Friday, August 31, 2007

Sinn Fein

Here is the time for the sayable.
Here is its home.
Speak and attest.
More than ever
the things we can live with
are falling away,
and ousting them, filling their place:
a will with no image.
(Rilke, from the Ninth Elegy)

Read this. Something has to give.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


We had a staff meeting this morning to commemorate the second anniversary of the storm. The director of the agency asked each of us to bring in a reading, or a symbol of hope, or a story--something of personal import. Since my primary symbol of hope is probably at this very moment taking a nap on the floor of her day care classroom, I settled on a song. It's been a personal favorite for many years; I'm a sucker for a slow, haunting piano accompaniment.

I loved this song before The Storm, but hearing it now, it takes on a completely different meaning. I tracked down an interview with Peter Gabriel wherein he explains the meaning behind the song's lyrics; apparently he had a dream in which the psychic barriers seperating people had disintegrated, allowing everyone full access to everyone else's thoughts and feelings--a sort of mental/emotional flood. In the dream, those people who "were used to having their innermost thoughts exposed" survived, while "those inclined to concealment" suffered terribly.

And isn't that what happened after The Storm? Didn't we all feel so connected, so open, like we were mainlining each other's pain? In my field we talk a lot about resilience--why some people survive intact while others fall apart. To me the whole resilience dialogue is a bit off; it assumes that some people just "do better" with tragedy. I tend to think of it in terms of softening and hardening: after a terrible event, some people soften, others harden. My job, as I see it, is about encouraging the softening, and acknowledging the hardening.

This song, this beautiful song, is about softening. Opening to another's pain. It will be those who gave their islands to survive.

Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Girl

Saturday, while Cade attended the Rising Tide 2 conference, Sydney and I did something we hardly ever do: nothing. We hung out at home for the duration of the morning, save a quick jaunt to the playground at City Park. We read books, did laundry, played with the cat, and moved a bookshelf from the landing at the top of the stairs. After her nap we went for a romp in the sprinkler, then took Baby NuNu (a frilly pink doll Cade's grandmother picked up at the thrift store where she volunteers one morning per week, named--by Sydney herself--after the plastic pacifier that hangs on a string around her neck) for an afternoon promenade, during which we finally met our new neighbors across the street. They have a 17 month-old son, and a pool, and a dog, and cookies which Jaun Pablo's mommy doled out generously. So, all in all, a very good, very relaxed, very abnormal day.

It's so different when Cade's not around; not different good, or different bad, but just plain different. There is an intensity, a certain focused attention, that is necessarily diluted when the three of us are present. For example: at several points in the day on Saturday, Sydney would climb into my lap, stare at me in this close-up, searching sort of manner, and take my face in her hands, where she would hold it for several seconds, just staring, sometimes biting her bottom lip intently, as if struggling for words. What was she trying to communicate to me? It felt like love, the unadulterated kind, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I wanted to go to RT with Cade this weekend, but made the final decision against going precisely because I knew what I would be missing: this opportunity, these small, private moments, this inexplicable happiness. And it is moments like these that make me think about having another child--not simply because its fun, and fulfilling, and just so incredibly beautiful, but because I sometimes worry that the depth of my love, the intensity of my feeling, will prove to be too much. Its too much for one person, is how it feels.

Is that totally insane?

N.B. It's nice to discover that we're not the only family that had a worth-mentioning sort of weekend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Note to Self

Sydney has fallen in love with my keys--specifically the key to my car, which comes equipped with a variety of buttons and lights and which has consequently provided loads of accumulated entertainment since it was added to the play repertoire last week. Car rides have become rather hysterical, as she does not yet understand that the key has to be in the ignition in order for the car to run, which is why I found myself in a state of frustration and general stupidity yesterday afternoon as we pulled up to our house.

"Mom-eee!" she'd screamed, the entire way home. "Keys! Please keys!"

"Not now, baby," I'd said, soothingly, calmly, over and over and over. "When we get home."

So, when we got home, and I pulled the keys from the ignition, I reached around and handed them to her. (It pains me just to write this.) I had promised her the keys when we got home, and here we were at home, and damn it, I was tired of explaining to a 2-year-old the finer points of car mechanics and patience and overall decorum. So I handed her the keys, got out of the car, and was walking around the back to get her out, when...


You probably saw it coming a mile away, right? I didn't. For some reason, it never occurred to me that she might lock herself in. With the keys that I handed to her. Like a total freakin' idiot.

Before you could say "worst nightmare" I was on the phone with Cade, begging him not to be mad at me, commanding him to leave work immediately with the spare key, trying to keep the hysterical voice at bay, the one that was screaming about the heat, and the dangers of dehydration, and the woman I knew at Tulane whose 3 year-old son died in a locked car in the middle of a parking lot in the middle of the summer in New Orleans, several years ago.

"Calm down," Cade said, not mad at all but--gasp!--laughing. "Nothing's going to happen. You're standing right there."

And it was true, I was standing right there, with my head pressed against the window, begging my child to push the button, no not that button, the other one, yes, yes--no, the other one, yes, now press it again, one more time, keep pressing, that's a good girl, mommy loves you, keep pressing...

And so on. She, of course, thought the whole thing was hilarious. "Hi, mommy!" she said, laughing and tapping on the window separating the two of us. "Push a button!" "Mommy outside!" "Sydney inna car!"

After a few minutes and way too many worried glances from passers-by, she finally pushed the correct button and unlocked the door. I called Cade and told him the news, then hustled her inside for some air-conditioning and fluids. She settled down to play, completely unfazed, while I huffed and shuddered and cursed myself for such a--what's the word?--thoughtless mistake.

Lesson learned, I guess. Why do I always seem to have to learn the hard way?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Our House

Sydney's new class (commonly referred to as "The Twos") is working on a project focused on the home. Each child was asked to bring in photos of their home and families, and the teachers have helped them create pieces showcasing their photos and describing the child's home life. After fishing around for pictures that did not include 1) a binky , 2) a Katrina 'X' or 3) a basket of unfolded laundry, I finally settled on a couple of mediocre pictures of the three of us and one shot of the banner Cade put up when we finally came back to New Orleans in mid-November 2005. The banner--which nearly pushed me over the crumbling cliff of emotional equilibirum I had been trying desperately to maintain--read:



He hung it in the space between the living and dining rooms, where it stayed for months. It hurt to take it down--maybe it felt like an omen, like bad karma or something--and when we finally did take it down I packed it carefully in a box and stored it in the back room, where it has remained and will remain until she comes of age and I force her to assume responsibility for her own mementos. The banner is, to me, a reminder of that homecoming, which was horrible and sad and confusing but felt so good, it was so good to be home with our two-month-old daughter, who we were sure would come to love the city with the very same fervor. The banner was about struggling, and hoping, and coming back.

I included this photo out of desperation, mostly; I was already way behind in getting the pictures to her teacher. And it was so interesting to see it up on the wall that afternoon when I came to pick Sydney up, alongside a paragraph that read something like: My parents hung this banner when they brought me home from the hospital. Everyone was so excited to meet me!
Well yes--that was how it should have been. In reality the situation turned out quite differently.