Friday, May 08, 2009


I have to stop calling him Fred. This is not because we're not going to name him Fred, or something like that. He, if he stays the he that we believe he is, will be named Fred sans fail. No, I have to stop calling him Fred because it's making a problem right now.

It's making me mechanical.

I found this out by not calling him Fred for once. I found this out a few minutes ago lying on my couch, drinking some cold water. Cold things and sweet things (and also hot things and...anything I ingest at all) make this child move around. Evening does it, too, makes him move. The operative word in this paragraph, though, is "child".

There's a human child in there. It's not as obvious as you might think. It's particularly easy to forget, weirdly, if you are the person carrying the child. This whole thing can just seem like a large, semi-permanent medical condition wherein your midsection expands and a little constellation of other symptoms gather around it, and this midsection does some occasional flips and things. And even though you know it's a baby, your baby, it just gets to be background noise. Also, it's just par for the course to fall metaphorically asleep and sleep through your life and organize yourself in such a way that you aren't rousable, aren't disturbable. Par for my course, at least. You may be a wide-awake, blinking, vividly present monk type who eats a wild strawberry and enjoys it with every cell while a tiger chases you over a cliff to your death and you feel that, too. My waking moments are few and far between, I'm afraid, as much as I love them.

But I at least had one this evening, and it happened when I was able to strip away or at least manage in time not to add unnecessary language to the moment when the child I'm carrying moved in response to the cold water. Bang. Awake. Me. I was.

I comprehended that there was a human child in there. Not "my" child, because that puts a whole story on to the situation, a story that I already know and makes me fall asleep. No, a child. A human child. Not mine. Just in me. A child, shifting around, trying for a better position or reacting involuntarily to the cold. I was more moved by "a" child than "my" child, because "a" child is all children, everywhere. Helpless. This was a flash of something primal. Throw a child upon the earth without its parents or someone to care for it and it will die. A child in nature. Small limbs, confusion, need.

This activated something in me so much more maternal than the phrase "my child" or even more instinct-killingly, the name "Fred" does. Naming the child is necessary, but it's also distancing. You start relating to some imaginary idea of who this child is. It's the difference between an empty picture frame and a picture frame with a random photograph of an attractive model that you haven't taken out yet. Calling this baby "Fred" before we know him feels like sticking the frame up with the photograph of the model in it and imagining that this model is our loved one.

I'm getting very large, and it's physically painful in ways that are new to me. A few blood cells have burst inside the skin on my stomach, leaving some tender red dots here and there. These red dots exist, and I struggle when I walk sometimes, because of a child who is curled up in my middle. A person. Another person. The other person I keep forgetting about. A person is dangling off of the front of me, encased in my skin.

I know that you know that. But it's news to me.

I'll tell you something nice that's come of this realization. I've been talking about this pregnancy a lot, naturally. I get self-conscious about that, and also self-conscious about simply being a pregnant woman - particularly a pregnant woman with another child, already. I'm thrown so centrally into my identity as a mother. Or worse, or more tritely, a mom. A mom! Hi, I'm a mom. Just a mom! Oh, you know us moms. Recommended by Dr. Mom. It's easy to feel that being pregnant and discussing it, or being a mother and discussing it, or just being either of those things at all is somehow inherently ridiculous or trite. I keep looking at myself through other people's imaginary eyes and getting bored or irritated with my very existence.

But my small moment of awakeness and accompanying burst of fierce maternal instinct to care for this human child within me cured me, at least for a bit. Mothers are ubiquitous, yes. "Moms." It's not unique. It's not "special". It is, however, extremely real and can cut all of the civilization out of you in a heartbeat. You are dropped right into the middle of the wilderness, an internal wilderness, and just like the child in utero reacting to the cold water, you respond to the child's presence involuntarily. You reach for it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

i totally painted this

In MS Paint. Dear god, I am a genius.

Two items*:

1. Now that I am far bigger than a house, Dave & Finn & I are moving in with Fred in my womb. We need the space.
2. Have I ever, will I ever, is it possible for me to ever have a shower that is just a shower and not an imaginary point-counterpoint face-off with whatever phantom opponent I'm arguing with in my head at the moment I turn the water on? Maybe when I was nine and taking my first showers and my mind was consumed with bearing up under the water pressure, probably not, it would take an act of will greater than I will ever remember or care to give it.
3. Iceburg wedge salad with Russian dressing; strawberry and watermelon agua fresca, all limey and sugary.
4. Six and a half weeks to Fred's airlift into the world. Ach mein Gott. Shawshank Redemption!
5. This is how I like to imagine Finn and Fred in the future:

*I know. But I think it's funnier to say "two" and have five. But it's only funny if I know that you know that I know it. Otherwise it's just gently tragic.

Buona notte,

Monday, May 04, 2009

good intentions snap like yesterday's breadstick

This is a poem of Dave's that was published in the journal "Juked" a while ago. I love it. Also, the title expresses my current feelings about participating in NaBloPoMo. Not quitting. Just saying. Intentions, good ones, they, you know, snap. Not that they are snapping. Just that they do. It's still today's breadstick. But it feels like it's getting late. Yes, I realize that we're only on Day 4. Don't they say something about the first four days being the hardest? Whatever.

To Dave's poem.


Good Intentions Snap Like Yesterday's Breadstick

Eight sets of dinner plates form a stupa
rising from the sink. These seven legs
of ham were harvested from a couple of pigs.
Like art hung from fridge magnets: six ribbons of demerit.

