This is my morning exercise. This is the nesting of my mind, my attempt to straighten house and ready myself. I have done it in three three-hundreds for the kind souls who keep coming back to read more.
First, the Baby
People keep asking if I’m ready. I don’t know. There is a bassinet from Jesse, with a soft blanket from Jeanne inside. There is new cedar shelf on the wall and a knitted deer from Ruth on top. There are cloth diapers from my idealist friend and disposable diapers from the rest of them. Our bags are packed. I have swallowed the vitamins and peed in the cups and planted the vegetables. There are flowers in the window boxes and the corn has tasseled. I have gained over thirty pounds. I have caught the mouse.
I have married a kind man. He is patient with me. He makes things beautiful. He says soon our lives will change forever. We will have another person with us for a long time, Lord willing. We will not run off so easily and get soaked in the rain anymore.
Our time alone went by so fast. This is what every dying person says, given the time: It went so fast. Soon we will die a death together. We will come back to life with a baby, less sleep and a gravity and weight of responsibility unlike any we have known. Even in the ICU, you clock out.
My friend Kimberly said when she went home with her first child, she couldn’t believe they let her just walk away with the baby like that.
My friend Lore shared this quote recently, and I can’t shake it. Children are, like these other good gifts, a fruit that comes both from and to the deepest part of you. They are born of fellowship. They call out all the beauty and love you didn’t know you could have and all the ugliness that needs to wash away.
Am I ready? Oh I hope so, but I don’t know.
Then, the Turkeys
We have new neighbors, a young family that has set up a weekend mini-farmstead, but they have a turkeys and the turkeys stay all week long. I have come to disbelieve in the domestic turkey, like the atheist disbelieves in God, which is to say, their existence is daily forced upon me and I resent it.
I would argue that there is just no need for the domestic gobbler when they live so contentedly, blessedly, in the wild. A wild gobbler is like a good preacher: he knows when to stop. He has love for the open air and respect for the lunch-hour. He knows his listeners will more readily chase the truth when it is bold and startling, like the pealing of a bell, then elusive, like a great hunt. This is art.
This is also what it means to eat well, wouldn’t you say? To have some respect for your food. I no longer have respect for the domestic turkey, insidious as a peacock and not nearly as attractive.
It is a fact that you don’t become neighbors in a true sense until you need each other. In the rural south, there is often a thread of violence in this, as in these actual phone conversations:
My dog is running loose and he’s stupid but please don’t shoot him.
If you see my dog, would you please shoot at him so he will come home?
There is a rattlesnake in my yard, would you come shoot it?
And so in keeping with this, I plan to take the new neighbors cookies and a card. The cookies I must work on, but the card is ready: Hey welcome to the road! Here are some cookies. If you need any help killing your turkeys, please let me know.
And finally, the Father
It is possible to live a steady quiet life and still feel like the human trampoline, to quote Paul Simon, flying, falling, tumbling in turmoil. The human heart is a landscape wide enough to hold the prodigal son in the pig pen, the elder brother in the bitter field, the distance between them… but it is too small to hold the father. This is what I am learning.
To become like the father takes time, but more than time. It takes the initiative of the Father, the first love, the first move. Then it takes pain. Room will be made inside yourself, a place for people to grow. You will hurt to be touched. You will weep and leak and bleed. Lines will come out across your skin, wrinkles, veins, dark spots and white hairs, like words on a page: there was a man who had two sons. You will let them come. Every day you will become less like the woman in the magazine and more like home, recognizable in every frame, familiar. Son, you are always with me. They will know you by your hands, your feet, your side, your voice that will need to be heard every day, that will ever call out, will ever respond. You will not wait to give yourself away. You will not wait for them to grow better or wiser or more careful. All that I have is yours. You will let your youth be over. You will become like a map in the hand, used, pocketed, recalled to mind, forgotten.
Above all you will become easy to find. This is who the father is: He is. He cannot, will not, wander off, and neither can you. This is how you will die, for the children. This is how you will live.