“Good job, Mommy!”

My life day to day was lived through ordinary actions and powerful emotions. But the more ordinary, actual, the more intense the day I lived. The more I lifted a child, conscious of nothing but the sweetness of a child’s skin, or the light behind an apple tree, or rain on slates, the more language and poetry came to my assistance. The words that had felt stilted, dutiful, and decorative when I was a young and anxious poet, now sang and flew. Finally, I had joined together my life as a woman and a poet. On the best days I lived as a poet, the language at the end of my day — when the children were asleep and the curtains drawn — was the language all through my day: it had waited for me.

— Eavan Boland, “Letters to a Young Woman Poet” (By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry, ed. Molly McQuade. Graywolf Press, 2000.)

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Our little hilltown was swarming with tourists today, with cars parked along all the side streets, and the Bridge of Flowers teemed with people and their cameras. Vincent usually loves to run down the Bridge, but there was just too many people. When we reached the other end, I so wished I’d brought our camera, because what did we come upon then but several troupes of Morris Dancers!

If you’ve never seen Morris Dancers, well, I don’t know how to describe them. Faintly ridiculous, maybe. The first time I ever saw this folk dance, I burst out laughing. But I’ve come to appreciate their energetic handkerchief-waving, their jangling legs and stick-whacking. And Vincent loved it, clapping and waving his hands and bobbing his head. We watched them for quite a long time, until my growling stomach forced me to sling Vincent (who did not want to go home by any means) over my shoulder and thread our way back through the tourists. When we finally managed to get to the front door of our apartment (“Is that my home, Mommy? What about that one?”), Vincent pet my shoulder and said, “Good job, Mommy!”

We’ve reached that stage where the child finds it necessary to give the parents positive reinforcement. Is my need for praise that obvious? And apparently I lack imagination, because when I look in on him during those suspiciously quiet moments in his room, he explains that he’s cooking pizza or shaking his booty (yes, truly, this is something he does) in a tone of voice I can only describe as professorial, with his hands raised and held out from his shoulders as he shakes them.

I can’t say for sure where he gets this from, but I have my suspicions…and it’s not me.

"This is <i>not</i> a crate, this is a <i>boat</i>, okay, Mommy?"
"This is not a crate. This is a boat. Okay, Mommy? A boat."

Arts & Crafts & Parenting.

Mmmm..."ice cream".
Mmmm..."ice cream".

We experimented with play-doh today. Overall a success: Vincent did not eat it, and nothing disastrous happened. Vincent is tremendously proud of his “ice cream”, though it looks more like poop to me. All about perspective, as usual.

It was a busy weekend of work. We hosted the novelist Galaxy Craze at the bookstore on Saturday. What fun! She’s my age, with a 4 yr old son and a 3 month old daughter, and several of her friends attended with their children, in particular an adorable set of 4 month old twin girls. It was a total baby-fest! Galaxy gave her reading with her daughter in her lap, while the mother of the twins nursed one in hers.

Could you imagine a more complete mingling of art and family?

After the reading, we talked pregnancy and parenting and birthing. I’ve been getting over a cold, so I refrained from baby-cuddling, kept my grabby hands to myself. But there was something so joyful about having so many young children cavorting about the bookshop, about conversation among a circle of creative parents.

It reminded me: when Vincent was 7 months old, we attended a New England booksellers’ trade show, where we met Jonathan Safran Foer. Jonathan also has a son about the same age as Vincent. I’m a big fan of Jonathan’s novels, and thought I should engage him in conversation about them, being a conscientious bookseller and all, but the last thing he was interested in talking about was his books. Vincent was being his most adorable self, cuddled on my shoulder in a sling, sucking his thumb. Jonathan admired him to a most pleasing degree, showed me pictures of his son (also adorable), and we compared baby notes. It was bizarre and tremendous — given the time, we could have talked all day. Seriously. All day. About our kids.

So is it like this for all new parents, writers and all? You might publish books to great acclaim, but these new beings, they’re amazing, and that’s got nothing to do with you, you’re just the lucky caretaker. And that’s the most interesting thing right now, nothing else compares. Not that you don’t continue to do what you do, which is what you are, a writer. But what you are has expanded in the most wonderful way.

Anyway, I don’t want to give short shrift to Galaxy the writer: I especially loved her new novel, maybe because the main character is a 14 yr old girl, an age I find crushingly hard, and the centerpiece of the story is an intense friendship between 2 girls that, while I can’t relate to the particulars, is definitely spot on. I hope she’ll find many readers!