Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Margaret Dumont and the Magic Handkerchief

So it's been snowing on and off the last few weeks and today I was sitting in the little cafe at the back of the General Store staring out the window at The World's Smallest Art Gallery. Basically it's someone's beatup, old station wagon and every month in the summertime there is a different art installation in the car. You can get in and sit behind the wheel and read about the artist and what the installation means or ponder what you think it might mean. You can wander around the car and you can peek through the windows. Sometimes the installation extends to the outside of the car. It's a pretty cool idea started by some artistic folk who refer to themselves as The Village Idiots. I love that that's their moniker. It makes me feel like I actually belong here. It makes me feel not so weird at times. Or at least that my weirdness is no weirder than that which could perhaps be exhibited by any other person wandering around my village.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the due date of my first pregnancy. Weird to think I could have had a 10-year old running around by now if I hadn't miscarried. I try to picture him/her. I love and mourn the idea simultaneously, but I know this year, for the first time in a decade, this anniversary doesn't feel so sorrow-filled. I am finally carrying a baby again this anniversary and I am almost at 17 weeks. In a week or two or three, I will feel the "quickening". My midwife says I might think it's gas. My mum says it'll feel like a bird. Lesley, one of my best girlfriends ever, says, "it's like a butterfly's wings floating across your tummy". In four or five weeks, I will be SURE it's a kick happening and it won't remain as subtle. I cannot wait for this kind of daily reassurance. I know I will breathe a little easier and feel like this is actually happening to me and that's it's for real this time.

I was pondering all this in the cafe as the snow was falling and when I glanced outside, sipping my chai latte, I wished I'd brought my camera 'cause I suddenly wanted to take a photo of this statue which stands almost right beside The World's Smallest Art Gallery. The statue is commonly referred to as "the Tall Guy" around town. The name of the sculpture is actually It's a Question of Who's in Charge. See, the Tall Guy is slightly bent over as though he has a calcium deficiency and he points down and he's pretty tall so if you were to stand below him, right below that pointing finger, you'd feel for sure like he was the one in charge. No question. The thing is, I've passed this sculpture a gazillion times already. But the reason I wanted to take a picture of it today was 'cause there was a pile of snow piled on his back and neck as he was stooping over to point downwards. And it made me want to get a broom and sweep off that mound of snow that was burdening him. I imagined, as I sat there sipping, the act of brushing the broom across his shoulders and that somehow this small gesture would allow him to un-hunch his shoulders, stretch and stand up straight. Yeah. I'm about to turn 42 in a month or so and I still have these weird, little fantasies/visions/thoughts. Somedays I feel like such a freak, but it makes me laugh too hard to honestly ever worry about it.

I was such a bizarre kid. I was an oddball. Mainly due to an unorthodox sense of humour even from a very young age. The kind of humour not everyone "gets" and sometimes the kind of humour that isn't even funny and is just plain weird, but is, let me tell you, pretty goddamn hilarious to me. It's not malicious or cruel or anything, or even sarcastic-trying-to-be-witty. It's just 'weird'. I'm the looney lass who laughs out loud at a part of the movie that no one else finds funny. Yeah, THAT girl. The kind that drives people who paid good money for popcorn and soda crazy.

My mum is my best straight man. My twin sister always tries to not react, but can't help eventually losing it and giggling at me. My mum, though: she is the Margaret Dumont to my Groucho Marx. I can say (have said) the craziest shit right to her face and she's all, "that's nice, dear." And it's not that she hasn't heard me, you understand — just that her replies to my increasing wackiness over the years are simply her way of being hilarious back. She secretly loves being my straight man, all stoic when the crazy one-liners let fly from my lips. It's why we get along so damn well. Right now I'm reading A Complicated Kindness and man, do Nomi and Trudie ever remind me of me and my mum. Of course, Tash reminds me of me, too. So does Ray, really. But Nomi most of all. Trudie is how I like to imagine myself as a mum to the possible Nomi I may be currently carrying in my womb. I hope to fuck I'm not carrying The Mouth. Boy would that be ironic. A kid whose mum was so wacko, the only way to be rebel was to become some ultra-conservative religious zealot. I best watch myself and tone it down for the first while to ward such a frightening possibility off. I am loving this book, though. It wasn't until I got to page 103 that I realized Nomi had already been compared to Holden Caulfield on the inside of the front cover by the New Brunswick Reader instead of just inside my wiggy head. I giggled and whispered, "no shit" to myself. I was in the bathtub, the place where I always inevitably start talking to myself aloud. I love how my voice echoes over the water.

