Despite it all…

…I know I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I was born to a great mother, that I loved her and told her so all the time. That I was able to be there for her and that she let me care for her was a real blessing. A critical illness has a way of burning away all the inessentials. The pain I’m in now is because I love her so much — my grief is the best tribute I can offer.

I’m lucky that I have so many sweet and thoughtful friends who thought of me and how difficult Sunday would be for me, and reached out with comfort. I know there will be many such hard days ahead, but I confess I didn’t handle this one very well.

And I’m lucky I have these boys, and their patient father, all of whom look stricken every time I go out “for poetry,” but let me go nonetheless. The poetry is returning — a new poem last week, another brewing — but nothing could happen if they didn’t give me a little space to maneuver.

And I like to think they’re discovering the exhilaration of creating for themselves…

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Let it snow! (Baby, it’s cold outside…)

Finally, the day after Christmas, we’re having our first real honest-to-goodness snow storm! There’s nowhere we have to be, plenty of milk, cream, cocoa, tea, and coffee (covering the holy trinity of hot beverages) on hand, and thus we can hunker down and enjoy the view.

With me and the boys down with colds, visiting my mum and her chemo-depressed immune system for Christmas was out of the question. So we had a quieter sort of holiday. Which is the sort of holiday our economic reality is happiest with anyway. Though not the kind of quiet that means silent — my stepsons brought fireworks. Rather a lot, actually. Because nothing says Christmas like explosives.

I’ve packed a bunch of reading into this mini-break — I tend not to use the computer much on weekends if I (and my Duotrope addiction) can help it — while the boys have been deeply attentive to creating art and play-doh wall stucco. Where it used to be I couldn’t read more than one book at a time, I seem to have a compulsion these days to hoard a disparate pile of library books along with my usual supply of literary journals:

I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (an interesting follow-up to my reading of The Emperor of All Maladies — the writing’s less elegant, the science less difficult, but the story of the Lacks is utterly heart-rending), the new issue of Poetry Northwest, an urban fantasy novel whose title I won’t mention because I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it but which held my attention, and I’m 440 pages into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I really love and I’m trying not to rush through. Without re-reading something from my shelves (which is not out of the question by any means) I’m currently without a volume of prose on poetry, having returned Mentor & Muse to the library — any suggestions, anything new out there I may not have heard about or read already?

Between reading jags I’ve baked blueberry muffins, picked up various wood blocks and legos, and joined my sons with their crayons. Vincent was drawing an elaborate series of small rectangles, something that resembled a spread-out brick wall, and then below them at the bottom of the page, he drew a single small rectangle off by itself, and announced, “This is the lonely one.”

“And why is he lonely?” I asked.

“Because his parents are gone,” Vincent replied mournfully.

“Where are his parents?”

“I think they went to the bank.” He looked up. “And then they went to a poetry reading.”

I told Lance how delighted I am that our not-yet 5 yr old’s world includes the idea of a poetry reading.

He raised an eyebrow. “Oh? And how about the fact that he equates poetry readings with loneliness and abandonment?”

Criminy.

Vincent’s beautiful mind

  • Vincent is still telling his Syllabo stories, but they’ve taken on a darker cast: expanding the family even further — “Syllabo has another mother and father, and two sisters…” —  he stopped short…”but actually she only has one sister now. The other one died.” Oh. Let’s not explore that.
  • He fiercely resisted bedtime the other night. Fiercely. Extravagantly. “I can’t go to bed yet, I need a bath! I really need a bath! I’m dirty! I have mushrooms growing between my toes!”
  • When he and my husband returned from a long walk yesterday, Vincent announced excitedly, “Mommy, we saw Daddy’s father! We did, we saw him! Only he’s little right now.” Come again? Oh. He met a little boy with the same name as his late grandfather. Same name ≠ same person.
  • Late-breaking addition: “Vincent, please stop jumping and settle down!” “But I can’t! I’m out of control! My heart’s telling me so!”

