Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The choices I have to make...

Now, which of these would you rather play with?

Writing it all down

Yesterday I was on the phone with a friend, who could hear Cora babbling in the background and asked what she was doing. She was lying on her belly across my lap, singing to (apparently) my knee and bobbing her body up and down like a harp seal making for the ocean.

"You’re writing all this down, of course," my friend said.

"Of course," I said, mentally revising her words to You mean to write all this down, don’t you? And I do mean to, because while I know better than to trust my memory, I seldom actually get around to the writing part. I think a lot about the various ways Cora’s babyhood is being recorded, all of them faulty to one degree or another.

I have my memory - famously bad about things like dates and places, famously good about plots and characters. I have sharp mental pictures of Cora in her silly moods, the way she jack-knifes her body and laughs at the same time, overcome with the fun of whatever we are doing. Or her expression as, early last September, her Dad carried her around the shallow end of a hotel pool, Cora in her bright green swim diaper, the one I almost didn’t buy for the trip, and a little t-shirt, clearly thrilled to feel the pool water on her legs. A waterbaby despite her Taurus birthdate!

We have photos, conventional and digital. Often in these she is blurry, either because our cameras are not high-end or (and?) because she seems to be always in motion. Always bobbing with excitement. The digital photos feel strangely fragile to me - somehow half-imaginary, existing only in the camera, on the computer. Putting them in the blog actually makes them feel a little more permanent. The problem here is that we’d rather experience Cora’s babyhood rather than have complete documentary record. (Hence, no Thanksgiving pictures this year, except from goofing around with hats earlier in the day.)

And then there is the written record. I think there are about three different journals floating around the house, including one on the computer, where I’ve tried to put together accounts of my pregnancy, Cora’s birth, the days just after. I’ve had such small spaces of time to try to write things down, I tend to use whatever notebook is closest to hand, hoping that some day I can somehow collect them all and create a whole out of the pieces.

Clearly, it’s an imperfect system. I’d like to believe I will always remember how she looks, what she sounds like, the things she does; already sometimes I have to really work to remember how she felt in my arms when she was a newborn. But other times those same memories, the ones I thought were all but lost, flash on me with astounding clarity. Does this continue? One day, fifteen years from now will that harp seal moment wash back over me, perhaps as I listen to my daughter talking on the phone to one of her friends?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday reflections

Sometime around (scholars think) 1860, Emily Dickinson wrote this poem:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along!

I was thinking about this poem today because Cora and I stayed home while Chris went off to sing in the choir. Cora’s had a cold (I think I gave it to her) and some rocky bedtimes, so I wanted to let her sleep. Sleep she did - woke me up at 9:00, peering over the edge of the bassinet and smiling. She is very amused by the sight of me sleeping.

We didn’t really have a bobolink or an orchard. The weather has taken a post-Thanksgiving turn for the cold and there’s less birdsong in the air. But, we did have our cat Emily meowing several choruses of "please clean my litterbox please" and Cora kept up a cheerful babble while I put our breakfasts together. It’s a sunny morning and the window shades are all up to let the light in. I sang her a chorus or two or "This little light of mine" and I ate my egg burrito while feeding her apples with blueberries and peaches with oatmeal cereal mixed in. She nursed for awhile and now is sleeping again

I’ve long agreed with many of Dickinson’s opinions about many things, and especially her thorny relationship with the religion of her day. I like that she has her own opinions about what God might and might not care about. I don’t know if she would agree with me, but I found something sacred about the morning Cora and I shared. I think anytime I’m able to take time and notice things like the light and the present moment that it is a little piece of Sabbath. Dickinson says "the sermon is never long," but isn’t the sermon really going on all the time?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Barnyard Players' Debut a Success!

Some babies work for world domination, but mine would be happy just to have a saucer/jumper of some sort in every room. She’s pretty close, with the exersaucer in the kitchen, the Bumbo in the music room, and the Hop-n-Pop in the living room. The first time we put her in the Hop-n-Pop, just after we brought it home from some friends’ house, she was too small and afraid of the whole thing. Now she loves it, loves to make the little balls pop around and work all the other toys on it.

But the big hit this weekend has been the new table toys, introduced the morning after Thanksgiving. Cora loves holidays that involve lots of people and hanging out at our friends’ home and watching the older kids run around. So the morning after, while Chris and I were still a little bleary, she was bright eyed and ready to play.

So, we broke out the finger puppets Chris’s students gave him last spring, plus two others that were in a hand-me-down bag of toys. There’s one other, a frog, who lives in the diaper bag, but may make the move to the dining room table soon.

The Barnyard Players put on their first production for Cora, which she thoroughly enjoyed. As you can see, she also enjoyed meeting one of the Players, Clyde the Horse, backstage after breakfast was over.

So here I am on Saturday night, just over halfway through my weekend, still facing a pile of papers and a chunk of reading to accomplish, along with many other miscellaneous chores. It seems that most of the time, getting through the dishes, grocery shopping, and general babycare activities is about all that I can really get done. Plus one or two other items. Like baking a pumpkin pie. Roasting a turkey. Finishing a Kathy Reichs mystery. Oops. I may have discovered part of the problem...I’ve been reading for my own enjoyment instead of just for classes!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tuesday before Turkeyday

Monday night Chris took the baby upstairs for stories, guitar songs, and other fun things and I wrapped up all the miscellaneous paperwork for classes. Then I settled into the couch to read through the assignment we would be discussing in class this morning. We’re onto Frankenstein now, the last book of the semester, and for today the students were supposed to read volume one (the first 68 pages).

I’ve read Frankenstein about five times now, but this was actually the time I most enjoyed it. For the first time I really saw how likeable Victor is supposed to be. Before he’s always seemed kind of a whiny self-important meglomaniac. Well, he is still whiny and I still have trouble with him thinking he suffers more than Justine, who though innocent of a young boy’s murder will be executed anyway because Victor won’t reveal the real murderer. But otherwise I felt much more like sinking into the story.

68 pages seemed a rather modest assignment for freshmen at a private liberal arts college. And with my renewed appreciation for the novel I was looking forward to our discussions. Alas. In the first class I overheard a couple students filling in others on the basic plot or reviewing the analysis from Sparknotes. In the second class I asked at the beginning of class how many students had done the reading. Five. Sigh.

Sometimes it is a relief to come home to the baby, who has no trouble fulfilling basic expectations! She eats! She cries! She poops! She laughs at the cats as they skitter away from her! This was also one of those afternoons where everything seemed to work out. I was able to make and eat my lunch while she played in her exersaucer, then she took a nap. She woke up a little crabby, but a clean diaper solved that problem. More playing in the saucer while I made dinner. She ate her dinner while my dinner continued cooking. Sure, the green beans made her gag and cough up some mixed vegetables, but that’s okay!

Now she sits in her snap-on chair at the table watching me type, chewing on her mutton (the little crinkly stuffed sheep that is her post-meal table toy), and pretty happy. In three minutes the rice and cornbread will be done. The red beans and andouille are simmering on the stovetop, and look, there’s more than enough red wine for me and even some leftover for Chris when he gets home.

Today, baby trumps work.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Starting on Sunday

I was just thinking this evening that I don't have enough to do, with Cora now halfway through her sixth month, the semester nearing its end, a seemingly magic pile of dishes (do as many as you can...there's always more!), and so why not start a blog?!

But, seriously, it is a good way to keep friends and family posted on how Cora is doing, and it is a way to be sure I do get some writing of some kind done from time to time. To get us started, here is Cora in her Halloween costume, with her Daddy. She is very excited to be a caterpillar, and, yes, she is VERY HUNGRY!