Anyhow, I started thinking about my baby sitting in the cafe. Is it wrong to hope your kid turns out to be a geeky nerd? To relish the idea? It's not that I'll be hugely disappointed if she or he is "normal" (by whatever societal stereotypical standards continue or are in place by then) or even "popular" or what have you. Just I've always had a soft spot for the goofy types. They remind me so much of myself when I was that age. They remind me so much of myself right NOW at 41. I am drawn to corny jokes, bad puns, braces, thick glasses. I never had braces or thick glasses, but I sincerely didn't need them to be as nerdy as I recall being (and, let's be frank, continue to be).

A few years back, when I actually watched television, there was this commercial I loved. My ex and I used to mute all the ads like they were a plague to be perpetually shunned. But I'd always unmute this particular one. It was actually a commercial against advertising that targeted kids and it featured all these kids being true to themselves: being what they wanted to be, doing what they wanted to do without worrying about peer pressure and stuff. One kid boards a bus with his tuba. Another kid tapdances up a storm. But there was this one boy who gets shown a number of times. He is an aspiring magician. In one scene he saws his little sister in half and near the end of this commercial, he pushes his thick glasses further up his nose before pulling out this magic handkerchief and giving it an honest-to-god flourish. I would wait with baited breath for this, my favourite moment, and release an audible sigh, beaming the happiest of smiles. My ex knew that I absolutely ADORED this kid for no good reason he could understand and he'd always tease me by calling this kid "dork" or "loser" or something every time the commercial came on. I knew he was just trying to make me laugh or react, but I also know he could never understand why my heart was always fit-to-burst whenever I saw that kid wave that hanky around. This little magician was definitely the type of kid that would have been pounced upon on his walk home; the kind who'd have his lunch money stolen from him. Maybe that's why he wanted to perform magic so bad: to make any potential (or very real) bullies disappear. Or maybe just make himself invisible...

The thing is, I kinda went out of my way to befriend every kid in school whether their parents had a pool or just a clothesline and dogshit in their backyard. I didn't exactly have the apparent talent or capacity for differentiation. Yes, I recognized there were cliques, but I didn't ascribe to any of them. It was like Groucho Marx refusing to belong to any club who would have him as a member; only kinda more like the opposite. I decided to convince myself I belonged to every group in some tiny way. I think this was one of the major inspirations for me to develop my predilection for acting and its chameleon-like nature. I don't mean being fairweather or fake. I just mean, I could blend easily with kids of all shapes, sizes and situations and always felt comfortable alongside any defined "clique" or non-clique. The kids who were "dorky" liked me, but they still couldn't understand why exactly I would befriend the guy who bullied them. For instance, there was one guy in grade 8 when I was in grade 7. We were in a split grade together and nobody talked to him and it was widely known that he had been caught carrying a knife to school and shit. Everyone was scared of him and when we'd have group activities, people didn't want him in their group. I remember one day we were all tie-dying tshirts as a school project in the courtyard and we had different buckets of various coloured dyes and were wrapping about a million rubber bands around random spots on the white tshirts we'd brought to school and stirring them in these pots and I remember him being off to the side, alone, trying to act too cool for words and there was something about that kid. I used to always go up to him and say, "hey" and he always looked shocked that I wasn't terrified to speak to him, like he wanted to come across all tough and shit. But then he'd just say, "hey" back and we'd talk about regular stuff. One thing I couldn't stand when I was growing up was watching someone be alienated or left out.

