excerpt from "The Natural"
Annabel and I are sitting in Brew Ha Ha eating orange pound cake. She has just emerged from a morning at her Spanish-immersion pre-school. I have just emerged from working out at the gym. She tells me that she played in the kitchen area with Olivia and didn't sit in circle time (a chronic problem) and that she missed me. "I didn't cry," she tells me, "But I got tears in my eyes." The woman at the next table says, "Isn't she sweet?" And she is.
Then Annabel says, "You have a ponytail, Mommy. You be Hermione's mommy, and I'll be Hermione."
The logic of this eludes me completely. To buy time, I pop a lump of cake into Annabel's mouth and wrack my brain, shuffling through chapters and movie scenes. Does Hermione's mother have a ponytail? Have we ever actually met Hermione's parents? Hermione's parents are Muggles, right?
"Hermione's parents are Muggles, right?" I ask.
Through a mouthful of cake, Annabel gives an impatient grunt.
"Um, so, what kinds of things do you think Hermione's mother does?" I ask.
"Mommy!" protests Annabel, forgetting her coffee shop voice, "Don't ask me questions! You're Hermione's mother! Be Hermione's mother!"
I look at Annabel.
"Hermione, darling," I say in a truly lame British accent, "Why don't we go to the bathroom and brush your hair? It's really ratha tangly."
My daughter picks up her milk cup and turns her adorable face away in disgust. The woman at the next table gives us both a look of sympathy. Don't worry, I want to tell the woman, I'm not all she has. She has Diane.
"The Natural" appears in
Searching for Mary Poppins
excerpt from "Wide Awake"
Charles breaks with day into our room, his clear voice, black eyes, and small square shoulders registering as radiance, even to my half-awake, half-reluctant senses, even in the early dawn dark. In the crib next to our bed, Annabel stirs in her delicate, animal sleep. I am waking, and my waking is--or wants to be--an easing into morning, stretching, groaning, relearning the joints of my body, testing the climate of wakefulness. But Charles is newly three, an age when moving from one state of being to another is as effortless as stepping through a doorway, or running through it, full tilt, yelping about pancakes. The kid is loud. The baby is asleep. She's five months old; her sleep time is something we feel we've worked for, earned in some hardscrabble way, scratched from the earth like coal or diamonds. No way she's waking up.
It's my turn, so I'm up and downstairs with Charles, who's started a conversation with someone, possibly me, possibly not, about the pachycephalosaurus, the hardness of its head. He's breaking the word into it's roots: pachy means thick, like pachyderm, mama, thick skin, elephants are pachyderms, the mouse on Dumbo says it like packee-doym, remember, mama, and cephalo means head. And, as only the world's worst parent would ignore something like this, I start to talk to him, point out the bigness and hardness of his own head, groggily coin the word "Megapachycephalocharlesaurus." I lay a hand on the top of that warm, round head, and--boom--here I am, wide awake in the middle of my life; there's no going back.
I'm thirty-six, just turned. I've been married ten years. I have two children, although it might be more accurate to say they have me because it's a clear certainty that in both the most basic and most complex ways, I belong to them, as they will never belong to me. I have had two pregnancies, two births. Because of my circumstances (amazing husband, financial stability, planned pregnancies), I was able to experience both births as miracle. Though it sounds odd, they were miracles I was prepared for, which is not to say they weren't startling. Foreknowledge of one's participation in the divine, the eternal, the cycle of life, biology's best magic trick, however you want to imagine it, doesn't preclude being rocked to the core when the actual baby--screaming and slick--emerges from your actual body.
What I was not prepared for was that as soon as they were born, my children were inevitabilities. Both times, I looked into my new baby's pink face, leaf-shaped eyes, and understood that in a very real way, all the events, not only of my life, but of human and pre-human history had been leading up to this particular grouping of cells, this live, loud, singular organism. In being born, they could never not have been born.
Except. Except that my thirtieth year was the year of profound indecision, of back and forth, the year our children slipped in and out of my imagination like little ghosts. It was the year my children almost didn't happen.
"Wide Awake " appears in
The May Queen