Acts of Granola

Since my mother passed away, I have been downright shocked by the kindness and support that has come from everywhere. Some people knew my mother. Some only know her through my vivid stories about her. I’ve heard from childhood friends who have such touching memories of her. I’ve heard from friends who I haven’t spoken to in years. And of course, I have heard from so many of you.

I’m back at work this week, and one of my coworkers left me a huge jar of exquisite homemade granola and the following note:

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Some might think granola as a gesture of sympathy strange, but honestly I adore it. it’s a small token of kindness, and I will take it in any form it comes.

I’ve been fixated on this idea of kindness lately. Not only because I’ve been on the receiving end of it so much lately, but because it is a trait my mother intentionally and persistently taught me to value.

One of my strongest memories is from when I was 14. Oh, that awkward, weird age… I was stuck between being a child and scrambling my way toward adulthood. It wasn’t pretty. But adolescence rarely is.

Along with school, I was a dedicated Girl Scout. At the time, I was riding high in my troop. I was a patrol leader, and generally liked by all the girls. I had two best friends who were the appropriate mixture of responsibility and mischief. There was one girl in the troop, Scarlet, who didn’t enjoy my same social standing. If my adolescence was awkward, Scarlet’s was ten fold. She was overweight and pimply. She had frizzy hair, and a desperate need for braces. Worst of all, Scarlet was aware of all of this and tried, perhaps too hard, to overcome it. She was too eager to please anyone, which is the first and deadliest way not to make friends with teenage girls.

At some point, I was telling my mom about Scarlet. How she was a little weird, no one wanted to hang out with her or wanted her in their tent on trips…

“Then you have to show her kindness. You have a responsibility to be kind to her.”

My mom went on to explain that I was a leader. The older girls respected me, and the younger girls looked up to me. More importantly, I was a human being and so was Scarlet. We are obligated to be engaged in our world and community, and extend people every ounce of compassion we have.

Obviously, I thought my mother was out of her mind. But then again, I was 14 and she was suggesting social suicide.

I would love to tell you this story ended with Scarlet and I becoming best friends. This would be untrue. All the superficial differences aside, Scarlet and I had nothing in common and didn’t get along. But from that day forward, I always made sure that there was room for her, that she had someone to talk with, that she wasn’t forgotten or left out.

My mother loved the outsider. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to come home from school to discover a new face at the dinner table. Perfect stranger or not, we welcomed them to our house, and showed them warmth and hospitality. I don’t mean to imply that she pulled people off the street– she had an open heart, not a delusional mind. But if someone was new to town, low on friends, or had no where to go on Thanksgiving, there would be an extra setting at the table.

A warm meal, a jar of granola, or a comment on a blog. These may be small in the grand scheme of things, but they accumulate. They make us feel less alone. Knowing that someone cares takes the edge of things in life that are hardest.

I started this blog because I needed to let out all the frustration, disappointment, and deep sadness I felt at being infertile. I never expected anyone to read it, and certainly never expected the support I’ve received from all of you.

To those of you who have offered your sympathies, I’m so appreciative. I’m sorry if I haven’t always commented directly. Know that I am grateful beyond words.

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The Room is Full of You

After a long, complicated illness, my mother passed away. For the first time in my life, I find words wholly inadequate. I love her. I miss her. I hear that this never really goes away, and in a sense I hope it never does.

My mother was a great reader. She’s one of the few people I knew who could quote poetry at will for any occasion. Her favorite poet was Enda St. Vincent Millay. When I was younger, I didn’t “get it.” I thought her writing was precious because often she rhymed. Poets, REAL poets, threw convention out the window! Screw sonnets! I immersed myself in Ferlinghetti and e.e. cummings, smoked cigarettes, and was generally tragic.

Then one year for my birthday my mother gave me a Millay biography, and her own copies of Millay’s works that she’d purchased in 1965. She and my father had just become engaged, and would be married a year later. Even at the time, I considered this one of the best presents I’d ever received.

I was reading my mother’s books when I learned that she was gone.

 

Excerpt from Interim, by Enda St. Vincent Millay

The room is full of you!—As I came in

And closed the door behind me, all at once

A something in the air, intangible,

Yet stiff with meaning, struck my senses sick!—

 

Sharp, unfamiliar odors have destroyed

Each other room’s dear personality.

The heavy scent of damp, funereal flowers,—

The very essence, hush-distilled, of Death—

Has strangled that habitual breath of home

Whose expiration leaves all houses dead;

And wheresoe’er I look is hideous change.

Save here. Here ’twas as if a weed-choked gate

Had opened at my touch, and I had stepped

Into some long-forgot, enchanted, strange,

Sweet garden of a thousand years ago

And suddenly thought, “I have been here before!”

 

You are not here. I know that you are gone,

And will not ever enter here again.

And yet it seems to me, if I should speak,

Your silent step must wake across the hall;

If I should turn my head, that your sweet eyes

Would kiss me from the door.—So short a time

To teach my life its transposition to

This difficult and unaccustomed key!—

The room is as you left it; your last touch—

A thoughtless pressure, knowing not itself

As saintly—hallows now each simple thing;

Hallows and glorifies, and glows between

The dust’s grey fingers like a shielded light.

 

There is your book, just as you laid it down,

Face to the table,—I cannot believe

That you are gone!—Just then it seemed to me

You must be here. I almost laughed to think

How like reality the dream had been;

Yet knew before I laughed, and so was still.

That book, outspread, just as you laid it down!

Perhaps you thought, “I wonder what comes next,

And whether this or this will be the end”;

So rose, and left it, thinking to return.