I think the best thing was that I kinda knew how dorky I was, but here was the clincher: I still didn't care and to this day it still doesn't bother me. I think it's one of the best feelings in the world. And I hope if my kid is dorky, or even if she or he is "cool" (however society will define that by the time he or she hits gradeschool), that she or he will be smarter than to be wooed into some exclusionary kind of clique or try to fit in and become like some unoriginal sheep in a massive flock. I pray all my children will be always true to the individuals they are. I dream of them protecting everyone around them from alienation, humiliation and loneliness, whether bullies or bullied. I dream they will be protected in turn.

And I hope when they turn 42, they can still get melancholy picturing leaves falling in the Autumn as though they're tears the trees are crying or that they will sing Happy Birthday out loud in some over-the-top way to their coworkers or that they will wear curlers in their hair at the Tim Horton's drive-thru on the way to work in the morning to give the ladies behind the counter a laugh. Well, maybe only if they're female. Okay, male, female, whatever. Really what I mean is that I hope they never lose their imagination, their fascination with the world around them, their celebration of individuality or their capacity not to let the opinions of others wear them down, inhibit or intimidate them from being true to themselves to the best of their abilities. And to always have the ability to laugh at themselves, without the inclination to laugh at the expense of others.

I hope they never lose touch with the innocence of being a child.

Hear that, baby? You can be wacko just like you're mummy if you want to be, flourishing your hanky all around the town, or you can take after your Wee Irish Nana and become my Margaret Dumont, rolling your exquisite eyes at my kooky behaviour with a cardboard expression. Either way, you'll always be the apple of my eye.


Music: You're Innocent When You Dream, Tom Waits

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Senator of Illinois

I lived in Illinois from 1980-1983. Entering grade 8 when my family first moved down, we lived in a town called Naperville, about half an hour train ride from the Loop in Chicago. My twin sister and I spent our first two years at highschool in the neighbouring town of Lisle. The highschool was Catholic and private. One of the friends I met in the first term that autumn of 1981was a guy named Joe. As an African-American, he was one of the few visible minorities who attended the highschool. After Christmas, I didn't see him anywhere and I asked Cristina, my best friend at the time, where Joe was, had she seen him? She told me he'd quit and left. I couldn't for the life of me understand why. Cristina is Filipino herself and she explained, "the racist comments - he couldn't take it anymore." I remember feeling stunned. In my naivete and at my young age, I always pictured the Southern states as being the areas with that kind of problem.

I am thinking about Joe tonight. I am wondering what he's thinking, what he's feeling tonight. I just drove home from watching an amazing piece of history unfold.

Senator Barack Obama of the State of Illinois has just been elected the 44th President of the United States of America. He is the first African-American president to ever be elected.

I first saw him maybe 3 years ago on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. He was hilarious, witty and spoke so astutely of the Iraq war. The show was promoting his book, Dreams From My Father. I bought the book shortly thereafter and loved it. Obama's writing was so frank and clear, honest, open and heartfelt. Ever since, I've tracked with growing interest the fact that he was touted to be the next possible president.

I feel elated tonight. The last two elections in 2000 and 2004 were literally stolen right from under Gore and Kerry's noses and proof has shown since, quite illegally so.

Witnessing tonight's democratic victory was, simply put, incredible and awe-inspiring. I am thrilled to be carrying a baby who will enter the world where such a man as Senator Obama will be the new Leader of the Free World, the man heading up our world's biggest Superpower.

My twin sister was with me today at my initial midwife appointment where I was able to hear for the very first time my baby's heartbeat. It was so good and strong inside my womb, a nice high count of 170 bpm.

Tonight, watching the election to the South unfold, she told me she was carrying her first child when 9/11 happened. She said how terrified she felt, for herself, her child, her family, her country, for the entire world. She thought it was World War III starting. Of course, we live in the hemisphere where bombs don't hit the ground every day and innocent people do not become collateral damage on a daily basis. Still, I can't imagine the fear she went through and what kind of world she thought her first baby would encounter.

So I feel blessed to have witnessed this awesome event in my lifetime and at this stage of my life. I crawl into bed tonight and touch my belly and feel so much Hope for the planet, for my own country, for our neighbours to the South, for the baby in my womb.

