And the wisteria did not survive the harsh winter,the one I planted and the one that would bloom late. It’s branches brittle and and trunk bendy from the snow. But in my dreams and in my heart we still dance in perfect time, you and I, holding hands together. Wisterias bloom with no help at all, their branches drooping down in blessing, our rhythm blowing in the wind. I’ll cradle you my sweet one, in my arms and rock you, and we’ll mark the time – perfect time. We’ll mark the time together, you and I together, softly dreaming of blooms that drip from branches forever. A time when the Fifth of May is just a day – a day after the fourth, a day before the sixth, and has no significance – other than it is a day to dance together.
As many know, I take a break from writing (publicly) for a brief period around this time of year. My yearly hiatus was never planned or strategic, it just happened naturally and I really am not certain if it will continue to be this way forever. As of now, my calendar year runs from spring to spring and I celebrate the new year with tulips.
Each tulip is a miracle. A bulb is planted many months ago with the hope that something will actually pop out of it and bloom. It must be planted at a certain depth within the ground and survive — where I live — a very harsh and cold winter. Hidden beneath the icy snow, under several layers of cold temperatures, this bulb will huddle inside itself and wait for its time.
Tulips are for celebration. And, as it happens for me, a time for remembrance.
There was a time when I would have written a time for grieving, and if I were very honest I deleted ‘grieving’ and typed ‘remembrance’. I do think that there is a bit of grieving for each moment of remembrance. Within two weeks time one spring I went from celebrating to grieving for my baby. Just that quickly. And just that fitting for blooms that stay at their peak for a short time.
And so, here I am, almost three years later after I let go of my sweet one. I still feel a prick in my heart when the tulips bloom, though this year I also felt a hum of sweetness knowing I had this child for a short moment. I could watch my 12-year-old son run in circles with his 21-month-old sister until they were bumping into each other and imagine another child in between just a little bit older than my baby — maybe spinning, maybe being naughty elsewhere. Who knows?
Who knows what will come from the ground when the bulb is covered and waited on to bloom.
If my life turned out the way I wanted when I was younger I would have been blonde-haired, blue-eyed, big-boobed and pale-skinned like all the other Southern California robots I grew up. I love my brown hair and eyes, and I love my tan that never goes away. As a child, all I wanted was to never be noticed, never stand out and always be looked over. Some things don’t change.
I would have been a waitress, a ballerina, Wonder Woman, a private detective, a mermaid, a lawyer, a nutritionist, a mom, a teacher, a wife, and psychiatrist. These days I feel like Wonder Woman, play private detective sometimes, act like a lawyer with some people, am a mom-teacher-wife, and see a psychiatrist.
I would have traveled around the world by now, and according to the game MASH I would have married the most popular boy in school, be driving a Corvette and living in a mansion. I don’t remember who the most popular boy in school was at the time, don’t want to pay the insurance on a Corvette and definitely don’t want to clean a mansion. I would have given anything back then to make sure my life now would be Perfect — whatever that is — only so that I could know I succeeded in making my parents happy. I wanted to be Enough. Pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, talented enough, perfect enough. And now I’ve just had enough.
As a child I wanted so badly to have a houseful of kids that I could love and laugh with. I wanted to cuddle and feel tiny arms around my neck. I wanted to feel some kind of closeness that I knew was out there. I didn’t know as a kid that bodies sometimes just don’t work or cooperate.
As a child I knew my home wouldn’t have yelling or angry silence. It wouldn’t have spite or glares. There wouldn’t be discomfort or edginess from elephants being in all the rooms. I had long planned my home would be warm and inviting, where people could touch the walls and pick things up off tables. A place where family pictures were on the walls. A house with color on the walls other than white. All this has come true.
There were so many countless hours spent with my chin resting on the side of the pool, my body weightless in the water. I can see myself even now. My neighborhood was silent except for a dog-barking every once in a while. Hardly any kids, and it wouldn’t matter if there were as I wouldn’t be allowed to play with them anyway. I’d close my eyes and think about the laters in life. I wouldn’t ever be lonely when I’m old.
And I’m not.
I actually can’t remember how my son found my heart. I do remember when he gave it to me, though. He shyly held it up to me and said, “I found this for you, Mama.” In his little boy hand was a rock in the form of a heart. And I loved it.
My boy went through a phase, as many boys do, of collecting every rock he could find. Every rock was a treasure, held crystals, jewels, or fossils. I found rocks on the floor, on the couch, in the cushions. They would even fall out of the dryer whenever I opened the door. There were rocks everywhere. I never wanted to tell him that his lava rocks were really asphalt or his fossils were just strange sediments. It was his own little world and I was just to sweep up after him.
He was little at the time, back in his rock collecting days. These were the days when he didn’t have to worry about much and could leave buckets and Tupperware filled with rocks and cement bits in the garage. He could steal flowers from the neighbors to give to me. There was no such thing as “bullies” or “low self-esteem” or “drug awareness” or “strangers to avoid” or “inappropriate things on the internet”. All he had was finding hearts in the rocks and sparkles where no one saw any.
And that is what is perfect about my little boy.
Oh I do believe there is no other more seductive word in the world than “control”. I love to be in control — of myself, the environment, of situations around me. I need control in order to function. Much of this has to do with my personality. Much has to do with being a sexual assault survivor. Regardless of where it comes from it is just as much a part of me as my hair is brown. And so when I lose control it can be overwhelming to me — even if it’s something silly.
My first pregnancy was one lost control moment after another. Everything was felt in exuberance and with relish. I threw up with passion. I craved food like a drug addict needing a fix. My exhaustion was so complete I couldn’t remember driving home. My senses were an electrical parade and they were fritzing out. It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to me that my usual self-control would disintegrate as soon as I got a positive, yet it did.
The realization finally struck me on the Day of the Peaches. What a terrible day.
My nausea had been near debilitating. This was before the days of Zofran and we old-timers had to get by on soda crackers and gingerale. I was teaching full time with no preparation period and I would come home to sleep on the couch for hours, not wanting to eat just to see it be well-represented again later in the toilet. So when I came home from school on this one particular day and spelled fresh peaches I was surprised to actually feel my stomach growl. I thought I better eat one since a peach sounded good at the moment.
These particular peaches were freshly picked from peach trees. At the time, my husband was coaching figure skating and these were given to us as part of a payment for his coaching fees. Normally I’d be a little irritated by that because you can’t pay bills with in-kind income, but I didn’t seem to mind that day.
I stood at the counter, the size of a piece of art paper, and peeled a peach so I could eat it slowly. I was worried about keeping it down, thus ruining my love of peaches forever. I waited and realized that the first slice was going to stay down and ate the rest of the peach.
What was the precise time of my undoing? The moment when I ate the last of my peach and thought how if one went down so well maybe a million more would, too. I reached into the bag and pulled out another peach. Ate that one. Then another. Then another. I have no idea what came over me. It was like I was having a salacious love affair with these peaches and I had to have more.
I really have no idea how many peaches I ate that day. It was all a blurry haze by the time my husband came home. He found me laying on our couch, hands on my pregnant belly, looking completely ill. This time it wasn’t from the baby, it was from eating too many damn peaches. I felt so unbelievably nauseated that if I moved I thought I’d lose it. I didn’t move all night long, pathetic as I was, and he refused me any sympathy.
Thankfully I still love peaches. Just one at a time.