Friday, May 27, 2011

the next thing

when my mom called me this morning, she said she was worried about a man who lived a few doors down. there were multiple emergency vehicles in front of the house, and they didn't show signs of leaving. when i asked her how she knew it was the man who was unwell and not his wife, mom said she had seen the woman go out to pick up the newspaper from the front porch.

it was not two hours later that mom called back to say that the man had passed away.

it's what we do when unbearable, unspeakable things happen: we pick up the paper from the front porch. we worry about overdue library books. we get new cell phones (yup, we did that the very next day, too). we wash dishes, mow the lawn, answer emails, or make dinner when the world has suddenly been upended. and the next day, we do the next thing.

i'm not sure if it's a function of habit--we just always pick up the paper from the front porch without even thinking--or a semiconscious seeking after normalcy--at least i know how to do this thing. or are we actually unable to stop? i don't know my parents' neighbor well enough to know what drove her to pick up the paper from the front porch when the unthinkable was happening or maybe had already happened.

but i know that, on some level, it's what we all do. we do the next thing. we go to work, we get an oil change, we do the grocery shopping. even though it's still unbearable, unspeakable, we do the next thing. and the next thing we know, we're doing another next thing: we get a new job, move to a new house, get a pet. but the world is still upside down. it's not fixed, we're not saved by doing the next thing. still, on some level, we can't not. or perhaps i should speak for myself here: at least i can't not. i do the next thing. i get new curtains, get a haircut, have a baby. i try a new restaurant, clean out my closet, rearrange the furniture, find a new hobby. things aren't put right by doing the next thing, never. but it is still unthinkable, unbearable even if i don't do the next thing. so i do.

i want to tell my parents' neighbor not to listen to the people who will tell her to stop doing the next thing, to let the newspapers pile up on the front porch, forcryingoutloud, or to let someone else pick them up for her. to let the bathroom go unpainted, the flower beds go unweeded, the refrigerator go uncleaned, the laundry be forgotten. and maybe, just maybe, here's another place i need to speak for myself alone. because doing the next thing, even from my upside down place, is the only way i know to be. but maybe that's just me. is it, in fact, possible to stop doing the next thing?

the more i think about it, the more i realize how much i'm projecting. i don't know why the neighbor picked up the paper from her front porch on the morning her husband died. maybe her husband was still well when she picked up the paper, and he wanted to read it. or maybe it wasn't the paper she picked up at all, but instead a piece of medical equipment an emt dropped on the way in the door. maybe she wasn't doing the next thing, after all. i don't know.

what i do know--at least i'm pretty sure i know--is that nothing in her world is right side up tonight. and if she wants to read the paper, i hope she won't let anyone stop her.

speaking of family photos

okay, these pictures are admittedly old news by now. anastasia is way bigger, and i am (thankfully) at least a little bit smaller! but they're still so sweet--not too late to share them, i think. (and if you're looking for a photographer in or near southern california, check out our old-friend-turned-photographer, who took these pictures: krista lucas photography.)

where i am and have been, in no particular order

the first part of this post is nearly six weeks old. yup, six weeks ago, i started a post and never did get to finish it. i had more thinking to do, and i got interrupted (by a baby, no doubt) and i never did get back to writing it. to be honest, i can't really remember the rest of the thinking i was going to do. chalk it up to sleep deprivation, as a friend told me today when i confessed that i sometimes find myself rocking and bouncing even while i'm in the shower. (come on, mamas. you know what i mean. you rock and bounce so much that you forget you don't need to do it while you're washing your hair...*chirp chirp*, come on now; i know i'm not the only one.)


"i have to get used to the idea that she's going to change."

this was sam's comment a week or so ago when we noticed anastasia's already-improving head control and almost-certainly real attempts at smiling. she's going to change.

the fact that this idea is something that takes getting used to made me realize how thoroughly screwed up (honestly, i have a stronger word i'd rather use for it, because it makes me angry) our ideas of baby care are as a result of eliza's screwed up life. one month into anastasia's life, i'm realizing i'm still undoing and unlearning all the things that became normal for the nearly-three years eliza was our never-growing-up baby.

it took me twelve days to realize that anastasia should be sleeping on her back, like all babies should, instead of on her side, like eliza had to. she was twelve days old before it occurred to me that she was not going to have a seizure and vomit and asphyxiate, so she really could sleep on her back. twelve days. screwed up.