I am so thankful, Barack Obama, that you had the audacity of hope to make your own dream and the dream of your country and its people manifest. You are part of a global dream for many people and the myriad of countries around the world who celebrate with you and your family tonight and applaud your victory. You have given me and my growing baby hope that change in the world can happen, the kinds of change that are needed and a vision and promise of a better world with it.

Can we change the world for the better?
Yes we can! We just did. And we will...

Music: Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hallowe'en Tail...

Hallowe'en was pretty scary for me this year. It started off with a phonecall at 5:30 in the morning from my ex. I bolt upright knowing that a phone ringing this early can only mean one thing: bad news. And it's pretty fucking bad. My dog had a stroke on Thursday night. My ex describes, when he can find his voice, how she'd fallen over, what sounds like some kind of epileptic seizure, her eyes twitching all over, her arms flailing. The way she'd tried to flip herself over to her "good" side. By the time he phones me, he's already admitted her to the Guelph OVC hospital and has no idea if she will be alive or dead the next time we see her.

I am clutching my belly the whole phonecall without being conscious of the act. He says he is sure it was a stroke. He doesn't feel confident she'll survive it. She'd been fine when he'd left for work that morning: standing, wagging her tail, with her eyebrows raised in hope, her dark eyes willing him to stay at home the way she always does. When he got home, she was lying behind the door. He took her outside for a pee and she fell over and started spasming. He managed somehow to get help from this myriad of wondrous people who surround him and actually give a flying fuck about their neighbours. Talk about All Souls. When we ended, he moved to this amazing, artistic community where people come up to you to chat when you're walking your adorable German Shepherd-Husky. Where they throw you a spontaneous welcome party 'cause you've just moved into their village. Where they come visit your dog all day in streams 'cause they've heard she's not good and you're the ex and they talk to you like they've known you for 20 years already. They're in shorts and tshirts in November. They're fey and dressed as Bo Peep for a belated costume party. They're intriguing and refined matriarchs who've raised four boys single-handedly. My eyes shift between my dog at my feet and the new friends she's made since my ex and I split.

The evening before, we find out what's wrong: it's called Vestibular Disease. They don't really know what causes it. Could be a fall. Some hidden tumour in the brain. An ear infection gone cryptic. It starts off like a seizure and suddenly your dog looks drunk. The vet describes it as "she doesn't know what's up from down right now, she's lost her sense of balance".

That morning it's still dark out, not six o'clock yet, as I stare at the wig on my table, the one I'd planned to wear to work for a laugh. My fingers work anxiously over the curled coils of the telephone cord like they're prayer beads. In my mind, I am hearing him tell me the details, but I'm going through the day as it may unfold. Will I get to look in her eyes again? Will she recognize me/us, wag her tail? Will she be gone by the time I get to touch her fur again? Or will she be in irreversible pain and we have to (pause. take a breath here.) put her down? Will he want to cremate her or bury her?

He and I have never had that talk. When she turned 10, it was like we made a concerted effort not to bring up the nearness, the possibility that one day she'll be gone from us. We manage to share her and since we parted, we walk around wondering, will I be there with her? Will she be with him or me when she goes? How will either of us cope without her? It's too painful to swallow the knot building in my throat as I hang up the phone. She will be...would be 11 years old this Winter Solstice. She was 11 weeks old when we got her. We've raised her, loved her, and been loved by her since she was handed to us in March of 1998. Just a puppy. A rescue. Born 500 miles North of Thunder Bay. She had paws the size of Manhattan to grow into. Her nose, a cute, little, stubby thing protruding between deep, dark auburn eyes, hadn't filled out yet. The softest silver tips on her ears. Her mum had been shot and dumped at the dumpster. She'd been abandoned there with the body. She'd had a really rough start and now she was ours. She'd never known what it was to wear a collar or leash. She was as wild as can be. She resembled a little wolf. A timid, sweet, petrified, wild, tiny thing. That's how Unconditional Love looks sometimes. Our hearts completely melted.

