The Dress and the Snake


Wedding Walk

“The Dress and the Snake”

The time to watch a sunset is twenty minutes.  Is it longer in Heaven?  Are the colors the same?  My heart flattens, flutters and it is hard to talk.  Speaking now, I feel as if ropes have caged my heart and made me sad.

What is underneath this sadness?  Fear?  Anger?  I am not sure.  My soul seems to be standing.  Everyone thinks I am holding up well.  So brave.

I feel weak, breathless at times

Always present

I’d like to run until I reach Egypt

But I have the responsibility of staying.

This coat I wear does not want winter to come.  The naive mind of spring bursts in my heart.  Death has no colors.

It made me feel secure thinking Dad would live on like Su Aht said.

“No die.  No die this year.”  Then, the re-calculations, like a mortality math question.

The place where my wedding dress is being made is attached to an oriental grocery store.  The sounds and scents are strange.  As I now have been in there many times, I have become friends with Su Aht – my tailor’s mother and teacher.  She has noticed my ripe tears and wounded heart.  Her English, non-existent, folds many layers; we speak silently.

Su Aht asks, What year my dad was born.  Her daughter translates in Thai.

“How old is your dad?”

“74,” I say.

“What year he born?” Pantanee translates to me, as Su Aht looks wise in the eyes.

I reply curiously, “1929.”

Su Aht sits in her corner and pulls out her Thai zodiac book, thumbing through the pages.  She settles on a page with the Chinese zodiac.  Click, clack, cluck.  She counts in Thai, her finger running in a circle.  She does it again and again circling the circle with her fingers.  I nibble on the peeled apple slices she offered.  Their sweet taste teasing me.

She looks happy; she says with a smile, “No die.  No die this year.”  Then blurts out more in Thai.  I say to Pantanee, my tailor, “We need a translator here.  She might be on to something!”

Pantanee chats with her friend in English on the telephone.  Whispers of conversation blurt out. “He’s no good for you.”  I hear her say in English.  She comes over and tells her friend to hold on.  Pantanee and her mother, Su Aht, speak in Thai, counting, clicking.  Strange sounds emerging from their tongue.  Mother tongue melting.

Pantanee starts clicking, clacking, counting.  They both look up somber, sad as if they have bad news.  “This is the year of the snake to die,” Pantanee says with quilted accent thick.

Su Aht speaks softly in Thai.  Optimism erupts from her eyes.  Pantanee translates her mother’s thoughts, “If he can make it past this year, he will have more years.”  I nod and think.  I really don’t know much about the Chinese zodiac, but think of it in a positive way.

There are pictures hanging above Su Aht.  I was looking at them as she figured my father’s cycle in this world.  She caught me look at the elder monks dressed in orange-red robes.  They looked like Gandhi.  She turns in her chair motioning with her hands clasped as in prayer.  I say to myself, “I am open to many things, but please don’t make me pray to this Gandhi like person.”  Then Su Aht reaches for a mango.

She goes on counting and clicking as I slice mango.  She offers a sauce to dip it into.  I taste to be polite.  It is gross.

I look at my dress and see so many things embroidered in it – culture, love, tradition, my father, my mother, my sister, my friends, my love for Rich, my future.

The dress hangs in the tailor from Thailand’s shop exposed to so many things.  When I step into that dress next Sunday and walk down the aisle with my father I hope Dad will walk towards another year, but accept it perhaps is time for this lovely snake who I call Father to swim to Heaven.

Author’s Note:  I wrote this essay when my father was ill with cancer in 2oo3.   I was married twice; the first time was upstairs in my parent’s bedroom on November 23, 2003.  My father was not able to get out of bed, but he was able to “walk me down the aisle.”  It was a beautiful wintry day in Wyoming.  A blizzard blanketed everything with several feet of snow the night before.  The snow glistened and looked like magic sugary crystals.  It was a beautiful day.  Today is the anniversary of his death, December 11, 2003.  December 10 and 11 are very hard days for me.  He passed away in the middle of the night.  My mother held his hand as his pulse quickened.  She had gone downstairs to get him a fresh popsicle.  He sucked all the juice from it in one gulp and looked at her, as his pulse quickened.  What a brave woman she was to be able to endure that moment for him.  I would have lost it.  But my mother is an amazing person who loved him.  They were soul mates. 

