Monday, October 24, 2016

On a Wednesday Night a Few Months Ago

My obsessive side is happy. This well-used blue baby bathtub fits just-so in our new, elongated bathroom sink. I use a towel to pad the inside, close the plug, and squeeze two drops of lavender soap into the bottom. I turn on the faucet just past the red dot. The water is warm. I turn up the pressure to make bubbles. When there’s enough, I turn off the water and step over to the bed. This is where the baby kicks at his blanket, gazing toward the window. His hands are moving, moving, moving and his chest goes up, down, up and down with rapid infant breaths.
I pull his white onesie up over his head. Reflexes make his shaky arms reach out in a curve. I put one hand steady on his chest so he knows he’s not falling. I take off his diaper, cradle him, and move to the bathroom before he can potty-paint anything.  I lower him into the half-filled little tub. I keep my left hand on his chest, holding his hands, my wrist propping up his head. My right hand gets the washcloth wet and washes his feet first. I am multi-tasking.
He likes the bath. His kicking slows, his breathing deepens, his cheek rests heavy against my wrist. I wash his legs, his middle, his arms. I run the cloth into the tiny creases. It’s important to get the creases clean. Last, I wash his hair. I’m careful not to get drops in his eyes. I’m careful not to let him get cold—I scoop warm water over him here and there the whole time. I breathe in the lavender. I take in the sight of a pink, perfect newborn, dependent on me for everything. I marvel that it has come back easily—the caring for a new baby. It all came back.
I love this boy.

            I drape his towel along my left arm. I raise him up and out and into the towel and wrap up his squirmy, slippery self before he gets upset. I put the hood with the embroidered sheep over his hair and walk him back to the bed. I dry every spot that just got wet. I diaper him, I lotion him, and snap on his gray-dotted pajamas. We sit in the yellow gingham rocker, the one I’ve rocked three other babies in, and I nurse him to sleep.

Friday, April 15, 2016

April Sixteen

Happy, happy birthday Lucy dear! Tomorrow you would be turning twelve years old. We have plans for making a ladybug cake, for ladybug balloons, and for going to that new favorite park. We hope for non-bipolar weather, of course. We hope for sunshine and general merriment.

I imagine if you were here, you would be over the whole ladybug thing. You would have packed away all ladybug paraphernalia, retired your American Girl dolls, and moved on to something else. I have no idea what that might have been. You are a question mark.

Not knowing you is hard. You are forever this mystery baby who had clever-looking eyes and not much patience for things like suctioning out your breathing tube, and needles pricking your heels. You had low muscle tone in your neck and back. You stared at your bug mobile. You had scars and bedhead and long feet that stretched and reached, toes curling around my fingers. You could pull a great sad face. You smiled. You were lovely.

I miss you.

S misses you. She knows she has a sister. She knows you aren't here to play tea party and Candy Land. L misses you. The other day he drew a picture of our family with you looking down at us from the top of a cloud. E misses you. He asks about why your lungs and heart didn't work by themselves. Sometimes all I can answer is, I don't know, Buddy.

Today, as we run errands and make decisions about which base boards to put in after the dry wall is sanded and painted, you will be in my mind. Today, as I feel this new baby, this last baby, kick about inside me, I will think back twelve years to when my first baby kicked inside me. Before you, and all of us, were put to The Test. You passed that test, and maybe I'll be strong enough to pass it, too. I'm still working on it.

I love you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

High School Love

As we got ready Friday after dinner, I pulled out my make up bag to re-curl my eyelashes and to add bronzer to my cheeks. Inside the bag was the small, golden-metal bottle of perfume Sam had brought me from Paris the month before. From Paris. It didn't have a name or brand because it was that new. He found it at a parfumarie. In Paris.

I unscrewed the lid, held the bottle to my nose and breathed. I patted a drop at my neck and a drop on each wrist. I felt a pull inside me. I wanted him back. I was sorry for being stupid the whole week, for ignoring, for flirting with that tall boy at the concert, for alienating, for us not being able to control us. I resolved: Tonight I would ask him to dance, he would smell me, we would go back to normal, and figure out a way to make it work.

I pulled my hair half-up. I put on some apple Lip-Smackers. We headed out the dorm to meet our friends at the dance.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Counteracting My Way Through January

January is not my favorite. I am not a snow-playing person--though a new, bright and blueish, cottony covering of snow does make me feel seven for a minute. After living in Phoenix, though, I realized I want distinct seasons and if I have to live through Utah Januaries in order to have Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall, well then I can do it. I just have low expectations, and feel proud of myself when I accomplish something like: only have a 50-cent fine at the library! or remember to have the children bathe!

This January of 2016, while keeping it simple, I've noticed contrasts in what I've been doing.

So far, I:

-Attended two funerals of people who died too young. But, also attended a wedding with twinkle lights and chocolate mousse, and made dinner for a couple who had their first baby, a cuddly gnome with peach-fuzz hair.