After a night of zero sleep, I drive down to the vet hospital. All I intend is to bring a blanket so she has something to lie on 'cause we've been asked not to come see her at all on Friday, that it might stress her out to visit her and then have to leave her in that place. They were talking about monitoring her until Monday. I cry on the drive down thinking maybe I still won't get to see her, picturing the last time I saw her a week ago. I'd been looking at photos and videos of her in the night, praying to the stars fading in the morning dawn. Suddenly I am standing in the reception area clutching this blanket like she is already wrapped in it and the doctor is telling me she's an exemplary patient. She's made a wonderful recovery. She's eaten, she's peed, she's pooped (with the help of 3 vet students). She is on anti-nausea pills for now to help her with balance and she can be released that morning back into our arms. I am led into a room where I lay down the blanket in a square and kneel down. And here comes the manifestation of the prayer I make on all fours, prancing in the room, a little wobby, her eyes smiling, her tongue panting and lolling, wet sloppy kisses all over my face. And there's that perfect fuzzy Husky TAIL, lashing around like it's Babe Ruth's bat ready to hit a homer. Out of the park. Goodbye Mr. Spalding. I LOVE that fucking tail! She almost falls on me in her excitement and I start weeping in mine. Her head is slightly tilted. She is twitching, but it's an old twitch she's had since the broken collarbone in her first year of life when she ran into a concrete bench at the tennis court in Riverdale park near Broadview and Danforth. We can take her home this morning. She will always have a head a tad askew. She will be a little off-kilter (join the club, is what escapes my lips as a slight murmur). She will be clumsy (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). But she will survive (in all these ways, there's no denying she is her mommy's puppy, the resemblance, uncanny.)

My dog is alive today. Her tail thumps a little rhythmically at my foot as I sit and knit and read between her and a warm fire for 10 straight hours at my ex's apartment while he's away working a long day. Waves of visitors arrive with stories and smiles to make sure she's recovering. Her head is tilted as she looks up at me each time she wakes. She leans against my leg a little as I walk her outside to pee. That morning, the vet tells us she'll always have a bit of a quizzical expression and I have to crack a smile. That doc just doesn't know it's something she's always had since she was that lost, little bundle placed into our lucky, loving arms.

I am writing this thinkin' bout the first baby I lost a decade ago, how relieved I was then to have an adorable, little puppy who needed a mommy. 'Cause I needed to mother and it ended up being this crazy, furry, little girl. It is balmy and sunny today, this first day of November, but I have a fire going anyhow. I'm relishing the way my dog's ribs move up and down as she sleeps and I breathe deeply along with their rhythm. My wooden needles click and clack and I pause. My hand moves slowly in a circle over my burgeoning belly. I am now at 12 weeks, beginning week 13, the final week of my first trimester. A new milestone. My Lil Sweet Potato I got cookin in this here oven is developed now and can, apparently, suck her (his?) thumb. A phrase pops into my head: I Yam what I Yam. HA. Then the song. Maybe it's his (her?) way of reasurring me...

I'm strong to the 'finich'
cuz I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.


Take after your mum and her good, ol' dog, kay? Stay strong to the finich. Pinky promise me.

The dark of All Souls Night has passed. It is the Celtic New Year. A Sunny Samhain. And my dog is ALIVE!



Music: (S)He's a Good Dog, Fred Eaglesmith

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cryin in the Bathroom

September 7.

It's 5:10 in the morning. I have to pee like a horse so I figure now's the time. I slip downstairs in the dark, naked and cold. First light isn't even fingering the tops of the trees yet in the back yard as I unwrap the package. There's a three minute wait. I place it window up, put my elbows on my knees and cover my eyes as I lean my head into my hands. I count the first minute to myself silently and decide I can't stay here. Back in the living room now, I turn on my iPod. Wrapping a throw around me, the song that hits the silence of that early morning is Casimir Pulaski Day. I figure this can take up the remaining two minutes. I am contemplating starting a fire in the woodstove, sitting on the couch, hugging my knees against my tits and can't help but begin to weep. This happened yesterday, too, right out of the blue as I stood at the sink, washing the dishes. That time it was Fred's Water in the Fuel and I got all choked up.

