Mon 11 Apr 2011
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire
– T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, Part I, The Burial of The Dead
April is a love letter, the worst kind. it sneaks up in flowered paper and leaves you twisted and gasping at its end. its mud holds all the carnal knowledge of dust to dust, all the endings from which beginnings start again, another year.
maybe we never bury our dead completely. dirt piles up on the graves we make, layer by forgetting layer, but dirt is fragile. the rains of April wash it loose.
it was raining, that morning five years ago when i started out.
the crib sat in the next room, an act of faith performed on our behalf. Dave’s parents had bought it and set it up for us: left alone, we might have wavered, too afraid to call down the eyes of the gods on our hubris. but it was there, sturdy and ready, covered in tinfoil to discourage the cat from nesting in it. i ran my hands up its old-fashioned spindles and caught my breath. it was an artefact of promise.
i named the blog cribchronicles.com ten days before Oscar was born. now, i blush at its domesticity. but in that moment, it felt crazy brave.
it said, this time we will bring him home.
the blog itself was Dave’s idea. he asked, and i said no, i couldn’t possibly, and then, well, maybe i could and he said yes and he set up the wordpress account and bought the domain. an act of faith. my words were bottled up and choking me, all this crocus blooming in the raw earth of April and my terror and my grief, and he saw and he opened a door and i walked through.
and so i began this witness, this love letter, five years ago today.
and now it is five years gone like *that,* another rainy morning, and i am stunned. an eye-blink. and i try to imagine this past five years without this space and i cannot, because this is one of my lilacs out of the dead land, these children, yes, but also these words and this work and this community, these friends. memory and desire.
it was raining last Friday afternoon when i met Susan in DC.
she was among the first bloggers i connected to, more than four years ago now. she wrote smart, humble, patient posts about her last baby, and her toddler, and science, and i thought, i have something to learn from her.
she discovered that summer that she had cancer. she beat that cancer, and a couple more to boot. the fight is ongoing. she writes about it. but she writes about living, mostly. mothering. being a NASA scientist, and a writer.
when i flew into DC for Theorizing the Web – which was fabulous and warrants its own post, coming soon on the theoryblog – i thought maybe i’ll go a day early. maybe i can finally meet Susan, if she’s feeling up for it.
then it was raining and i had a cold and she had scans that morning that will tell if the tumours are growing and i realized at the last minute that i’d asked too much but then my phone rang and she was there, at the hotel.
and one of the gifts of this blog is that everytime i meet someone i’ve known from here it is like meeting an old friend but this one afternoon will stand out for me for the rest of my days. because she took me on the subway into the city through the rain, the two of us without umbrellas, splashing like kids, and we went to the Library of Congress and stood under the vaulted ceilings in that temple to knowledge and the mythos of a nation and the tour guide asked us both if we were twenty-eight and we very nearly kissed him and it was like playing hooky, for a minute, from time and the rest of the world. there is an archway there with four mosaics on the ceiling, science juxtaposed with family and poetry with education, and we posed like muses in our representative corners and i felt like maybe that hall was built solely to house the two of us in that moment. or like it should have been, even if all the names on the tiles were dead men.
she stopped on the stairs. i don’t remember exactly how she said it, only that there were tears in both our eyes. i know she said the word “die” and i thought she was brave to insert it into the conversation, to breach the hull of the unspoken. i know that the afternoon light shone in on us off all that marble and gilt, and the rain outside was invisible for a moment. we read the gold plaque that testifies to the power of authorship, us two brought together by words. and i know that what i heard her say sunk deep in me and told me, in that timeless place, that words matter. that all we leave behind is what we make and share. love. legacies. lilacs out of the dead land.
something to learn, indeed.
it was a perfect April afternoon, joyful and raw and close to the bone and the soul, both. and i thank her, for bringing me, for sharing it with me.
Dave’s parents came again this weekend while i was gone. they brought a bed this time, a full twin bed for Oscar’s fifth birthday ten days hence. it waits in the shed for the pirate quilt to be unveiled. Posey will graduate to his toddler bed. and the crib will go, its spindles no longer needed here.
it has a drop-side and The Law tells me i should not pass it on, though it is sturdy yet. and i wonder, do i bury it? honour it? light it a pyre in the backyard?
it will be gone but its legacy will still be here, in these words. as will mine, someday.
i thank that little crib, for being true to its promise. and i thank you, for being here, these five years, for witnessing.