The second time I got married was after my father passed in July 2004.  It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony (photo at the top is from that wedding.)  We had a good time.  I will post photos and write about that wedding in another post.  I was very lucky to be able to marry my soul mate twice. 

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I think of my father tonight, as there is a lunar eclipse.  Many blessings to you all if you are struggling with the loss of a loved one or the anniversary of a death of a loved one.  The holidays shove “happiness”  and
holiday cheer up our asses, most of the time unwillingly.  I am super Bah Humbug during this time.  I shake it off in about a week.  You’re not alone with your sorrow.  Just know that. 

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Fight Stance


I have always been one to rise to a challenge.  I work better under a hard stiff deadline.  I actually work better when my back is to the wall.  I come out fighting. 

My thesis defense got moved up two weeks.  I had planned on turning in my thesis before Christmas break, but I have to turn it in to committee members this Friday.  So it has to be edited and ready to go by Thursday for my thesis advisor to have one final look to see if it is ready for thesis defense. 

My thesis is about my experience as a new mom.  It is a collection of essays and journal entries.  There is one Facebook status update too.  The thesis was originally titled “Motherhood — The New Frontier,” but I think I am going to change the title to the first line of the first essay.  My advisor said I have more than enough material to write a book about the first two years of motherhood.  I am only including fifty pages in my thesis.  And I certainly have over 200 pages of raw writing.

I have learned that the writing process is pretty grueling, at least the editing part.  It is necessary to make a manuscript readable and enjoyable for the reader.  I have grown a lot as a mother and as a writer over the past three years.  Benjamin has been with me since the first day I started my graduate program.  I found out I was pregnant the first day of graduate school. 

So, because time is an issue and I still need to soak my old bones in an epsom salt bath, I am going to post some photos.  Our family is co-sleeping.  Ben is too big and takes up too much room now in our queen mattress on the floor.  We are trying to transition him to his new toddler fire engine bed.  But we will tackle one thing at a time.  Right now, I am focused and ready to tackle my thesis challenge.

“Rise up!”  That is what my husband says when the Patriots are playing defense.  “Rise up!”  I will rise to this challenge. 

I also hear, “Dig deep.”  That is what my Providence College soccer teammates would say during games.  So, I’m digging too. 

One of the things I have written about in my thesis is morning tub time.  It was initially started as decoy of boredom from morning play mat time when Ben was just eight months old.  The sunlight streams in our small bathroom window (about the size of six cereal boxes stacked two wide, three high).  The silhouette of the Bradford Pear tree in front of the window creates the most beautiful fluttering leaves on the bathroom wall.  It is really beautiful.  So here is a photo of that. 

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Another thing I am really grateful for on my journey through the new frontier is a group of women who are supportive of my parenting choices (extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping and Attachment Parenting principles).  But most of all, they are just cool women with kids and babies of their own who I can get together with when the loneliness of motherhood strikes and when I need some adult interaction.   It is my humble opinion that playdates are for mothers.  It is nice for the kids, but for me, playdates have been a saving grace.  I have made a new friend within this group that I really adore.  She is funny, intelligent, an art enthusiast, creative, wonderful with kids, and I think she really likes me.  She’s an old soul. 

The slide show below is from our day at the park flying a kite.  She gracefully and casually took out a colorful kite out of her grey wool coat.  It was a late November day and air was crisp and chilly.  Ben loved that kite.  I peed my pants running the kite.  But it was worth it because I haven’t flown a kite since childhood.  (Just a funny sidenote as I have no shame — I thought I needed to change Ben’s diaper when we got back in the car — it smelled pretty strong.  When we got home, I asked my husband to change his diaper.  Well, what do you think hubby said?  He said, “Nope, his diaper’s dry as a bone.”)  Looks like I need some adult diapers if I am going to be running any kites or marathons! 

