Friday, March 29, 2013

If Morning Ever Comes

Dear Son,

Remember when I wrote about Dad having a cold?  Well, you and I have just returned from the Pediatrician's office, and you have croup. Again.  Seems it's your regular affliction.  It could be worse.  You've been in good spirits so far and right now you are napping beside me on the couch, peacefully propped-up on a pillow.  Where I can listen to every snore and whistle and determine if intervention is necessary.  I took a picture of you and sent it to your Dad, because you are just too cute when you're snoozing. 

But this is not how I felt at 5 A.M., when Dad and I crawled, on all fours, into your darkened room to listen to you breathe after we were awakened by wheezing and a weak coughing coming from the baby monitor.  We equipped ourselves with an albuterol neb treatment and crept slowly, slowly, slowly into the dark, mechanical whir that is your room at night, with the cool-mist humidifier and the ceiling fan lulling you to sleep in a carefully air-aquality controlled environment. 

And with the flick of the nebulizer's ON switch you were awake.  Cheerfully, so.  You sat and greeted your Dad, who was trying to sneak the child sized mask through your crib railing, with a happy, "Aye!"  We hit the deck,  frozen in terror, like wild animals who have sensed the presence of Man in the woods.  You have impeccable night-vision.  Then louder, almost shouting, comes "Aye!"  A warning, a siren ready to wail. And all hope for a complete, if not good, nights sleep is lost.

So for two dim hours, you and I sit in the recliner in your room, rocking and singing, rocking and singing.  You snoozing fitfully for a few minutes, me enduring knees in my rib-cage, an elbow shoved forcefully under my chin.  Then you startle, sit up, point to something I can't see and proclaim, "Beee!"  The wee hours can make anyone a little loopy.  More rocking and humming, too early to remember the words to anything.  Yes, even the ABCs.  Sweat has matted your hair to your forehead and your batman pajamas are wrinkled and stretched.  Evidence of a fitful night's sleep.  I fiddle with the neck of your tee-shirt, sure that if I can get it to lay just right I can ease your breathing.  We rearrange in the recliner.  Try to sleep.  Elbow. Ribcage. Repeat. 

It reminds me of my favorite Anne Tyler novel, If Morning Ever Comes. The narrator, Ben Joe, is the youngest brother of a large, female-centric, dysfunctional (is there any other kind?), Southern family.  The novel gets its title, specifically, from a scene the narrator remembers: He spends the night before a big Farmers Market/State Fair/Tractor Show next to a farmer and his disabled son who have just set up their stall.  The son is so excited for the big hoopla the next day that he asks his father as soon as they lay down to sleep, and with increasing frequency, "Is it morning yet?"  Over and over again.  Finally, the  boy's father gets up and packs up, exclaiming "If morning ever comes!"  The narrator, less specifically, applies this adage to his own family drama, which always seems to happen in the middle of the night--someone leaving, someone coming, someone fighting, and no one in their bed where or when they're supposed to be.  Oh, how life mimics art!!

So in the familiar dread of the "wee" hours, inevitable with any child (as your kind doctors have said: It's not if they get sick but when...), I find myself thinking that morning will never come, and if it ever does, can't it come sooner?!  Because, somehow, having a sick child seems less daunting when it's light outside.  Maybe for the same reason that kids (like you!) sleep with a night-light; things seem a little less scary when you shed a little light on them.

And all of this happened on Good Friday, no less (not really a "good" day--the day we remember that Jesus was crucified and died on the cross--more of a somber day).  You could take "good" to signify the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that all who believe him may live or you could just have a little faith that morning WILL come and everything will be A-OK.  

I hope you'll be on the mend pronto!

Love you (even in the wee hours),


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

19 Month Newsletter

Dear Son,

Today marks our 19 month anniversary!  For most, a monthly newsletter written to a baby (that sounds a little silly) would include things like important milestones.  Not here.  Milestones, though exciting, are too medical and if you've read anything I've written this far--you know I have a distaste (and that's using kind words) for anything medical.

Yes, this month was the month you learned to kick a ball, shush people, run (head first), and scale things to a moderately terrifying height (the coffee table and couches).  You also got ANOTHER pair of shoes.  And did I mention that you've shown interest in drinking out of a wide-mouthed cup?  At dinnertime, you often remove the straw from your sippy cup, bring cup to lips, and tip the thing upward (just had to brag a little). 

Now, onto the more important things we've been doing this month:  Star Wars.

I spy, with my little eye...a box turtle!!

You, me, and Dad viewed A New Hope a couple of weekends ago and we had a blast.  We had to fast forward through some slow scenes (only to finish before bedtime, because you have an excellent attention span.  There's just so much to brag about).  Result: You are obsessed with R2D2.  And your Dad found some pretty cool figurines that you take everywhere now, replacing your poor old Buddha

You've also developed a unique set of skills.  For instance, you can turn anything into a cell-phone.  I mean, ANYTHING.  It started with a straw, which you attached around your ear and proceeded to march around the house talking into.  You do your best talking while you're walking (me too).  Then, it was a french fry, you picked it off your tray, held it to the side of your face and began babbling.  You got a pretty good laugh out of us, so the french fry phone has become part of your regular shtick, when you're feeling punchy.  Other objects-converted-into-cell-phones include: T.V. remotes, toy cars, rattles, and bottles of baby lotion.  Apparently, you've got a lot to say kiddo. 

