I want to talk with Kristin Hersh
about how she manages to get anything done. Just how the heck does she make such amazing music with three sons, a bunch of dogs and a husband orbiting around her?
Because there are times, like right now, when my kids are freaking out and screaming. Full on, open mouthed tonsil dancing eye squirting earsplitting screams. Hanging from my left arm, pressing the keyboard. Times like now when I can not see past this moment and all I want is a quiet place to stick my head.
I lose my words in I want I want I want, until my personal intentions for the day have been cast aside. Everything but my words are undone, the bed, the dishes, the diapers. And I can not believe I never saw this picture hanging on my future, back when I thought 95% of any parenting moments would have to be fabulous because I was going to be the coolest mom ever.
But I am not nearly as cool as I thought I would be. I don’t pretend it’s an easy task, this motherhood thing, which turns you into a nutritionist, art teacher, mender, finder of lost things. You do not so much shape a person as you just kind of facilitate their development. Then you do all this along with your own mind-blowing head-trips. And I expected to be much better at it.
I do have mother-like instincts. How else could I remember to turn off the stove and wipe my hands on my shirt while running up the hallway, not stepping on landmines, seeking out the sad sound of a wee one who fell down with a loud smack and cried out, Mommy…I…Need…You. Someone has fallen and it’s only me can fix it.
I know cures, mostly magic words that surprise even me, “I know you’re mad about the apple juice. Here is a honeysuckle flower!” I know herbs. I talk birth. I write what’s around me. I can make a bed with two kids jumping in the middle of it. I have made 320 gallons of milk in three years nursing. I like big cheeks and blue eyes and baby heads bowed together to discover something. I love the smashy smashy of my lips on their cheeks, like pressing my face into bread dough just before baking it. I love their low rumbles, the giggles, and watching them think. You should see me haul my giant son around. I am fierce but vulnerable, like all mothers.
But I also have this vivid fantasy of myself in some dusky bar, in a black sweater and jeans. Smoking and having stimulating conversation with someone very engaging. Admiring the shadow on their cheekbones, subtly flirting. Mentioning my book tour, my amusing stint on This American Life, perhaps filled with witty little anecdotes about Ira Glass, and “OH let me tell you how funny Margaret Atwood was when we peed in neighboring stalls”.
And those things may not seem to have anything to do with each other, but they do. And I can not get these two things to mesh, which seems to be the root of the whole problem. This mom thing is hard. There is only so much self-sacrifice anyone can take. And all around, advice. “It will pass”, “They will grow up, enjoy it while you can”. And I KNOW all of that. But when I hear others say it I wonder if I just have everything all wrong. If I am just secretly very very horrible. Because no one ever tells a new parent, hey, sometimes this job is really gonna suck. So when you get here and all around is this silly wistful advice, you start thinking maybe everyone else is just much better equipped to handle it and you are strange for ever having gotten it wrong.
It is getting harder and harder to write under these conditions. And if I don’t write I can not get anything to feel right. Like a dog chasing his tail in endless loops.