i still cringe when anastasia is sleeping and i hear her smack her lips or sigh, because lip-smacking and sighing were always the start of a sleep-ending seizure for eliza. of course, anastasia smacks and sighs and keeps right on sleeping, just like all babies do, unlike her sister did. but four and a half weeks in, i still can't overcome what is now a reflexive cringe. screwed up.


see? there was more coming. you can tell, can't you? oh well. you get the point.


i think maybe there are still a few people who check in on this blog. and maybe a few of those people aren't on facebook (gasp! can it be?). so for those few among the few, i thought i'd drop by for a quick update. there's nothing profound here, really, because i spend so much time snuggling and cooing at and "torturing" (luke's word) my baby with kisses that i don't think much. or if i do, i forget what i was thinking about because she smiles at me or giggles--hot off the presses! new tonight! giggling! love love love--or gurgles or coos get the point. but here's a quick update.

anastasia is ten weeks old today. she acts so much like luke and looks so much like eliza, which, if i do say so myself, is a stellar combination. she doesn't believe in naps but sleeps like champ (most of the time) at night and wakes up smiling in the morning, with a smile that is so big it takes up her whole face and she can't really keep her eyes open anymore. this is a trick of which i will not tire, not ever. we are all three more and more smitten with her daily and have had a running contest to see which of us would solicit her first giggle (i won, just today, as i think i deserve to have, thankyouverymuch). luke cannot get enough of his sister. cannot. it is amazing and wonderful and so very dear.

there's the sappy superficial stuff. are you wondering when i'll get to the rest?


who do you think she looks like? people will ask me. i can see from their faces that it's a relief when i say she looks like eliza. i don't think anyone wants to suggest it--as if i haven't noticed--because it might be hurtful or make me sad or something. for the most part, i'm really glad she looks like her beautiful big sister. it's the eyes, they'll go on to say. it's true; she has eliza's eyes. which makes it all the more amazing to me when she makes eye contact with me, her eyes full of curiosity and eagerness and searching searching for something to smile at or to recognize, so full compared to her big sister's eyes which never could quite look at you but past, somewhere else entirely, searching searching, i think, for something quite other. i do miss that gaze.

and i do miss eliza, somehow even more now than i have in a long time. anastasia was only a week old when i watched her sleep and wondered, who are you? you are a darling, sweet, beautiful imposter. i have a baby already. so who are you? it was a momentary, strange, but very real thing, this confusion of how anastasia fits into the arms of a mama, a family, that are already--were already--so very full. and in that same moment, i couldn't have been more in love with her, anastasia, someone so new and fresh and eager and darling and oh-so-mine. it's a strange thing this time around.

contrary to (popular?) opinion, i still like to talk about eliza. i still think of her all the time, miss her all the time, want to remember her all the time--which is not at all to the detriment of the joy i have in talking about and cooing at and obsessing over anastasia, nor to the pleasure i take in bragging on and loving on my increasingly brilliant and grown-up baby boy. as every mom who wonders if she'll love her second child as much as her first knows, the heart expands exponentially to make more room, doesn't it?

the thing about the family pictures still gets me. i've written about my thing about pictures at least once before, here. it really gets me that i'll never have a picture of my whole family together. i haven't changed any of the pictures hanging in my house yet. how do i do that? take down the pictures with eliza in them and replace them with pictures with anastasia? just add more and more pictures? i'm not sure i have the wall space for it. i want to cut and paste anastasia into the pictures i have hanging of our prior family of four...or cut and paste eliza into the new pictures i have of our current family of four. this is in an impossible dilemma. i expect it will get me forever. there's always going to be someone missing.

and i think, too, about what it will mean to anastasia to grow up in a family that has known and loved and been shaped by a big sister that she will never have known. what will that be like? she'll know her from stories and pictures. but she will never have known her. will she feel a distance from luke because he knew and loved the sister she never had the chance to love? will she feel left out of the memories, somehow? i think about that sometimes, and i wonder. i do think about it.

i've all but stopped accidentally calling anastasia by eliza's name. that is a strange and somehow sad feeling. in fact, i have more than once been talking about eliza and used anastasia's name instead. that i did not like.

and yes, anastasia wears some of eliza's clothes, the ones that haven't been incorporated into the quilt sam's mom made for us. that i like, seeing anastasia in things i remember so fondly from eliza's life. and why wouldn't i? she's wearing her big sister's clothes. that i like.


sleep when the baby sleeps, they say, whoever they are. and as i hear the squirming through the baby monitor (i no longer cringe and expect a seizure, not most of the time anyhow), i wonder why i haven't been sleeping as the baby has been. g'night.