moments into my memory? One day, very soon, he won't need me so much. I'm sure there are advantages to this - I might be able to get some work done - but I dread that day. I just want to hold him forever and not have to say goodbye to the Sam that he was today - although I can't wait to see who he'll be tomorrow. See? It's crazy. And frustrating. And hard.