Untitled

The beloved just closed her youth music theater company’s production of A Chorus Line, and with that the swing shift part of our family life is slowly, gratefully, opening back to normal. Two of us to do (and trade off doing) what drove a menopausal monotasking Baba half-way up a tree to do solo for too many weeks. With increasingly unhappy kids. Again, I have no idea how single parents do it.

I was already half-way up a tree in the first place, so being driven the rest of the way up it located me at the tippy-top, where the view might be pretty, but the balance is precarious.

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Things aren’t been easy. Life-wise and blogularly, and particularly at the points — few, if significant — where those two lines converge. Those who write narrative nonfiction and draw heavily on autobiography are always in danger of writing themselves into a corner: it’s the Faustian bargain one strikes to gain access to the ever-present gold mine of material. But a corner of some sort is where I seem to find myself at the moment. At least until I can figure out how to turn it.

As a sensitive person (okay, Highly Sensitive Person, complete with capitalization and sketchy Wikipedia bona fides, and by the way don’t tease me; a lot of my best work derives from that condition), I am prone to becoming so moved by the world that I am slowed to an imperceptible pace. Some might even think I come to a full stop, but that’s because they’re moving so fast they don’t notice the eensy beensy, ant-like advance. Okay, so ants seem kinda speedy. Let’s say, lady bug-like.

I’ve seen lady bugs huddled motionless in this very room I’m sitting in now, for what seemed like weeks, in silent congregation at the apex of the ceiling.  Then, when the temperature and light got just so, they slowly migrated toward the window, crawled into position, lifted their wee wing-armor, and took flight.

But so there’s the weight of the world clumping up every now and then.  The public sphere is always a challenge, and the private sphere can sometimes rival the public for pathos, or at least drama. In both spheres the cumulative accumulation of it all can become heavier and heaver over time. The course of human events. Each death, for instance, sits on top of the previous one, which perches on top of the previous one, and so on, like the balancing elephants in that circus scene in Dumbo. I needn’t enumerate the weighty sorrows of the world. I mean really. Open the paper (one must say, proverbially, or virtually, since the opportunity to literally do so diminishes by the day, itself yet another weight, not elephantine, maybe, but palpable). Or if you really need an e.g., here (trigger warning, though).

Alleviation of the weight comes, but not always on time. For some, as the young gal at the other end of that link, not in time either.

There’s also the matter of our immediate family unit being in need of greater material resources than we are currently trying to live on. Time spent here, doing this, is time not spent working for the stuff that feeds, clothes, and houses the kids. So there’s that, too.  It’s not getting any easier, much as I do my darndest to solve the problem creatively, such as by finding a nice deep drift of sand and plunging my head into it.

But finally, and perhaps most vexingly, there’s this: with the girlchild’s leap from preschool to Kindergarten, her world expanded more than tenfold. Literally: her preschool had about twenty kiddles in it, and three or four staff; her elementary school has upwards of 275 kids in it (small, by our school district’s standards), and about two dozen staff. Her capacity and desire to make new friends has multiplied exponentially, too, as has my desire (though not my capacity) to donate time and energy to the community there. Because I’ve already spent so much of my life working on and in public schools. Because this place will be the crucible for my kids’ understanding of community outside their family.

Think globally, act locally, I always say.

So the girlchild’s leap to elementary school has meant that some of my already limited discretionary time is redirected to the school, volunteering.  (Nothing to complain about here: Aside from cutting out dozens of little black construction paper cats for the classroom and chaperoning a pumpkin patch field trip, I been strafing the garden and helping the gardening instructor, himself a volunteer. Never a bad day in the garden.) But the leap to elementary school has also led me to feel that the stakes for whatever I write here have shot way up. Tenfold? Who knows. Could all be a figment of my imagination. Hell, all this could be a figment of my imagination. You, gentle reader, may well be a figment of my imagination, except that a couple hundred of you filled out that survey for me, thereby proving your actual existence, thank you and the deities.

When she was in preschool, the scope of the lil’ monkey’s peregrinations was fairly limited, and her imaginary friends far outnumbered her actual ones. Now her circuits are sweeping wider and wider, and her actual friends may begin to equal, and soon outnumber the imaginary ones. And since Baba is not very playdate-forward (the logistics! the variables to remember! the healthy snacks to have on hand!), Baba has to limit her liabilities. It’s challenging enough figuring out how not to hurt the future feelings of my future tween kids as they read in the LD archives in 20-whatever. How can I do that plus not inadvertently misrepresent (god forbid insult or lampoon) an actual, present-day person (or her parents) who may one day want to come and line up small toys with my daughter?