I am trying to gather the courage to walk back into that bathroom. My knees feel funny. 'Course they look funny. This has been a long road: 10 years since the first time I saw that double line; 5 years since I last saw it. My mind flashes back to me bleeding all over that examination table, whispering to you to come back when you were ready. In the back of the car on the way home, my sister said she could hear my screams through three sets of doors as she sat with her husband in the waiting room at Women's College Hospital. It was so goddamn hard to lose you. Both times.

I take a deep breath and stand. Sufjan is singin 'bout untied shoes and the great divide. I know all about the complications you could do without and how he takes and he takes and he takes. Too many bloody months in a row. Fucking years. I am whispering please, please, please... My mouth feels parched.

The bathroom door zooms out away from me like one of those surreal hallway scenes in some movie as the blood rushes to my head. I'm dizzy. My feet feel as though they are moving in Slo Mo. My body feels under water. Turning my head as I enter, I peek over and there you are. Thick and dark as can be. I catch my breath, mouth agape, knees quivering, caving. You're back. I can't control the tears now. I am whispering, thank you, thank you, thank you... A month ago, I sat outside all night bleeding and wishing on the Perseids and here a shooting star just fell into my hand. It will be hours before I can tell another soul. But I have you with me so I'm not alone. I am no longer alone 'cause you're back. You're here.

oh the glory that the lord has made

It's 5:15am on Sunday, September 7, 2008 and my heart just exploded.


Music: Casimir Pulaski Day, Sufjan Stevens
video

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Are You There Horton? It's Me, Nancy.

Kay, I don't know if there is something out there. Some creator being or whatnot. Horton actually wasn't exactly that anyhow for the Whos of Whoville. He was someone who helped them, though; someone who looked out for 'em. I admit I'm more like Nick Cave and don't believe in an interventionist God. I do like to think there is something greater than the sum of all these parts. I can't help when I look to Nature and all its amazing patterns, the universe, its cycles, the cycles of seasons, of day to night, that there might be. The Earth amazes me despite all the shit we've put her through. The cosmos is the greatest show on earth, literally. So maybe there is something out there. Some pattern to it all. To us. To our world. Who knows?

A few weeks ago, I attended Music and Movies in the Park. The night I went, the Jolly Llamas opened with a musical set and the screening that night in the park was the most recent hollywood animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' 1954 classic, Horton Hears a Who! My friend, Dawn, and her daughter Devin had a chair waiting for me. I'd really only planned to attend other nights showing Bladerunner and Breakfast at Tiffany's, but Horton was more fun than I would have anticipated. It was a beautiful, warm, summer night with just enough of a breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay. So awesome to sit out under the stars and share a movie with all these strangers from one community gathering, carrying babies, blankets, pillows, chairs and flashlights and laughing on the grass.

The last couple of days I've been thinkin' bout Horton. My twin sister and her husband attended this wedding on a hillside in Vermont last month that was heartachingly beautiful in its simplicity. As it was on the East coast, the groom-to-be had described the sensation of all their friends and family trekking from all across the States and Canada out to this wee spot in Vermont as though they were all some great, big "love elephant" bounding towards them. Their wedding site URL was inspired by his remark. My sis has been starting her own side business of customizing exquisitely designed and handcrafted stuffed toys. Thus, as a wedding gift, she created this gorgeous, beaded, handsewn elephant to celebrate their day. I'm a big one for metaphors and I adore this image. It's popped into my head this early morning. As has Horton.

My twin sister, my own womb-mate, is sleeping upstairs and I let her continue to dream as I write this. It is 5:00 am. In 45 minutes, we will get into the car and drive to a clinic in Hamilton and this huge journey I've been anticipating for so long will have officially begun. All my preparation for this moment is coming to fruition, hopefully literally. And I'm thinkin' bout Horton and the Whos of Whoville.

S'cause I feel like all my friends and family members who know the magnitude of what I'm attempting are out there for me this morning. My chance at success feels as vulnerable and fragile and random really as some speck of dust floating in some gigantic, obstacle-laden jungle. There may be danger at every turn. But there they all are, banging their tom-toms. They're tinging tie kettles and pummeling brass pans for me. They're clanging garbage pail tops and old cranberry cans in some kind of frenzy. Each one of 'em is putting lips to a bazooka, tooting their hearts out on oom-pahs and boom-pahs and flutes. They are all making whatever noise they can so some Horton out there might hear 'em. So that what I'm carrying, my own lil' collection o' microcosmic dust specks, these tiny universes unto themselves, will be protected and safe. My womb is flowering, unfolding its petals to catch them so they will be able to survive and live...