You also excel at making car, train, and airplane noises.  Which means you're also really good at making any object into a MOVING object. 

What else?  Oh, the dancing.  Sometimes I turn on the radio so you can run around (mostly stomping and kicking) to the music.  Every now and then you attempt a forward roll just to mix things up.  Slapping your knees is your favorite move. And Ho, Hey by the Lumineers is your favorite song (it has a catchy chorus that you can actually sing along to).  You've got excellent tastes and you've really found your groove.

You have a few favorite games too.  (1) I like to call Knock-Knock.  This entails going around the house and knocking on any closed door we can find and then opening it to see who's there (as you can see, we've gotten pretty creative in the colder months).  Knocking on the bathroom door is your favorite because we can see ourselves in the mirror when we open it. (2) Fetch with the dogs.  Jack Pup is the best sport, but sometimes you throw the ball AT him (with suprising force and accuracy) instead of FOR him.  In which case Jack does the brotherly thing and just walks away, leaving you to play your other favorite game: throw the ball.  (3) Hide and Seek.  In which you hide but also sometimes hide objects of interest, like the remote control or the couch pillows, in your tent we have set up in the dining room. 

You have also developed quite a taste for books (which makes your Dad and I so proud).  One of your favorites right now is "Slowly, Slowy, Slowly," said the Sloth by Eric Carle.  You also like our coffee table books: one, called Smiles because it's miniature and has black and white photos of all sorts of different people smiling.  When we read it we practice smiling, which you are really good at doing (and I hope you always will be).  Another is our wedding album.  I love when you haul that clunky thing off the table and place it my lap for us to read together.  We make up the words as we go along--they're always different--but mostly we practice saying the names of all the family members we see in the photographs.  It's a great reminder of who we are, how we got here, and how lucky we are to be together--the three of us. 

Everything you do makes us proud son--not just the milestones, but everything in between.  Because that's the stuff that makes you YOU.



Sunday, March 3, 2013

L, M, N, O, P = Q

A Post in Numbers and Letters: Mom meets Dad

September 2008…we see each other in a Borders Bookstore

  1  month later…we started dating

14  months after that…we were married:  12.27.09

12  months after that…we were pregnant

  9   months after that…we meet you! (see Bears all things)


Dear Son,

Since I’m on a roll with blast-from-the-past letters, I thought I’d tell you about the time I met your Dad. I’m sure, in few years, I’ll get to tell you in person as many times as you'd like to hear it. But I wanted to write you here too because these are the stories that make us a family.

I first read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers in my first-year seminar class at Mount Holyoke College. The seminar was called “Growing up Southern.” I took it because I was Southern—at least according to all the girls from New England and Philly—and also considered myself a grown up on most days of the week. The seminar was a course in the English department, though, and I really had no interest in reading and writing then.

My memory of Lonely Hunter is tied inextricably to that gnarled New England campus and also to a sense of achievement (don’t worry, the part where I meet your Dad is coming—let’s just quickly skim over several years here, years when I wish I knew him, but sadly didn’t yet). So I finished the book, which I rarely did with books then. I enjoyed it, and my professor wrote some nice comments on my paper that I now can’t remember. And this is how it happened that I became an English major who agonized over many, many more books, papers and comments from professors that I do recall like “pyrotechnic syntax to cover up complete lack of substance.” (We've all got flaws, son).

Somehow after college, I ended up working in a bookstore where I often got lost in the M’s, picking up Melville paperbacks, reading the first lines of McEwen novels, and discovering McCullers’ collection of short stories. In the alcove of L, M, N, O and P is where I met your Dad—who was wearing a ball-cap and wondering what to read— and I recommended, since we were standing in the Ms, that he buy The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. For a moment he seemed put off by the “Oprah Book Club Selection” stamp on the front cover hanging next to a black and white photograph of a sad-looking woman with bangs, sitting in bunch of brush.

“I’ll take it,” he finally said. And I was so relieved, too, when he suggested that after he finished it, we could grab a coffee together (Though, I later found out that he doesn’t even drink coffee, which is just fine).

That night, after my closing shift, I went home and picked up my own paperback copy (without the Oprah sticker) and began reading to refresh my memory.

It begins “In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.”

Son, I don’t think I could have picked a weirder book. Maybe one day you’ll read it too and think the same. But your Dad came back after all, and thank goodness he didn’t wait until he’d finished it!

Your Dad and I must have seen each other before this exact instance in time (and we continued to see each other for many, many more instances), but this is how it will go down in family history. This is how I became an educated woman, a married woman and (you guessed it) a Mom. Thanks to Carson McCullers.

Always remember that you have parents who love each other (and you) very, very much; and that makes you one of the lucky ones, kid.

I hope one day, you find as much joy in books (and sharing them with someone special) as we have.