Mind you, insulting and lampooning good kind people is not in my nature (arseholes? hell to the yeah). But I’m not sure how to even begin to describe all the interesting things I’ve been experiencing without exposing actual people, even if never by name.  I mean, I was worried about our being the only lesbian parents in our girl’s class, one of just two families out of the 60-kid incoming Kindergarten cohort. But then nothing is ever that simple. Meaning, one of the co-PTA presidents is mom to the other kid-of-two-moms in Kindergarten. And the head of our regional LGBT family org has a kid in the school,  another having just graduated from there. Our numbers are teeny, but our people are mighty.

And then, at the PTA meeting, while mannish lesbians were in short supply, white women were phenomenally, overwhelmingly over-represented. In the mornings, when I drop the girlie off, while every kind of parent is hanging around the younger grade kids, it’s white parents who predominate, even though the school is only about a third white.  Much as we struggle to make our ends meet in our household, we’re doing so with schedules we have some control over, such that one of us can bike or even drive the kid to school, and linger there a bit.

The dynamics at the school are kaleidoscopic, not just in complexity but capacity to shift. With the stark exception of the elements that bound and define the space — the powerful impact of wealth and privilege. We have enough of the former, and most of the time, we benefit from plenty of the latter as well.

Can I write about these things in anything but the broadest (and therefore neutered) generalities?  Narrative abhors a broad generality, that’s for sure. But I can’t really figure out how to be specifically descriptive just yet, without beginning to tie my girlie’s shoelaces together, if not to mine.  And alas, I don’t have time enough to figure that out at the moment, either. Or, if/when time appears, I lack enough spirit.  I’ve asked Robin Reagler to allow me to interview her about how, among other things, it came to be that she put her prodigious blog The Other Mother to rest (as it happens, around about the week her eldest began Kindergarten). She has graciously consented, and when I have the time (!) I’ll be able to find out, among other things, whether she faced similar dilemmas. My man Looky, Daddy! closed up shop recently, too, for some reasons quite different than what I’m stewing on, but also some similar, too.

Toward the end of A Chorus Line, one of the dancers injures his leg, and is carried offstage. The director asks the rattled dancers who remain: What would you do if you couldn’t dance? What will you do when you can’t? Thus launches “What I Did For Love,”  a (rather saccharine) paean to the no regrets life, and implicitly, to the value of at least trying to do what you’re moved to do for as long as you can. This is not to imply that I’m about to dim the LD stage lights, as it were. I am trying to figure out whether there’s another act in here somehow, given the prevailing fiscal and social conditions, and if so, to what degree it will resemble the first acts.  ‘Til I make any traction with that dilemma, it might just be photographs and the occasional Mary Oliver poem here. I could do worse.

10 Responses to Untitled

  1. Bionic Brooklynite October 28, 2009 at #

    Polly, please don’t leave. Some of us need you.

    Honestly, this week has been trying enough without THAT.

    • Lesbian Dad October 28, 2009 at #

      Duly noted, sister. And thank you. So far it seems the feeling is mutual (the world makes more sense after it gets filtered through this venue).

      I’m hoping I can just figure out how to re-draw the boundaries around this, or see how they continue to exist (relative to the center) in a new field.

  2. Vikki October 28, 2009 at #

    I’ve seen my own blogging change in the past year or so and, if you were here, we would sit in the yard and have those G and T’s that we talk about on occasion and we could enumerate the reasons. I started blogging when my son was 4and my daughter was 11 months. Now, they are 8 and 4. Early on, I blogged about life as a parent and now I find myself blogging more about life. Things change and evolve. I hope you find your way. Sending love your way…

  3. cardamom October 28, 2009 at #

    Yes, please don’t leave. Those of us who only know you in this cyberworld would sorely miss you! Your thoughtful voice has been such a joy …
    All the points that you say slow you down right now – the need to make money, the increased need to preserve privacy for the kids, the enormousness of the transition when a child enters school – seem very logical. I hope very much that you can find a good creative solution – mainly for you, of course, but – no need to be coy – also for us, your audience.
    Our daughter entered 1st grade last year and it took us at least till Xmas to digest that, all of us. It is simply a different world, a kind of letting go that is portent of many more to come. (You are so good at filtering the general from the specific – I’m sure there’s many a story in there …)
    What this “crisis” reminds me of, too: We have an extended informal group of lesbian parents that meet once a month and then four times a year with the kids; and the experience has been that many women tend to disappear when the kids reach about the age of your daughter. Similar reasons: too many balls to juggle, too many arenas to play in, not really by choice. While I understand that, too, and suffer from many of the same problems, I think it’s too bad for the kids in the long run. They need to be connected and they need this better world that we’re trying to create. It’s really very simple. What’s not simple is finding the strength for it all, over and over again.
    I hope you can find some space to fuel up again.