 

Perhaps that chair, when you arose and passed

Out of the room, rocked silently a while

Ere it again was still. When you were gone

Forever from the room, perhaps that chair,

Stirred by your movement, rocked a little while,

Silently, to and fro…

 

Babies are people too

As I’m slowly admitting to myself that I am pregnant, I’m also admitting that at some point I will have to make room for baby. In my uterus, sure… but nature takes care of that. No, no, I am talking about actual space in my apartment for another living being.

A few years ago, Mr. O and I decided to move from a one bedroom apartment to a two bedroom. There were a ton of reasons for this move, but we knew we wanted more space because we fully intended to have a tiny human.

That was two years ago. In that period of time, we filled up the extra room. On a certain level, leaving it without purpose felt like some nasty reminder of our infertility. So it became known as “The Office.”

The office is now filled with things. A desk. A bookshelf. A printer we haven’t used since the toner ran out over a year ago. Shelving for Mr. O’s remarkably large CD collection. (For the love of pete, who has a CD collection in this day and age? Answer: My husband, and thanks to laws of communal property I do too.)

We are now undergoing the process of clearing out that room. The truth is that some of it can go away, and some of it can’t. We can’t toss Mr. O’s great-grandfather’s desk out into the street. As much as I would like to burn all the CDs then leave them on the curb, this plan as met with much resistance. And so the negotiations continue.

I think I’ve figured out how to essentially split the room in half so that there is space for Mr. O’s crapola on one side and baby stuff on the other. This will do until the child is big enough to notice that it is living in our storage room. But nothing I have to worry about yet.

In the meantime, I’ve allowed myself to idly think about “decorating a nursery.” Which sorta makes skin crawl. Even though I’ve desperately wanted a child, I’ve never wanted all the weirdo expectations that come with them. Decorating a nursery sounds so 1950’s housewife, I feel as though Gloria Steinem will personally revoke my membership to NOW unless I do so ironically.

Fine, fine… If I’m being 100% honest, I’m using good ol’ Gloria as a scapegoat. It isn’t that I think having an area vaguely set aside for childrearing makes me less of a feminist. I just find most things related to the clothing and decorating of babies nauseating. There I said it. I find cartoon animals, pink/blue bows, and hand painted murals of castles completely bizarre.

Just do a google image search of baby nurseries, and you’ll see what I mean. Do people actually have chandeliers over their cribs? Why are people writing their child’s name on the wall using gigantic letters? Are they afraid they’ll forget which room to put their baby in? And why do these same people name their children Gunnar or Kayden? THOSE ARE NOT REAL NAMES. (My apologies if you’ve just named your child Gunnar and/or Kayden. Blame my rudeness on hormones, please.)

And whilst I am ranting about nursery stuff, what is with gliders? I mean, I understand their usage. I want one. But I can’t figure out why they have to look like a rocking chair had a drunken one night stand with bag of jumbo marshmallows. And anything that doesn’t look like a breeding mistake costs $500.

Is it weird to say that I think we infantilize babies? It’s like babies aren’t allowed to be people. Instead, there is a tacit understanding that they are these “other” things that we dress up and treat like dolls or toys.

I get that there are somethings that make sense for a baby because of usefulness and/or developmental stage. No matter how much I may love Edward Gorey, for example, a baby might think a Gashlycrumb Tinies themed nursery legitimately terrifying. It isn’t like I want to raise my kid in a space that looks like a Soviet-era orphanage. I just don’t resonate with this whole “baby culture.” I’m not sure I want to. And as I’ve found so many times before, I get the feeling I am in the minority.

So what does this mean? For starters, no themed nursery for me (Gorey or otherwise.)

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

I am a fighter. I am relentless. I’m like one of those pop up Bozo punching bags. On the list of attributes I like most in myself, my resilience is number one.

However, there comes a point for me in every struggle when I need to regroup. Sometimes, I get so mired in whatever I’m working through I can’t see clearly. Or I’m so focused on pulling myself back up that I don’t stop to think why or what’s knocking me down to begin with.

It is in this spirit that I have taken the past two weeks off. Not just from blogging, but literally from everything. I was so tired, physically but also emotionally. I had a bunch of vacation days to use or lose by the end of the year, so spent the last 12 days of 2014 holed up in my apartment.

It was exactly what I needed.

Just days before, my family learned that my mother’s heart was failing. It would spontaneously stop… then start up. Logically there would come a point when it wouldn’t do that anymore, and we made a decision to put a DNAR on her heart. It is what she wanted and what we wanted for her. My father, sister, and brother sat by her bed every day. I facetimed with her when she was feeling okay.

Since then, my mother has been fine. I don’t mean to paint this in some miraculous light. Given how compromised she is, there is little likelihood she’ll get home. Her heart is beating now. She is here on this planet now. And every day she is still here feels like a surprise. This is as much as anyone can commit to.

My mom has asked that I focus these weeks on a healthy pregnancy, not on worrying about her. I’ve tried to follow her guidance to the best of my abilities. I spent the end of 2014 napping, reading, and desperately chugging Metamucil (pregnancy constipation is a REAL THING.) I’m slowly allowing myself to believe that this pregnancy is real. There is a tiny thing inside me with a tiny heartbeat. We’re in this together, and I have to take care of the both of us.

These two weeks have been so important to me. Not just to make peace with my mother’s passing (which I feel is sadly a question of when) but also to begin to celebrate a new chapter of my life.

2014 was so incredibly hard for me. It taught me that nothing is all good or all bad. Life refuses to give us such easy answers. At best we achieve balance by finding joy and kindness where we can and honoring every struggle. It isn’t about winning, it is about finding peace.

To 2015, my friends.