One of the more revealing titles of my recent reading is Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, a novel hardly of the slick parenting magazine fare I leaf through in that dentist office I so frequently visit these days. A slim, fierce, terrific book.
This morning, reading another book about family life – Margot Livesey’s Mercury – this line jumps out at me: “The human brain often juxtaposes the sublime and the trivial.”
The line encapsulates the book, true, but also domestic life.
Parenting often seems an endless routine of gathering twisted toddler socks from beneath the kitchen table. When my girls were teeny-tiny, I often muttered to myself during unbroken days a line from Shirley Jackson: “All day long, I go around picking up things.” The tooth-brushing trivial.
And yet, embedded like gems in the midst of sandbox squabbling, there’s marvelous moments: braiding my daughter’s hair, inhaling the familiar, salty scent of her scalp, listening to her stories.
The blue vase on the sideboard was from the Song dynasty, eleventh or early twelfth century. How had it survived nearly eight hundred years when I could barely survive forty? I was in that state between waking and sleeping, neither fully inhabiting my body nor entirely absent, when I heard footsteps. The mattress dipped.
– Margot Livesey, Mercury