Thursday, February 24, 2011

Baby, Baby.......

He had been at Hershey Medical Center for a week, transfused and under lights, getting his bilirubin count down. We had visited, but he had been out of my arms for a week. And although at 8 lbs., 6 oz. he was by far the largest baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, it is torture to see your child blindfolded, with electrodes pasted all over him. And heartbreaking to know it was torture for him, too. This was the baby who cried in his cradle but quieted instantly when he was laid beside me. The one who matched his breathing to mine as we slept.

So when he was discharged and we picked him up, I, who gave talks on the importance of seat belts and child safety, removed him from his car seat to nurse. I should tell you now that I lucked out; the drive was without incident. The sun set on our long drive home. The sky filled with gold and purple, Neil Diamond sang, "I Am, I Said" on the radio, and my baby nursed on.

That's always been a vivid memory, the baby so real when I think about it. How long do babies last? Everyone advises us to savor the first year because it goes by so quickly. It's true, and after the first baby we know all too well how true it is, and yet the second one's first year flies by just as quickly as the first. Our infants disappear, just as our two-year-olds will turn three, and our eight-year-olds will turn nine, and our twelve-year-olds will become teenagers.

Most of the time we're not aware of the loss. We're too busy trying to keep up with the changes, for one thing. We just naturally accept each metamorphosis. And I'm happy to be able to report that it does even out after a while; thirty-seven is just not that much different from thirty-six. :-)

But I recalled that sunset tonight, and Neil Diamond's song, and that gorgeous baby snuggled into me, and I wondered if perhaps the baby felt more real today than he should, considering that his own baby will be born this year. It's time for another metamorphosis of sorts, a time to welcome the new. And believe me, the new will be most welcome.

I just realized that almost exactly a year ago I wrote this. What is it about late February and nursing baby memories? Perhaps I have had enough of the cold.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Art and Soul

A close friend is running a series of independent art films at the local library, and thought I might be interested. That's a reasonable assumption; I'm active in the arts community, and I'm originally from New York. You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many people assume all city dwellers have intellectual leanings. My friend knows me better than that, but apparently not as well as she thought. I have no interest in independent art films, especially ones that require me to read subtitles.

It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I was drawn to foreign film festivals. New York is a great place for film, including Lincoln Center, where I worked. I read some pretty heavy stuff, too, including a lot of plays. Camus' "Caligula" was a favorite—don't ask me why. I read it on the subway. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Today, instead of Sartre I'd rather read Robert B. Parker. (The rhyme is unintentional. Sort of.) And my taste in movies is, well, light.

So at the library a group of about a dozen watches a movie and then discusses it. This week's movie is said to be "fraught with love, passion, despair and religious animosity." Somehow, this doesn't sound light. The word "fraught" alone gives it away.

No doubt the group will spend some time on symbolism. Even back in my Lincoln Center days, I wasn't crazy about symbols. I rarely seemed to get them right. In college, symbols could put me in a bad mood. I remember giving an oral interpretation of a poem by Emily Dickinson, a poet who—at least according to the experts—made liberal use of symbols. When I finished my presentation, the professor told me I was wrong. "How do you know?" I said to her. "Emily's dead. It's possible that I'm wrong, but it's also possible the 'experts' are wrong."

If I'm going to sit in a group and talk about something, I'd rather discuss firewood. Firewood is relevant to my life, especially right now, when I've gone through my stash of the perfectly dry stuff and am dipping in to the pile that can best be described as "seasoned but somewhat wet." I could share what I know about firewood, which isn't much, but could possibly help someone less experienced than I. And undoubtedly I would find others in the group who could give me advice to improve my woodstove and my heating bill.

Sure, I'd like to talk about movies. But my contributions would go something like this: "Didn't you love the line where Steve Carell goes, 'All of this may be premature. We don't even know if you can bowl.'"? And, "My favorite scene was where they all get trapped in the blues club, and aren't allowed to leave until they sing the blues." That would be a fun discussion. We would laugh a lot. It's hard to laugh when you're discussing despair.

Maybe the difference between the youthful, intellectual me and the mature, silly me is that in between the two I lived through love, passion, and despair. Not religious animosity, though. There are advantages to not attaching oneself to a particular religion. And thank God for that.