When my youngest was just over a year old and not yet walking, I was at a child’s birthday party around a pond. I sat her to play on a blanket. Her back was to me, and, after a while, a little girl ran over to me and said something was wrong with my baby.
My baby’s eyes were watering terribly. Before long, she seemed to have trouble breathing. A woman I had just met drove me and the baby to the ER. I sat in the backseat, talking to my littlest, hearing my voice speaking quietly, as if I was dividing in two. I knew I was terribly afraid, because I wasn’t panicking.
By the time we had reached the ER, whatever bothered her had passed. Although I had her tested for multiple allergies, this event never occurred. But for the rest of the summer, I felt as though a knife had sliced over me, shearing off some essential part of me.
The pandemic has changed all of us — both over a year, and in smaller, sharper pieces, as in my family’s recent case. The New York Times shares stories today of new lives emerging, reshaping and reforming. Of lives going on.
Way back in the last century, when I first moved to Vermont as a young woman, my then-boyfriend and I drove in the middle of one night to Boston. We passed through tiny Massachusetts town after town, shuttered up and dark for the night. As our old Toyota hurried through, I wondered who lived there. At two in the morning, hardly anyone but a parent with a crying baby is awake.
Walking downtown last night, while my daughters wash our dinner dishes, I marvel how the pandemic seems to have placed us in a very long 2 a.m. In the dark, I pass a single masked person. Treading carefully on the ice, we each half-raise a hand, a human version of ships passing in the night.
This morning, my neighbors’ lights are off. Last year, with their youngest, their house lights glowed at all hours. Now, at 6 a.m., the house remains shrouded in the darkness of sleep. And so it goes, I remind myself, night always yields to dawn.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.
On a rainy morning, I received lushly gorgeous photos of a baby brand-new to the world through my library email. In my inbox of book buying, interlibrary loan info, event details, the news of this baby girl dims everything else to irrelevancy. A little girl. A healthy baby.
Heather Harpham, in her new book, quotes the figure that 245 babies are born every minute. Statistics? Oh, so what.
Hallelujah: the town of Woodbury is one soul richer.
My first child, my girl, was born just before seven on a spring night, perfect… She smelled like sliced apple and salted pretzels, like the innocent recent arrival from a saline world that she was.
Eleven years ago, I drove away from Copley Hospital in Morrisville, sitting in the backseat of a car – a place I never sit. My six-year-old daughter was in the backseat, too, her infant sister between us, just days old. Although it had rained every single day in May – either a drizzle or deluge – the beginning days of June were sunny and hot. Leaving the hospital, we passed enormous corn fields where emerald shoots of corn had emerged from the dark soil in those few days I had been cloistered.
Sick through almost the entire pregnancy, by the end I was less alive, submerged in that pregnancy’s difficulty. But all that passed immediately with the birth of my second daughter. Within minutes of her birth, I felt myself returning to life.
In all the marvelous experiences of my life, those minutes driving by those June corn fields rank very near the apex: the two children I was meant to have, beside me birthed and healthy, the gloomy raininess of a long hard season dispersed, and all around us, radiant in sunlight, those fertile fields rich with life pushing upward, in those long sweeping rows of gems.
blessing the boats
(at saint mary’s)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
As a new mother, I was surprised by the weight of children; even babies, carried all day long, are heavy, and nursing in the nighttime, my arms often drooped with exhaustion. While my daughters are long since beyond the babes-in-arms stage, all afternoon yesterday I carried buckets of mulch and compost, bent with my hoe and scythe, and tugged my garden back from wilderness into domesticity: for a brief bit of time.
Step away, and the raspberry canes will run their way back. Creeping buttercup – or creeping crowfoot – proliferates knottily.
May is the season of optimism. I’ve planted melons for my watermelon-loving daughter, and promised to water well. The vertical territory of my beds lies low yet; visit in a few months and – like growing children – the vines will be lushly magnificent, the peppers spread out and holding hands, the bachelor buttons in bloom. May, like mothering, is the season of patience, too.
I’ve always preferred the woods in America to the woods where I grew up in Hampshire, which I can never help knowing are the hemmed-in exception to towns and villages and farms. New England is the other way around: a series of clearings in a forest. Keep walking north, and the clearings will shrink, until there are none.