Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Books After Babies

(Cora in her "new" chair - a higher perch in the kitchen and a place to keep her cheerios and puffs)

Right now my book group is reading My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. The plot hinges on the fact that one of the family’s daughters has an acute form of leukemia, and the other daughter was "designed" and conceived to be a perfect genetic match to her sister (the son of the family, unsurprisingly, has issues of his own). While I don’t think I would teach this book in the future, I am really enjoying reading it (in fact, I’m far ahead of where I should have stopped before the group meets next), and I would recommend it as a good read.

Although you might not want to take my recommendation, depending. After church last Sunday I was talking with another mother and the book came up. I was holding Cora, the other woman’s son was sitting on the floor at our feet. She looked at Cora and asked, "Don’t you find it really hard to read that book now that you have her? I couldn’t get past the third chapter!"

(Bath time! With ducks! And toys! So cool!)

I’ve heard other parents (okay, mainly mothers) say similar things about other books, movies, etc. And I understand this reaction, even though I don’t really share it. I think it is partly a kind of superstitious thinking (if I think about it too much, it might happen) and partly a kind of overwhelming empathy (if that were me and my child...). Both of which I would be more subject to if it were a real story, a story of people I knew; but within the pages of a book...that’s a different enough world for me.

I also thought of this today as I taught the first classes of the new semester. This semester the class focuses on poetry and drama and, as I often do on the first day, I used Seamus Heaney’s poem "Mid-term Break" - a poem which really works some emotional magic by incorporating a huge dissonance between the title associations and the actual events of the poem. And as I discussed it in class I wondered if I would still be using it when Cora is four, or if I would skip it that year.

How much, the question is, does/has/will Cora change me? Am I the really just the same as before? What shape might those changes take? For others it seems to have changed what they find bearable to imagine, to enter into in the world of literature or entertainment. Maybe I’m just not able to see the changes, being myself within them. Certainly Cora has rewritten my priorities and my habits, but I feel like I am mostly the same self I was before. Perhaps it is still too early for me to see the difference.
(This sweet pose lasted just long enough for me to get a picture.)

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