Month: May 2011

Confessions of a Single Baby Mama #5

Of the many shifts of focus required to become a mom, for what you gain, there was much you let go of.  Typically, non-parent-people think of going out on the turn of New York minute first. But in truth, for me, I still believed in the words that Sandra Bernhardt said to David Letterman as she discussed her newly minted motherhood, “By the time your thirty-five you’ve had all the going out fun, you’re going to have. I was ready to become a mom.” I nodded in agreement back then and now, a good ten years later. What Sandra didn’t say was the real challenge that came with motherhood… dare I say, the baby clothes.

The first rumble my mom and I had over Julia regarded the matter of  undershirts. She deemed them necessary, I saw them as an extra layer, extra work, not required for life indoors. Since I brought Julia home in early February there were many undershirtless days, and many fish-eyed, sly glares from my Mom from across the living room, over her book of crossword puzzles. Always the same edict. ” It doesn’t look like Julia has an undershirt on. Does she have an undershirt on? If not, she’ll catch cold.”

Then came the nanny, the fabulous Miss Dee, that makes all the difference for me as a working, single baby mama. A every working mom needs an A- team, “the village” spoken of in an African proverb famously quoted by Hillary Clinton. With my mom living out of state, Miss Dee heads mine ( with an amazing assist from Zia Carla and Aunts Sheila and Charlena, who have been called to babysit in the clutch and have.) Then there’s Ronda, and of course, my mom.

My mother, I realized as I prepared to wing my way to Louisville some weeks back was the only person I trusted to watch over my daughter with for ten, whole, long days and nights. I was grateful that she was ready, willing and able to come to New York and keep watch over Julia, Dee and the household. What I hadn’t calculated in, what I missed entirely was the notion that Miss Dee, Julia and my mom would go shopping. Together. For my child.

” We all went to T.J. Max today,” my mom announced as I dragged my can from school back to The Brown Hotel, after a long day of lectures, readings and constant rain. ” We picked out some shoes for Julia.”

” That’s great mom” I said, as the tall, elegant doorman swept open the door of the historic hotel with a flourish.” And we bought a holiday dress.”

” Holiday? What holiday?” Easter, the classic roll your kid up in crinoline moment had come and gone months ago.

“We picked out a dress a Memorial Day for Julia.”

A pair of stars and stripes shorts I had as a ten-year old, running through sprinklers on lawns of Detroit, came roaring up from the depths of my memory.

Surely, she did not. Surly she could not.

“It’s a cute dress, small, white stars along a navy bodice, red and white poke-a- dots along the middle, and ruffles of white stars start again along the bottom.  Ties in a bow at the shoulders. Cute.”

I thanked her, clicked off the cell, jumped into the shower, and into fresh clothes to meet my scholar friends for cocktails and dinner. The vision of that star-spangled dress follow me throughout the evening. It trailed me throughout the week, until the last day, on the Delta flight home, back to Manhattan.

“Here it is!” my mom said, not long after I put my bags down and picked my daughter up, lassoing the baby into my arms. I dipped my nose into her neck, her heavenly scented skin, composed of baby lotion, baby powder, and organic carrots.

” Now you’re all ready for the holiday!” Mom said. So happy to come home to my daughter I left the matter of the dress for later.

Now, five days has come and gone, Memorial Day has arrived. The dress started up with me this morning. So I when it came time to dress Julia, I slipped it out of the drawer, and over her crown of dark curls. Whether or not it will leave the house, well, that was still uncertain. I now understand, more than ever, when we have an opportunity to make those we love happy, we should pick up the reins, or the crazy dress, and as the Nike tagline goes, “Just Do It.”

Back in the Writer Game

Writing is about the only activity I love nearly as much as being the mom of the lovely Miss J. So two weeks ago, I stretched the silver cord of connection between Julia and I all the way to Kentucky. As the spring term rolled towards me I decided to register, keeping my steady march moving toward completing my MFA. My wonderful mom came to Manhattan from Michigan, I booked a flight to Kentucky, packed my bags, books and black Mac laptop, and ahead to the airport.

