Sunday, July 09, 2006

To Madam, on her first birthday

(I am away from home and my computer, so alas, I will be very late for Sunday Scribblings! But I wanted to post something for Madam's first birthday tomorrow. Hope you are all doing well--I miss you!)

Dearest Madam,

I hesitated to write this, because so many have done it and so well. Who am I to add my voice to that song, and so late? Could I give form to all of the experiences and wonder and love and pain that have occurred this year, your first?

But our story begins before this, doesn't it? Our birth (for it was our birth, both yours and mine) was merely a physical meeting-we'd spent hours together before that, discovering each other's quirks and dislikes. You found out about my love of chocolate ice cream and French fries (though thankfully for you, not together). I discovered your love for taking a long afternoon walk in the sunshine. I would balance my book precariously on my rounded belly; you would swim by and playfully kick it off. Not wanting to share my attention even then.

I am sorry, dearest, for your bumpy arrival into this world. I had a fever, was exhausted, ill. I passed it on to you, landing you in the NICU for eleven days of blankness--we'd had you for only a second, and then you were whisked away to another hospital. Dazed, I pumped rhythmically every three hours, obsessed with the magic healing powers of breastmilk.

In hindsight, I needed to feel I was doing something.

I grew ill, again, hospital, again. I babbled incoherently about going to Las Vegas--we'd driven through there on our westward trek to California. I tried to pump while thinking beatific thoughts about you--then gave up and watched MTV and read books.

That categorizes a lot of my experience of motherhood.

You've given a shape to my life, sweet--me, who used to disdain routine!

You wake in the morning, teetering on your hands and knees, an uncertain smile grows wide as you catch me pretending to sleep. You're awake, Mommy! You're awake, Daddy! Impish with triumph, you sidle closer to my side, balance yourself and stand, already babbling away. We start our ritual of coffee--you crawling around saying hello to your toys while I scribble my morning pages. On occasion, you stop and crawl over, staring quizzically at me, pulling at my pen and tapping my paper. Your matter of fact acceptance of having a mother who writes makes me feel real, like, well, a mother who writes.

This, too, is our pattern--I flail about wildly, looking for rescue, and you stare serenely at me, eyes full of innocent confidence It's my job to figure it out. I'm the Mommy--so I draw from some secret well of adulthood and manage. All for you.

It hasn't all been easy--in fact, most of it hasn't. Hours of forced silent meditation in the night, nursing and rocking and walking you to sleep--unable to flee, to seek distraction--forced to look deep into myself and not liking what I see. Having stories, words, phrases come and fade for want of a pen and paper. Boredom turning to exhaustion turning to resentment turning to fear turning back to boredom.

But I've learned to hold onto the words as tenaciously as you hold on to your rings; learned to write in my head even as I change diapers and sing lullabies and play games and make lunches. You've called on my desires even as you call my milk to you, my body wanting only to nourish and please you. My mind wanting only to be worthy of you.

To say that I love you feels trite, inadequate--so I fumble along, with only images to guide me--your lightning smile, dimples. Your furrowed brows as you puzzle something out. Your attempts to crawl, to stand, to walk, again and again until you can do it. Our walks ogether in the sun--first, one state, then the other city, as you jabber happily to the trees and the doggies and to me. The shadows of the trees fall over your face, like clouds racing in front of the moon. Your body curled against mine like a question mark--but you, yourself, as the answer.

I want to be enough for you. I want you to be proud of me. Those simple desires have pulled me through this turbulent first year.

TEG says, "Only you would try to do something new and scary during this hardest year of your life." But it couldn't have been any other way. Having you had woken me up, like the old fairy tale of Talia and her twins. You have connected me to the largenesss and wildness and fragility and beauty of this world.

Thank you for the privilege of watching you sleep, watching you play, watching you grow. My gratitude never ceases and never will.

So that is why I can write this, in spite of so many other beautiful and creative voices. Because you look for me, for my voice, in all of the world. And I do the same for you. And those facts give me the courage to add my own small voice to the rest of the song. I can write because I am your mommy. Te adoro. Happy birthday.

Your mother.



Blogger Cate said...

This is the most incredible gift.

1:24 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Tammy said...

This was just beautiful!

4:01 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

Such a gorgeous love song you've written for your daughter. Your voice is loving and strong.

9:07 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Jessie said...

I am in such awe of this thing called motherhood. It is enough to knock me over.

It is beautiful and scary and amazing--all at the same time.

11:58 PM, July 09, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

what a lovely tribute to "Madam." she'll treasure it when she gets older. very nice.

12:15 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger earnest and game said...

where are you? Having adventures? NYC? NJ? Miami? Do tell. So glad that you've added this to your record-it's just a gallery, that's my latest thought on what a blog is, it's a gallery of words. And it wouldn't feel complete if your galley didn't have things like this. xooxox, hkj

1:30 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger megg said...

what a beautiful gift you have given here - as beautiful and heartfelt and creative as any that you compare yourself to! I know she will treasure this when she gets older!

3:49 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Yummyteece said...

I'm a little teary, and i'm not even a mom.

this is so cool!

7:54 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Such a beautiful gift of love for your daughter. Very powerful, touching and fully from the heart.

2:30 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

beautiful, beautiful, beautiful--and that doesn't even begin to desribe it. never doubt the beauty and power of your voice, your voice claiming and naming your experience. she'll learn well from you...

4:44 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Susannah said...

"Because you look for me, for my voice, in all of the world. " this is the line that made the tears fall. this is so beautiful, this love letter to your daughter x

6:08 PM, July 12, 2006  
Blogger Jen Rouse said...

lovely sentiments here.
love the blog name too.
i'm typing onehanded myself, right now, holding my second-born and listening to my first not napping over the baby monitor.

1:52 PM, July 13, 2006  
Blogger Alexandra G said...

I hope you place this letter somewhere safe where your baby can read it many years later. What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful and eloquent letter.

10:45 AM, July 14, 2006  
Anonymous Fern said...

That was beautiful. Ehen she is old enough to appreciate it, she'll marvel over your words and how much she is loved... Happy Birthday, baby!

11:35 AM, July 14, 2006  
Blogger Letha Sandison said...

This was so beautiful!! I hope you have printed it out for your daughter!!

Happy first Birthday to her!! An amazing milestone!

8:27 PM, July 17, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

All of your unseen friends are smiling and nodding - some remembering, some pensive about their future bundles - we all relate to your lovely words. Thank you for allowing us to peek at the sweetest of love letters you have written your precious one.


2:06 PM, July 18, 2006  
Anonymous alyndabear said...

This is late, but I just had to say how beautiful reading that was. Thankyou, and birthday wishes to your little one.


2:39 AM, July 19, 2006  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

Beautiful...and beautifully written. Happy 1st birthday to your dear girl.

2:38 PM, July 19, 2006  
Blogger Nea said...

Who better to write this than her Mommie. Be sure and save this for her for later. She will treasure it.

1:34 AM, July 21, 2006  

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