Monday, January 23, 2012


There's a guy who works at the newsstand where I sometimes buy a pack of gum on my way in to work. He won't give me my change until I look him in the eye.

Somewhere deep in my grouchy, little soul, I applaud this practice. We ought to see each other. See each other. Love each other.

But at 7AM, I can barely stand myself much less anyone else.

The reassembling process has become more efficient with time but not really any easier.

Emerge from the primordial ooze of sleep.
Remember that I am a wife.
Remember that I am a mother.
Is the baby breathing?!?
Yes, the baby is breathing.
Not a baby anymore either. That's good.
The other baby.
Oh my god! One of the babies died!
My daughter died.
Everyone dies.
And existence is just a happy accident anyway.
In fact, compared to the vast sweep of time and space, my entire lifetime is just a blink.
And if I take the long view--the geological time view--we will be apart for hardly any time at all.
Snooze a couple more times.
Wade back into the ooze of wakeful human-ness.
Take shower.
Walk dog.
Catch train.
Remember all of those other things that are supposed to be important... gum...

Why can't Mr. Eye Contact realize that I've assimilated the entire human experience already this morning? I've swept aside our differences. I've demoted my daughter and placed her unbearably short life back in its place as not-the-worst-thing-that-has-ever-happened-to-anyone-ever-ever-ever.

Even though I think he's being a presumptuous shitbird, I celebrate Mr. Eye Contact. His continued existence, our continued joint existence, is a glorious thing. Whatever struggles he may be having right now are important to me. But I haven't even had coffee yet.

The people at the coffee stand don't force me to look at them.

Just saying.


I read an article a couple of weeks ago about bird songs. Apparently birds in urban settings tend to sing in a different register than their rural brethren in order to be heard over traffic and the general bustle of city life. I'm assuming this is also why Philadelphians (including yrs trly) sound like we're trying to shatter glass or convene a pod of helper dolphins when we speak to each other.

The implications are pretty heavy for birds. Birdsong is a learned behavior that has everything to do with mating. The researchers who supplied the source material for the article speculate that the changes in songs could impact mating choice so drastically that it could lead to speciation. I'd put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence but it would be way too nerdy.

On the human side of things it also seems akin to working out internal noise. Think of all of the stereotypes and assumptions that you have to wade through to even begin to have a real conversation with another person. What would it be like if we could just understand each other or if we had the tools to at least try? Is Mr. Eye Contact an oppressive dick or is he onto something?


My internal voice barks orders at me all day long. Everybody has problems! Nothing is guaranteed! No one said it would be easy! Vada a bordo!

I robot my way through it. Take shower. Walk dog. Catch train. Get paycheck. Assure that C will not have to worry about you. Make it as easy as you can for her. Fix it.

Fix it.

So many paths up the mountain and this is the one that made the most sense?
Entrust her daily care and nurturing to someone else.

She'll be happy when college is paid and we are able to take awesome vacations. Someday she won't even notice that her sister is gone. Soon she'll stop asking when I'm going to grow another baby. Next Christmas she won't look for a new sister under the tree.

The cashier thinks that I don't look at him because I believe he isn't worthy of my time. If I wasn't in such a goddamn hurry with trying to fix the unfixable, we could grab coffee and and I could share many opinions about worthiness.

But I don't have time and he's an asshat for making me think about all of this shit before coffee.

Buy gum anyway.

Look for a different newsstand.


  1. I just typed this meant-to-be-short-but-kept-getting-longer comment and it disappeared like a puff of smoke.


    I'll write more when I've finished smashing my Mac with a hatchet.

    Cathy in Missouri

  2. I just love this:

    Why can't Mr. Eye Contact realize that I've assimilated the entire human experience already this morning?

    Because its my immediate and kneejerk internal reaction when someone says to me, "I don't think you understand..."

    Really? Really? What reality is so out of my ability to grasp when indeed I process and reprocess, sort and bundle the reality of my daughters every day? What nugget of truth are you trying to give to me that I'm just not picking up?

    I think my birdsong has significantly morphed. But the philadelphia song is a beautiful one to me. Which reminds me...I'm coming to your town in a few weeks...DM coming soon.

  3. I was SO pleased to see a post from you pop up in my reader. I've just done a happy dance around the living room.

    I like that description, reassembling. Get that Mr. I. Insist on Eye Contact. This lady has reassembled herself from the ground up this morning and that's before breakfast.

    It still takes me by surprise some mornings, casting about for the other baby and then remembering that she died. I don't think I'll ever stop the mental equivalent of a sharp little intake of breath when I remember that she died. But the retorts do come faster these days. But still . . . . I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy when I come to the conclusion of my own internal resettling which is that her death was not the worst thing that could have happened to her ever-ever-ever. Cold comfort when that is where you come to rest. Still better than no comfort at all I guess. And who said entirely happy was something to aim for.

    I'm quite taken by the idea of bird song changing leading to speciation. And that internal noise, perhaps it is no wonder that so very few real conversations ever seem to happen?

    I wish that I could fix it. I spend a lot of futile time trying to fix it myself, I don't even quite know how I intend to, where to even begin. Entrusting care and nurturing to someone else seems to feature in my plan too and she's not even going to get a college education out of my salary. Argh.

  4. I'm a bit shaken today, a friend of mine just died. But you have no idea how much this post helped. You just always make so much sense.
    So, thank you.
    And welcome back.

  5. This post made me laugh and also sent shudders of recognition straight to my bones. I am promising myself that I'll be gentler with N, who has a harder time with mornings than I do, and maybe this is part of why.

    Thinking of you as you try to fix it. I wish with all my heart that fixing it was easy, or certain, or even just reliably possible.

  6. So your early-morning, first-internal-conversation struck me the most. Often I have these weird thoughts, like if I was ever clunked on the head and was knocked out, the list--when I came to and began to recollect--of who and where I was would commence with "i have a daughter who is dead."

    Yes. Maybe Gum Man is on to something, but he need not foist it on you before coffee. Just give me the damn gum. I've already lived a lifetime before seeing you today, sir.

    I always love reading your posts. They really are excellent.