-Had plenty of pajamas-past-noon days. But got myself looking fancy, too. Red lipstick and up-dos and nail polish!

-Read Dad Is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan. Read Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer, by Sena Jeter Nasland.

-Ate fast food. Ate fancy food.

-Taught Sally about crayon resisting her Crayola watercolors. Taught 2nd graders some basics from The Starry Night, and had them create their own versions using short strokes of oil pastel and a wash of blue watercolor over the page.

-Watched a documentary about a drop-box for unwanted babies. Watched Bob's Burgers, and the last season of Parks & Recreation. I miss Andy and Ron already.

-Stomped through high snow. Climbed around red rocks in the sun.

Carry on, January. I've got you figured out. I know your secrets are simple, and I will take you down.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Patience in the Art Department

The can is red with white. It sits on my desk now, holding scissors, glues, and scotch tape. Scotch Buy, it reads, CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER, the REAL flavor of peanuts, SAFEWAY—good quality, thrifty value, 6 lb. 14 oz. The can was used to hold stubs and sections of crayons when I was a girl. I remember digging through the colored wax up to my forearm, searching for carnation pink, goldenrod, or brick red. I loved the smell of my hand after fishing through there. Crayola perfume.

I wasn’t gifted in art. I remember the desperate, erased pencil lines as I tried to sketch the face of Roald Dahl for a book report in 5th grade. I looked to his photograph, to my page, photograph, page, photograph, page. Why was it not working? His chin was melting, and I didn’t know what to do about his right nostril. I had thought drawing from a photograph would be simple, even fun. I thought including a sketch would get me a better grade. And I thought it would look something like Mr. Dahl.

Much later, years later, my golfing boyfriend Sam decided he would run for Student Body Vice President. “I need a slogan, I need to make flyers,” he said to me as we sat on the flower couch in my living room. We knew a play on his last name was the direction he should go. “Don’t get stuck next year, vote for Plummer!” was born shortly after, and thus began what would become a long life of creating terrible—and sometimes good—ideas together. I told him I could draw up some possibilities for a flyer. “You can draw?” he looked at me like I was speaking Latin. I grabbed a pencil with no more eraser left, one of my mom’s 87 yellow notepads she kept around, and drew a cartoon person’s head and shoulders at the bottom of the page. Then I stuck a plunger on the head, and extended the handle off the top right corner. I drew surprised eyes, and an oval mouth. I drew on ears and a nose, hair coming our from under the plunger. I wrote the words of the slogan next to the plunger handle. DON’T GET STUCK NEXT YEAR – VOTE FOR PLUMMER!

Sam smiled.

I loved making him smile.

He didn’t win.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Six-word Memoirs, Arizona Edition

In Arizona, I was not myself.

But sometimes I miss that house.

Loneliness caused life to be simple.

Shopping Target was considered our fun.

Also, throwing rocks into Lake Pleasant.

Sam smashed scorpions with a mallet.

We went on walks with scooters.

The boys were little, Sally small.

Vacations were to Utah, my mom.

We forgot about cold tap water.

It felt weird to wear socks.

We rarely got sick, allergies gone.

Hot air balloons peppered the sky.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Live On, Dear Star Catcher

I like to sit sideways here on this stuffed suede chair, under the lamp in the corner of the living room. I sit like this so my slippered feet can be close to the fireplace. The sun is getting heavier in the sky. The frosty clouds hang low, and my plan is to not move from this spot for a while.

I've got the computer propped in my lap as I type, and I realize I won't be able to sit this way next month. My middle is growing. A baby boy is kicking around in there, probably hopped up on the macadamia nut turtle chocolate thing I ate. A baby. A boy baby. We're having a healthy baby boy.

Over the past 3 months Sally has prayed for blessings on the baby, "that she will be a good girl." She has leaned in close to me with a loud voice, calling the baby Star Catcher, and singing, "STAR CATCHER? CAN YOU HEAR ME? IT'S ME, SALLY. YOU CAN SHARE MY HIGH CHAIR..."

When the ultrasound doctor moved the transducer probe over me and smiled, saying she saw "three little legs," I smiled, too. Then I thought of my Sally. How would she take this? She talks about her sister Lucy every day. She feels that loss, though she wasn't here for it. She asks to send photos from my phone to Lucy in heaven. She sets up a picnic on her blanket and brings Lucy's picture along. She wants her older sister. She wanted a baby sister.

Since this baby is a brother, he cannot be named Star Catcher--such a girl name (which has been successfully transferred to the pink pony Sal got for Christmas). Instead Sally suggests Vegetable or Clifford or Pop-pop. She's taken the boy-news well, even offering to let him share her room and her crib. We shall see if those offers still stand come May. The boys want to name him Bob.