Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I worry.

I worry about my people and I worry about strangers.

I rarely worry about politics, but I worry about war.

I worry about the soldiers.

The knocks on the head, the severed limbs.

My son is leaving Friday for Cambodia, for a summer adventure teaching English with one of those dogooder groups.

He has traveled abroad to dangerousish places several times.

He was in Uganda three years ago.

Don't say a god damned progressive thing! Keep your mouth SHUT!

Is what I said to him.

This time he is going alone and this time he is an adult.

I don't really buy the adult thing, but he assures me it's true.

This week I worried about a couple of new mothers I know.

I told my friend Barb

Being a new mother is like sex work, it degrades your sense of personhood, and you aren't allowed to talk about it. 

I am sure there are many mothers that would find this an offensive assessment, but for me it was true.

I chose with great intention to have my babies.

I wanted them, and I love them intensely, but the early days of mothering, particularly when you are poor, and without support, are terrifying and dark.

My own mother, interestingly enough, has always maintained that she loved having a nursling, and that mothering me as an infant was easy, despite that fact that she was 16 and living in a tiny trailer in the middle of nowhere.

As a child  my mother often said that I was difficult, which means sensitive, however, like Schrodinger's child, I was also praised as being easy.

My easiness came in infancy and toddlerhood.

Where by all eyewitness accounts I was an eager and enthusiastic nurser, slept beautifully and demonstrated advanced developmental growth.

I also talked early, and according to both my parents and my grandmother, was an exceptional conversationalist, by two (my Grandpa Chuck, a man of few words, and the one dissenter,  once asked my Grandma Eva, as they hit The Dalles on the Way to Boise, "Does she ever shut up?").

I grew up in a family of story tellers.

In a family of poor, deeply religious, complicated people. 

I grew up hearing my own story, the story of my extended family, and friends and neighbors.

The stories were of family and care-giving and birth and death.

I know that I was in a Plymouth Fury, driving from Portland to Boise, the summer of 1970, and that I stood behind my Grandfather's shoulder, and talked his ears full.

I know that when I was born, my parents lived in Aloha, and had to drive all the way to NE Portland, on surface streets in a snow storm.

I think they were driving in a Ford Falcon, but it may have been a pickup truck.

My mother was afraid, because she said she wasn't entirely clear on how the whole birth thing worked.

That she was knocked out and woke up and "had a baby".

That when my grandmother phoned her and asked her what I looked like she said, "her eyes are kind of squinty", and upon hearing that, my grandmother, who at the time was doing piece work sewing, worked herself into a complete anxiety attack, thinking that there was something terribly wrong with THE BABY! and sent my Grandfather ahead to scout out the situation.

As Grandma sobbed through her shift, Grandpa left the dairy, drove across town, went to the nursery and declared to everyone there that "this girl is just about perfect!"

Which he told me often as a child.

There are pictures of my mother holding me in the hospital, looking like a tiny, damp 16 year old, wearing a white slip.
Her strawberry hair is long for her, and there is still a space between her teeth, the space would be fixed in the mid 70's, and her hair would never be that long again.

There are pictures of Grandma holding me, her jaw stern, black hair.

She never cared for smiles in photos.

Don't go up there and grin like a damn monkey.  

Resulting in a picture album of my childhood, filled with somber studio photos, pale blue eyes, a slight droop on the right side of my mouth

she looks like Dan Lawler's people

My grandmother pronounced my appearance to be the fault of my paternal grandfather.

My own children have no such narrative.

There are no grinning monkeys, or car trips to see extended family in farm houses.

Most of the time I find this liberating.

To be free of all the baggage and discord that swirled around me most of my life.

When those big worries wash over me, when I think of the new mothers I know, or the soldiers, or of my own son leaving my protection, I wrap up in my stories, dip into the past, the connectivity is comforting, as comforting as it is disturbing most of the other time in my  life.

God would not let anything happen to Maxwell, I say.

You don't even believe in god, Mark says.

Maybe I have a tiny corner in my heart, where the god that protects my son lives! I tell him.

And in the same corner, I push all the people, all the babies, all the soldiers with their missing parts, and try to keep them all safe with my white lady Baptist voodoo.