My friend and I laughed about this lovely side effect of motherhood on our kite adventure.  She said, “Yeah, there’s a reason they tell you to do those damn keigels and it ain’t related to sex!”  We laughed deep from our bellies and more keigels were needed.  I love her honesty and humor.  I never have to censor with her, not that I am any good at that anyway.

Flying kites should be mandatory inner child induction.  We also walked near a cotton field and let our boys explore the picked over field.  Cotton is a beautiful crop.  The soil tells so many stories.

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I remember a journal entry I wrote for my thesis about wanting to find a mom friend.  I was so lonely as I transitioned from working mom to stay at home mom(Ben was four months old when I returned to work from one month maternity leave and three months of summer vacation.  I was a teacher.  I quit my job four months later in December of 2011). 

Journal Entry March 9, 2011

I saw a mom pair today and instantly got jealous.  I wanted a mom friend.  A mom friend is a friend whose a mom with a kid the same age as your own.  They were pretty young girls, younger than me, probably in their middle twenties.

I’d take anyone for a mom friend.

I will end this post with a slide show of Benjamin and some of our recent adventures.  He is certainly my muse.  

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Thesis is a Bear


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These are photos of my thesis, Motherhood — The New Frontier.  It has been a bear.  I am so over it.  I want to give it space to breathe and maybe, only maybe, expand it into a book.  Right now, I want to douse it with gasoline and light it on fire.  I have had to condense it to fifty pages.  I have had to listen to my advisor tell me what is wrong with it.  I have had to grow.  But I feel like carrots in the ground.  I may have grown, but just keep me below the soil.  It’s warm there. 

Carrots

I don’t like the cold of criticism.  I get it.  It’s part of the process… yadda yadda yadda.

Here is one of the excerpts from my thesis that didn’t make it in.  It is a journal entry.

               3/9/11 Journal Entry

               I don’t even know what date it is (I have to look at my phone to see).

                I’m so exhausted.  My mind is mush.  It is mush from sheer exhaustion.  And I really haven’t done that much.  Well actually, I have – I swept and mopped the kitchen, Ben’s room, and the parlor room.  I walked ½ mile with my mother-in-law and ran, jogged, walked another ½ mile with the baby in the baby carriage.  I cooked dinner and I cared for a busy, crawling 9 ½ month old.

                Ben is playing fetch with himself.  I’m seated in the oak chair in the kitchen now, puke green color on the walls, the shade of lemon and lime sherbet linoleum under my chair.  Ben is sliding across the floor like a crab.  He crawls with his left knee tucked under him and his right is raised in a crab walk position.  He is stationary for this moment, enthralled with a baby blue ribbon with white polka dots.

                I’m waiting for Rich to come home from work.

                This feeling is a mix of hopelessness, desperation, and utter exhaustion.  I’d run out the door if I had somewhere to go – but I really feel so brain dead.  I feel more exhausted than I did at the end of the day when  I taught twenty-seven fourth graders, including five students on ADD medicine and one, rather large, curly haired, line backeresque girl who had autism.

                Motherhood is kicking my ass.

                I’ve decided to write in my own voice and turn my motherhood project into a journal.

The theme of my thesis seems to be the kicking of my ass.  Also, the wonderful moments and that space in-between.  My thesis ended being a collection of essays and journal entries on motherhood.  I thought it would be easier to document the many emotions of motherhood.  I found it is like trying to stuff the ocean into a sandbag.

I will walk with my classmates on December 16 and graduate with a Master’s in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.  I will defend my thesis in January and then when it passes or gets accepted, then I will technically graduate.  But I have a Phd in Motherhood just by doing it.