Saturdays are the golden brown…

…of the pancakes I made the boys this morning, of Vincent’s shorn hair cascading to the floor as I gave him a trim, and the Indian pudding cooking in its water bath in the oven.

The recipe I’m using is from an ancient edition of Fannie Farmer — who knew there were so many variations! I was just looking for something that uses what I already have in my pantry — and yes, I had molasses and corn meal in my pantry, thanks to Marianne, who cleaned out her pantry before moving across country with her family this summer.

I’ve never done the water bath thing before — I don’t actually have the proper cookware for that, so I’m improvising, as usual. We purchase most of our cookware from Goodwill etc, and for some reason, ramekins and casserole dishes don’t show up for sale there too often.

Tomorrow I’ll bring my Indian pudding, hopefully as delicious as it is golden, to Vermont with me: my friends and I are putting the finishing touches on the schedule for the 2011 season of the Collected Poets Series! And the finishing touch the pudding needs is vanilla ice cream. Or whipped cream. Or both. I’m in favor of both.

Happy last weekends of summer!

Summer drives

I spent a long weekend at my mum’s with the boys, where they played with their cousins and created an aura of general pandemonium. Driving home last night the two and a half hours was actually wonderful: the day had been beautiful, weather-wise, breezy and dry, and as we drove down the highway towards the setting sun, Aidan slept a carefree sleep and Vincent sang along to this song. Over and over. Which is how he likes it. Whilst wearing his blue goggles against the solar glare. (Try listening to him say the word “goggles” sometime and not have a good day remembering. Just try.)

Rainy Day Bliss

Vincent van Gauthier

Aidan discovering blue looks better than it tastes.

Ask and you shall receive — only one rainy day, and it flew by, but what a lovely day it was. I didn’t actually accomplish any writing — too much else backed up at the station — but I sent out a clutch of new submissions on the heels of a rejection and two acceptances, which always leaves me feeling virtuous and happy. Sending out submissions, I mean. Some writers don’t enjoy that part of the process, but it’s exciting to me, all the possibilities. It’s the waiting that crazes, the interminable silence.

Now it’s 75º and Aidan is attempting to put on every single piece of outerwear he can get his hands on. He’s quite independent that way. And hot.

Children are all about imaginary time…

…as in, any time not spent with them is strictly imaginary and illusory, or, in fact, altogether nonexistent.

These warm sunny days, while energizing & welcome, make the perennial juggling of daily life an even harder challenge. When it’s cold, wet, and dark, it’s nice to stay indoors, easier to interest the boys in pseudo-crafty projects (I say “pseudo” because I am not even a little crafty. But the boys are too young to have made that determination for themselves, and are happy to be allowed to make big messes in the service of “art.”), baking — dough-kneading was a big success this winter — and thus easier for me to simultaneously work on my various projects.

Now, though, they want to be out out out. They zip around the apartment like mice hopped up on crack until a collision with some stationary object ignites a firestorm of tears. Hysteria, sniffle, repeat.

Or, Vincent says he does not want to be out, and proceeds to systematically destroy his room in a fit of stir-craziness.  This is not hyperbole. I, who am shameless when it comes to poor-housekeeping, would be mortified to show a snapshot of the current state of Vincent’s room, accomplished in five minutes this morning.

If we had a yard with a fence this would not be an issue, but as it stands, when we go out, I have to abandon any hopes of multi-tasking and spend all my time keeping the boys from clubbing each other with rocks or dashing into traffic.

(“Vincent, when you sit on Aidan’s head/push Aidan down/ poke Aidan in the eye/ stab Aidan with a pin Hey! Where’d you get that pin? Give that here right now!, it hurts him. That’s bad. Why would you do that?”

“Well, Mommy,” he replies, hands out as he explains in his most thoughtful, reasoned manner, “bad things always seem like a good idea to me.” Oy.)

Not that I haven’t written at all since the fair weather began, but I spend more time muttering lines to myself in an effort to remember them when I’m again near writing implements than I do actually writing. It’s frustrating — we’d had a nice workable rhythm to our winter days. Makes me long for nothing so much as a string of cold rainy days…