I can hear the clamouring din. I feel it pounding inside my breast, echoing my own heartbeat. It's making me cry as I write this in the dark of early dawn. I am so moved by their efforts on my behalf. They are simultaneously my colossal love elephant out there in the world as well as each and every Who in Whoville whom I love.

Small wonder that Loxodonta Africana is my mother's favourite creature. I'm thinkin' bout my mum a lot this morning: how wonderful a mother she's been to all of us; how perfect an example to inspire me at this time. And she's so damn crazy 'bout elephants. I can't help loving them myself this morning. For an animal whose gestational period is in years not months, I can relate. I've been waiting for this moment for years myself and I hope it comes true. And like an elephant, I'll never forget all these voices and hearts resounding out there for me in Hope that it happens. I won't let you forget it, either, if I ever get to tell you this story. This is the first fucking book I'm gonna read you...

But for now, right now, I climb to the top of the Eiffelberg Tower alone. I am Jo-Jo. I no longer want to be afraid of Hope or shy away from joining in this hullabaloo on my behalf. On yours. I no longer wish to be "cautiously optimistic". I want to yell with all my heart and every ounce of my fucking being (which includes you). I realize that my voice, my Hope, is the important li'l bit that's maybe been missing before.

And Horton? Christ, I hope you're listenin...open those big, floppy ears, hey? Please hear me, hear this communal prayer goin' out from the mouths and hearts of all of those who love me. For the one(s) that I am dying to love. I am singing, screaming out to the stars above me:

"YOPP!"

Music: Love Reign O'er Me, The Who

Friday, August 8, 2008

Robin Eggs, Shooting Stars and
the Number Eight

My grandmother, Lily, was very superstitious. It’s because she was “fey”. She was terrified of the gypsies. Behind Number 8 Walkinstown, Dublin, the field held a number of caravans living in it. The gypsies would come to the door asking us to fill their bucket with water and my grandmother would put The Fear of God into us with her pointy finger, “be nice to the gypsies”. She didn’t want a curse put on her house.

Lily had the Second Sight. She could tell when certain things were about to happen. I “take after” my grandmother, is the phrase in Ireland. I am fey. My mother is number three of eight children. She is fey, too. She’s only begun to really admit this in the last decade or so. She and I have a weird connection. Well, not weird exactly. Maybe “unearthly” is a better term. It’s like we know each other inside out. And most of what we know, we know without really talking about it. She makes me feel like Petra in the fucking Chrysalids. If we could stop reading each other’s minds, we might achieve a normal parent/child relationship. But I think our connection is a result of the fact that I was the last to leave her womb, and some kind of invisible cord remains between us, unable to be severed by a pair of dull, hospital scissors.

My mother tells me I am a changeling: that the faeries had switched her real baby with me. It isn’t a cruel statement. It isn’t even meant to be a joke as much as it is an acknowledgement that I’m a bit of an odd duck. She would watch me when I was younger and she’d bite her lip nervously if she saw me staring at a tree too long. or um. talking to it. She’d purse her lips at me when I’d bring home half dead animals. Kay, some of ‘em, I admit, were completely dead already, but I couldn’t just LEAVE them there, could I? Just LYING there like that with one leg stuck up in the air or a wing all crumpled? It was shit like this which caused her at these times to lay her hands on my shoulders and with her eyebrows knit tighter than a cabled aran sweater, in a panicked whisper, she’d cry, “Are you fey? Are you fey?” I always thought she was asking if I were ill when I was younger because of her tormented expression. I learned later that to be fey means to walk on the borders of Faerie. Banshee is the anglocized version of Ban Sidhe (meaning simply Woman of the Sidhe or Faery Woman). The Sidhe were the faery race in Celtic mythology and they weren’t tiny like faeries in other stories are; they were called “The Lordly Ones”, being of unusual stature. In this way, I’m not exactly like ‘em. I’m only five foot two. And I don’t even have eyes of blue so I can’t sing that damn song either. My friend, Paul, who is an amazing singer/songwriter, says he can’t stand that song. He thinks a guy would have to be an idiot to go around singing, “…has anybody seen my gal?” He’s like, “get up off your ass and GO OUT AND FIND HER YOURSELF!” HA! That’s solid advice…