  4. Juliet October 29, 2009 at #

    As I read this post I instantly thought of Alison Bechdel’s musings on finishing Dykes to Watch Out For in 2008. I remembered her saying that she had been mothering that strip for 25 years and it ‘could get it’s own dinner now’. As I remembered it, I thought there was an analogy here with children growing and demanding different forms of care, and record.

    Turns out the analogy is entirely wrong, but I thought I’d put her analysis up here anyway because I like it:

    “I started thinking about how curiously easy it was to stop doing my comic strip last spring, and how I haven’t really missed it. Hmmm. My comic strip, which for the past 25 years I’ve been producing at four week intervals, like a little ovum. Christiane Northrup says, “Biologically, at [perimenopause] you are programmed to withdraw from the outside world for a period of time and revisit your past. You need to be free of the distractions that come when you are focusing your mothering efforts solely on others. Perimenopause is a time when you are meant to mother yourself”.

    “Which isn’t at all to say my comic strip has only been some kind of community service–I’ve absolutely derived a huge amount of personal satisfaction from it. But there’s a way it doesn’t feel as necessary as it once did, both inside myself, and outside, in the world. Whatever it was I was creating, it’s old enough to get its own dinner now”.

    I have no immediate frames of reference (children, partners on the stage etcetc) with which to offer sage advice, so I can only offer my sincere empathy from one Sensitive Person to another, and hope that you find a way to refuel and take space.

  5. Chumpy October 30, 2009 at #

    I sometimes think parenthood increases our susceptibility to periods like this. We are so used to having to ignore our needs and inner warning signals. When we cease to function it’s often because we simply can’t go on….recovery from such an accumulation is always capricious, tempered by the same conditions that contributed to it in the first place.

    I hope you do find a way to keep on blogging (reading your blog is one of the things that keeps my chin up), but most of all I hope you soon feel better.

    • Lesbian Dad October 30, 2009 at #

      O thank you, thankyouthankyou.

      You are so right (about the capriciousness of so much; about how parenthood — at least I’ve found it for me, this first leg of it, into the kids’ toddlerhood) — can so knock one out of remembering to tend to the self.

      Also you know, I’ve tried hard to be mindful of this venue as a precious opportunity to appeal to the best in others. That’s half because I believe that should be how we go about as much as we possibly can. And half because in trying to do that, I wind up (regularly) cheering myself up. It’s not about being Pollyanaish so much as straining to get a firm enough grasp on the big picture, because doing so is usually a good idea. I’m sure that’s why a lot of people write, period.

      And in a little greater detail, my thanks to Vikki, cardamom, and Juliet. Vikki, it’s really helpful to know how your own blog “beat” has shifted over time, as your kids have grown older and your relationship to what you write has evolved. Very helpful. Likewise, cardamom, it’s also very helpful to know that I’m not alone in being drained by the vastly expanding universe around us. And Juliet, to be likened in any way (even procedural) to Ms. Bechdel is an enormous honor. She wrote a brilliant essay in the early 1990s about her sense of her own gender, her coming out process, her ability to really see women, and finally (ultimately) to be able to draw them. (Short version: her coming out process opened everything all up.) It was brilliant, and I used it in an intro Women’s Studies class for the years I co-taught it with my comrade Susanne.

      Needless to say, the perimenopausal need to mother the self rings very, very true. Explains a ton. Doesn’t quite fit into my schedule right now (or hasn’t; clearly it’s muscling its way in, like it or not). Thank you for that.

      And thank all of you (who are still here) for reading, wherever we wind up going with it all.

  6. Juliet October 31, 2009 at #

    If you’re in need of an extraspecial ego boost: feel free to take as much honour as you like from this, My Truth…I used to compulsively read Alison Bechdel’s blog until I discovered yours. It still check in but, you know, it got trumped.

    x

    • Lesbian Dad October 31, 2009 at #

      No way uh uh no way. Ya big kidder.

      No way.

      Really?

      o

      Check’s in the mail.

      You know I saw Ms. Bechdel in person once, at the Lambda Literary Awards in NYC a few years back. That year Fun Home was named book of the year from Time magazine, and she was there to receive Best Lesbian Memoir/Biography and present a special award (I think to Katherine Forrest?). I was milling around the lobby of the event, drinking it all in (drinking in the people; I only had one or two of those little plastic cups of cheap wine).

      Bechdel finished talking with someone nearby, paused for a second, looked me up and down, and said, “Nice suit.” Of course I gave a smile and a nod back, and said, “Thanks.” I was about to follow that with a big lengthy “And thank you for all your work all of these years, and for illuminating so many of us, and giving me a thought- and mirth-provoking reflection of the life I have been living, largely out of the purview of popular culture,” etc etc and so on. But then someone caught her eye and she’d moved on. I did get the first “Thanks” in, though.

      Our anthology didn’t win the day, but that butch-to-butch nod nearly made the whole trip worthwhile.

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