Female House

The summer my second daughter was an infant, the season was particularly hot and sticky — at least in my memory it was. That summer I just didn’t do certain things — I washed clothes and probably even folded them, but I rarely put them away.

Domestic chaos? Maybe. But I knew I would never have another baby, the  irreplaceable sweetness of a nursing infant in arms.

We were at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center that summer with our 6-year-old for a very minor procedure, and my then-husband and I took turns walking up and down the hospital hallways with an infant. At one point, I stood swaying with my sleeping baby from foot to foot, reading the posters on the wall.

One watercolor was a purple hyacinth blossom with the words beneath: Choose joy.

When I drove away from the hospital, with all four of us, and crossed the river back into Vermont, I was so light-hearted, so happy. It was such a minor thing that had occurred, and we were all together and well.

Now that infant daughter is a teenager, the oldest daughter a young woman. Like all families, we’ve lived through the gamut of happiness and grief and rage. Every now and then, I remind myself, slow down, breathe deep, and finger the strand of life that’s joy.

You might as well answer the door, my child,
the truth is furiously knocking.

— Lucille Clifton, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir 1969-1980

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