No one writes songs about hazel eyes. Did y’ever notice how many songs there are about blue eyes? S’crazy how many there are! The only song a girl with eyes like mine can feel akin to is Brown Eyed Girl, by Van the Man. Or um, likely more apropos is “A Pair of Brown Eyes”. Good aul’ Shane. But no one, to my knowledge, has written a song about hazel eyes. Prolly 'cause the only thing that rhymes with them is, um, "nasal" or "appraisal". "Basil" maybe. None of which makes for good romance...

You’ve got hazel eyes like mine. Yep. I sealed the deal today. I found you two days ago. Your essay choked me up. I saw two of your photographs. In one of ‘em, you’re a teenager. Your face reminds me of my favourite uncle, Christy. He was a handsome devil. He was a good and kind man. Crazy funny. Witty as all get out. You look like him. In the photograph, you’re in this football jersey even though your essay and profile doesn’t read like a jock's. You’re artistic. You’re pursuing acting. You like a book to change your perspective on life. And you have hazel eyes…

My favourite of the two photographs, though, is your gradeschool picture. You look about six years old. I love the way your little fist is curled as your head leans on it. I adore your striped shirt. Your shy smile. Your bright eyes. The fact that your shirt is buttoned up to the neck makes me weep, I admit it. The whole image makes my throat catch. You look so sweet: a wee, gentle soul. The kind faeries would steal and replace with a changeling. Finding you has snapped me out of the growing dread I’d been feeling.

See, my robin nested a second time above the side door. She’d had five babies this past Spring and she was nesting again end of July. But I was leaving the house last week and found one of the eggs broken on the ground. I’m not sure if it had fallen or if she had tossed it out. I became that child again bringing home the dead. I scooped it up and brought it inside the house. Over the next few days, I watched her. She wasn’t sitting on the nest. She was looking at it. She was off to the side looking at it. Then she flew away. And I haven’t seen her since. There was one lone blue egg left in the nest. When I was sure she’d abandoned it, I took a spoon and scooped the egg out and brought that one inside, too. It is so round and perfect but I know she wouldn’t have left that nest if she’d felt a heartbeat. My own heart has been in my throat all week. I touch this egg once a day. I talk to it. I keep thinking of my grandmother and bad omens. Of superstitions…

But today I can breathe. Today is a lucky day. It is August 8, 2008. It is 2008-08-08. It is 08/08/08. Today is full of eights, my favourite number. Today makes me think of Number 8 Walkinstown. Of the eight children who grew up happily in that house. Of a perfect figure 8. Of getting behind the 8 ball. How it's so like the symbol of infinity. How it looks like two eggs. No: one egg split into two. Like identical twins. It looks like perfection. I am thinking of motherhood. I am thinking of someone else's mum tonight. I am thinking of becoming a mum. I am breathing again because just after midnight this morning, I made the decision to go with you. The blue dread of robin eggs is leaving me. My nerves are only slightly tingling. They are finally calming. I am so thankful I found you. I am thankful that your essay coaxed tears. I am thankful for your spirit. The spirit in which you offer such a gift. And I am opening myself finally to be filled with Hope. This is all I am doing now: I am waiting to bleed.

This should happen Monday. The 11th. It’s the peak night of the Perseids again. Last year I caught 26 shooting stars in 40 minutes. And all I can think of is the two babies I’ve lost and how I picture them as stars shining up there over me. This special cycle is gonna begin with a fucking METEOR SHOWER! My little stars will gather all their friends and dance across the sky for me and I will wish wish wish with all my heart to catch a star of my own. In my hand. In my trembling, open hand.

A gift…

Music: Wonder, Natalie Merchant