Five quads eye each other with suspicion over dinner.

A four course banquet to commemorate the kitchen fire
goes wrong as the chef is reduced to cinders. Three
marbled steaks and a two fingered Heimlich will satiate
Nina's appetite. One pot of boiling water clarifies things
for the lobster.


Here's the link to the poem as published.
Good Intentions Snap like Yesterday's Breadstick

Tomorrow I will say something.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

a thing that seems cruel and an uplifting thing

Do you know this book? I read it many, many years ago and I wish I had a copy in my hand right now. Sei Shonagon was a member of the court of Empress Sadako back in the 10th century, and she wrote this beautiful mish-mash book of lists and observations. Here she is describing how it came about:

One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of notebooks. "What shall we do with them?" Her Majesty asked me. "The Emperor has already made arrangements for copying the Records of the Historian".

"Let me make them into a pillow," I said.

"Very well," said Her Majesty. "You may have them."

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial material....

I was sure that when people saw my book they would say, "It's even worse that I expected. Now one can tell what she is really like."


(Oh, ancient proto-blogger, I know how you feel.)

The book is full of the oddest, most charming lists. Pleasing things, ugly things...I found this one on the web.


Words That Look Commonplace but That Become Impressive When Written in Chinese Characters:

A dew-plant
A prickly water-lily
A walnut
A Doctor of Literature
A Provisional Senior Steward in the Office of the Emperor's Household
Red myrtle
Knotweed is a particularly striking example, since it is written with the characters for "tiger's stick." From the look on a tiger's face one would imagine that he could do without a stick.


What a long lead up to the tiny substance of my post. It's not going to be a list. Or it will be a list of consisting of one item, which might disqualify it. Here's my own pillow book entry for today.

A Thing That Seems Cruel:

The knowledge that a fond memory that you have of yourself and another person might be remembered indifferently or worse by the other person in the memory, making it difficult to treasure the memory uninhibitedly.

Yes, well. Boo. I'm not going to leave that there. I'm going to add a new item. A very potent emotional carbon offset.

An Uplifting Thing:

When you are positive that your very fondest, most sublime memory of yourself and another person is viewed in the same exact glowing light in the other person's memory, and you can look over and confirm this out loud because you have married the other person in the memory.

This doesn't address the first problem, but that's like complaining that there are pebbles sticking out in the Garden of Eden* that a person could trip over.

I'm declaring "Pillow Book" as my theme for May.

*A different Garden of Eden, where you can eat the apples.

Friday, May 01, 2009

strawberry fields forever

Welcome to May, the last month in which Fred Rowley will not see the light of day, the perfect month to attempt NaBloPoMo* and perform CPR on my writing practice, the month with the theme "sweetness". Well, look. The official NaBloPoMo theme is "sweet" but I didn't feel like saying the theme "sweet" because I didn't like the music of that, and also I would prefer a noun where the theme lives. The theme "rebellion"! And also the theme "nitpicker".

Strawberries are sweet. Strawberries are also dangerously high in caffeine, apparently. Ask Fred, who released this statement earlier, "What the FUCK, MOM? Holy shit, what - what- what's happening, I'm - MOM YOU ATE SOMETHING - Holy Christ, I'm jittery, I just need to move, I need to....OHHH MAN...shake it out! Shake it OFF. LEG it. Leg it AROUND. HAND. Fuckin'...twist it. Jesus. FLIP IT. Hey, fuckin' another one. Eat another of it. I can work this. Unh. Knock knock. My name is Lyrics Born AKA Macka Dang Dang. Live from the 0-1-5 doing my Thang Thang. So much soul so much MACHISMO so much control oh so much CHARISMA and that's my trademark baby CALM AND CONFIDENT...."

The statement goes on from there. Thank you, Fred. Keep on keepin' on.

And then we go backwards to the very first sweet, the first notable sweet on record. 1975. (My record. I may be narcissistic but not to the point that I feel that the shit throughout history was savory until I was there to taste otherwise.) Washington D.C. Age six. Indian restaurant. Meal is eaten. Dessert is served! It looks like a big pretzel made of orange jelly. Odd, but it's dessert, so I just know that it will suffice. Bite. Static. Consternation. Sweet. Sweeeet. Sweetness. STATIC. Gather forces. THINK, Tina. Go to what you know. Sweetness is good. Right? RIGHT? Bite again! Oh, shit. My assumptions. Scrambling. These bites are sweet. I live for bites of sweet things. But these bites are...DON'T EVEN THINK IT. Bite again. Oh, damn. I'm too young for this. I'm too young for this Zen bullshit. I'm too young for this Siddhartha Middle Way jive. Fuck me. I can't fight the truth. My dessert is too sweet. I'll tell you what's not sweet, though. The salty tears of confusion, these ones on my CHEEK, that's right. That'll cut the sweetness. Thanks for bringing me here, Mom and Dad. This has been wonderful.

Fred, the strawberries are only the beginning. Wait until you meet your orange pretzel. Let me give you a head start. The whole place is like that. This whole scene. Yes, we have brought you here. I'm sorry. And you're welcome. And I mean that.

Look, I won't be writing about sweetness all month. Far from. So cloying. No no. I will theme it as a last resort. But I will be here all month. Tip your waitress.

Edited to add: Anonymous commenter, thank you, and also you have saved me! I hated the title of this post with a passion. You have re-titled it. You are going on payroll.

*National Blog Posting Month, which it is every month, but this month so am I.