Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.
My daughter wouldn’t tell me what she was scared of when I crawled into her bed in the middle of the night.
I’m scared, Mommy.
I don’t want to tell you.
Maybe I can help?
Stay with me in case it happens again.
What, sweetie? What happened?
I don’t want to tell you.
OK, sweetie. Try to go back to sleep, OK? I said as I curled myself around her warm body. I wanted to sleep, too. I wanted to ignore the mewling baby in her crib in the bedroom on the opposite end of the tiny second floor our house, (actually my office, actually her temporary bedroom I remind myself as I type, sodden diapers still on the floor after 12am and 3am diaper changes, do you have to poop sweetie, why the hell aren’t you sleeping, are you sure you don’t have to pee? I ask as I sit her little butt on a plastic potty next to my desk.)
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out out brief candle!
Her wall was on fire. She woke to her wall on fire. This is what my three-year-old told my husband the next night. This is why she was scared, this is why she needed to crawl into my bed after I crawled out of hers, toss and turn next to me until we both thankfully fell asleep at which point her sister woke once again and I cursed under my breath and blinked my eyes into the darkness, the moon shining through a break in the curtain making me think a light was on in the hall which meant my husband might be up which meant it was thankfully morning but it was not; it was just the moon. I lugged myself out of bed next to my now sleeping toddler (please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up), picked up my sitting-up-wailing nine-month-old from the crib, stumbled over a stack of research books and magazines (its my office, its my office, its my office) and sat down in the wingchair, pulled a boob from my shirt, winced slightly at a little mouth with sharp teeth latching on.
The wingchair was my first purchase when I got to the island. It was $15 dollars at the thrift store, curved wooden legs, golden brocade with dusty pink and green foliage. I sat next to the small propane fire in my small studio reading book after book, journaling, drinking tea in the quiet of the afternoon after long walks through the woods. At night I might meditate or read some more or phone a friend, legs hanging over the curved arms. Or I’d sit staring at the wall where dozens of post-its conveyed the touchpoints of the memoir I was working on for hours each day. A memoir that decided it was a healing process and not ready to present itself to the world. A hundred thousand words of healing and learning how to write, how to finish something. So much time in chairs, so much time in silence or listening to music that wasn’t Frozen, so much time doing whatever the hell I wanted.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
She was quiet, the baby in my arms. Or mostly; her little mouth made those newborn-y suckling sounds even though she wasn’t a newborn anymore but she was still my nursing, oh so dependent baby. A car headlight shone through the layers of curtains, cast a shadow on her tiny face. What is a person doing driving so late at night, I thought. It seems ridiculous to me that so many years ago I was able to stay up until 3am, wake at 7am, go to classes all day, see friends and lovers and shows and music, create, read, study, shower. Day after day. Maybe sleep in on the weekends. Yes, that is youth. Yes, I miss having that much energy. Yet, even with sleep deprivation deepening the dark circles under my eyes and clouding my thoughts, I am doing OK. I may not be wandering the streets of New York City at 2am anymore, smoking bidis, sober and reciting verse or drunk and peeing next to a shuttered shoe store on 14th Street, skirt hiked up to my hips and giggling, ignoring the business men stumbling by, but that is a blessing. Now I am up at 3am, totally sober and smokeless, studying the gentle curve of my baby’s lips against my skin.
Yesterday I sat alone in the car (an anomaly) listening to a segment on NPR about the musical RENT, which opened 25 years ago January. I saw the musical during my first week at NYU. Blocked out seats for all us freshmen one sticky August night. I was enamored with the show, not just the lore behind the scenes, but the idea of being edgy, reckless, devoted to one’s art amidst urban decay, giving a middle finger to the Man.
La vie boheme!
When I was 18, I had the story that I would be an actress, that I would be famous, that I would never be just a wife in the suburbs. I railed against the status quo, read the Communist papers, wore thrift store clothes, drank the cheapest of drinks at dive bars in the East Village. In reality I was a privileged white kid whose parents paid for private university, room, and board. I thankfully wasn’t a junkie or forced to squat in decrepit apartment buildings.
Still, I had dreams of an artistic life. I wonder what my 18-year-old self would make of me now: wife and mother, living on a farm? Or what about my 21-year-old self who returned to NY to finish her degree after traveling through India to find herself and realized what a privileged a-hole she was but who still wanted to make art? Or my 25-year-old self who sailed from San Diego to NYC via Panama on a 32-foot boat and started writing about it on a laptop strapped down to the table down below? Would she have shuddered at the thought of such mundane days and nights with a baby clamped on a boob or a finger painting with a toddler?
It is a tale told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The story has changed. I have changed. I still want to share my art but the art is different now, informed by decades of wandering, adventure, regrets. Now it is informed by literal and emotional grounding: living on a farm, soil perpetually stuck under my fingernail. Being present with two small children day after day. The fallow joys of being in one place for years instead of just days or weeks or months. My home is filled with music: my husband’s favorite post rock as he cleans the dishes after another nourishing meal from our land. Disney soundtracks and my three-year-old singing at the top of her lungs wearing multiple layers of dresses, insisting on intricate braids in her hair imitating her favorite characters. Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore! Occassionally I’ll get to play my records on the record player. Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel, the record I used to play while sitting on the windowsill of my dorm room, staring out at the city, wondering what home could actually look like.
Now I know.
In the middle of the night, for stretches, it is quiet. I sleep. I dream. I wake up with a heart on fire.