“How are you feeling?” the nanny asked as she trailed me from the apartment, from my daughter, from my home, to the elevator.
“ My stomach is in knots… This is hard,” I said, hoping she’d ignore the sight of my eyes, shiny with tears.

The next morning I woke up at The Brown Hotel, between the cool, luscious, high- thread count sheets to the sound of, well, nothing. No Julia morning chirping, no baby music songs. Solemnly I showered, dressed and checked the time. I bolted from the Brown with my binder of writer selections pre-selected for class discussion by the workshop leader, my workshop sample, ball point pens, highlighters, cell phone and work Blackberry. My clog clad feet sprinted along the two blocks that stretched to my classroom, my cell phone jammed under my left ear, my purse dangling from my right shoulder. Binder jammed under a pit. I hurried past a gnarled, curled tree whose strong bows held pom-pom sized magnolias, spraying out two stories high. The heavily scented air punche my nose. hard. I was far from New York City in so many ways.

“ Hi, Mom,” I said passing the public library, “How are my girls doing?”
“ Julia it’s your Mommy on the phone!” my mother said  with enough volume so I could hear. And with that my stomach formed into a French knot, another loop, and another warm, exquisite torture.
“Say hi Julia! Say hi!”
Heavy breathing followed. Some days, when lucky , a BA ba, BA would rise into the receiver.

A week after Julia and I came home, back in February, Ronda gave my this advice. “When you’re working Mom, whereever you are you think you should be in the other place. Home? Work? You are constantly wishing things were different.”

I thought I understood her edict back in February, and again after I’d returned to work during the last dregs of March. Only now I really did. So, after two days of living solely as a writer, mothering by remote control, dialing in between lectures, and swimming in the warm waters of creatively and literature, I let go. I let grandma, be grandma. I trusted.

I’d forgotten how much I love the company of writers. Grad school, for me is a Petri dish of warm riches. A gift I can’t wait to share with my daughter.

On Magic and Memory

On Sunday, Mothers Day arrived for me. At last. All day I waited for the tears to
come, the wet grief of eight years to wash up, now reformed, and reshaped into a soaking celebration that would glaze my cheeks and chin. But they never came.

Instead I spent the day studying Julia, as she held her tiny hand into a strong, bold ray of sunlight shaped by the cityscape and the westward sky that shone into the living room of our apartment, brimming with the knowledge that she is mine and I am hers. Nothing to cry about from that equation, I thought, as my first Mother’s Day came to a shiny, golden end.

Earlier in the week, truth be told, the tears came in other ways, by other motivations. My brother Jeffrey got in the opening salvo.
“Mom called and reminded me to send you a Mothers Day card,” my younger brother said over my office phone line from his car  in Redford, Michigan. “But I told her I wasn’t sending a card. And neither was she….that I remembered when you didn’t even leave the house because you just couldn’t take people wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day. So I suggested we send something more substantial.”

With his remark, instant, acidly tears dappled my black Formica desk and my gray plaid trousers. Some how, like a 72-hour-gnaw-your-lower-lip off-labor, once the adoption was completed, once  I’d received my bouncing, beautiful daughter, the dark days of waiting to faded. But not completely. The scab, still soft at the center, yielded a bloody wound, underneath.

Wednesday morning, with Sunday in the rearview mirror of life, I realized maybe that wound, hadn’t really healed at all. And ike the mighty Mississippi, the memories waited to breech its levees and rise up.

Yet, while my prima Mother’s Day with its tide of texts and emails, and wave of well wishers cards, including the touching Hallmark variety my nanny left in Julia’s crib addressed to me, produced no tears for me, I wept a flood for others.

I wept as I read the text of a good friend notifying me that she and her husband, two of the finest, loving people I know individually and as a couple, have separated. I wept at the news that a good solid friend, has learned that her diagnosis of stage zero her breast cancer is in fact, after further study,  at stage two. And the BRCA gene had been detected. I wept at the morning news that a newborn was tossed into the trash can inside the restroom of St. Elmhurst Hospital in Queens like a half eaten bagel, and was now fighting for its tiny, yet unlived life.

Maybe on this blooming, shining, pollen-polluted May day I shed tears for all those around me and their losses, surprised for once, they were not falling for me and my far away daughter.