From Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping:
We had been assured by our elders that intelligence was a family trait. All my kin and forebears were people of substantial or remarkable intellect, though somehow none of them had prospered in the world. Too bookish, my grandmother said with tart pride, and Lucille and I read constantly to forestall criticism, anticipating failure. 
 I ate lunch wherever I could find enough space to seat myself without appearing to wish to insinuate myself into a group, or a conversation, and I read while I ate. Lunches were terrible. I could scarcely swallow. It seemed as if I were trying to eat a peanut-butter sandwich while hanging by the neck. It was a relief to go to Latin class, where I had a familiar place in a human group, alphabetically assigned.
Of my conception I know only what you know of yours. It occurred in darkness and I was unconsenting. I (and that slenderest word is too gross for the rare thing I was then) walked forever through reachless oblivion, in the mood of one smelling night-blooming flowers, and suddenly-- My ravishers left their traces in me, male and female, and over the months I rounded, grew heavy, until the scandal could no longer be concealed and oblivion expelled me.


that womanly defence

A couple months ago Nugget and I were at the library and he lost me for a few minutes. I was looking at books about ten feet from where he was working on a puzzle and when I sat down on the floor to examine the lowest shelves, I was hidden by a bookshelf. He looked up and, not seeing me, set off--in the wrong direction--to find me. When I found him a minute or two later, the tears were starting to well up in his eyes. I can't forget the look on his face just before he caught sight of me again. I laid awake last night thinking about it and how he must have felt.

I don't know why I was thinking about it last night, months after it happened. Maybe because of a headline in Sunday's paper about a local two-year-old who died in a fire a couple days ago. I have diligently avoided thinking about that article; perhaps this is how those suppressed thoughts bubbled up.

As I lay awake last night thinking about the library incident it occurred to me that by having a baby I am doubling my chances of unbearable pain. Two children. Two little death grips on my heart. I could almost regret my decision now it occurs to me.

A couple weeks ago at a local open mic night Trent read a poem he'd wrote in which he imagined that he had a son with a fatal illness. The poem was ... very angry. Like, homicidally angry. This is definitely one way that Trent and I differ. If something happened to my child, I don't think that's the direction I'd go. When Trent and I watched The Road together, I was quite certain I would have taken the same path as the mother in the story, and Trent was quite sure he would take the path of the father. (There is some sort of Armageddon-like event that destroys civilization and leaves a couple in a desperate, brutal struggle to survive, just before the birth of their son. After a few years, the mother gives up and lets herself die, after failing to convince the father that they should all die together. The father goes on trying to protect his son through unspeakable horrors. It's an incredible book and movie, but I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone.) I suppose our reactions are not really that different, since anger is a way of numbing pain. Or so the psychologists tell us.

Well, this is a depressing blog entry. I told Trent after he read his poem that I didn't think it was healthy to dwell on possibilities like that. He pointed out that I encouraged him to write the poem after a conversation we had  about a story in The New Yorker, about a kid with leukemia. I have absolutely no recollection of this conversation, but that's typical. But I still maintain it's not healthy and I'm not sure why I'm dwelling on these thoughts now myself. I guess I can blame pregnancy, that's easy enough.

Funny thing about these sorts of thoughts though. They are accompanied by a distinct feeling of shame. Shame at their inherent selfishness. The fear for my son seems inseparable from the fear for myself, for what I would feel if anything happened to him. I actually keep getting the urge to delete this paragraph because I find it so shameful.

I suppose, to put a more flattering spin on it, my awareness of the selfishness inherent in parental fear (let's call it universal, shall we? It's not just me?) is a good thing. I make a conscious effort to suppress the constant urge to shout, "be careful," and to forbid Nugget from doing anything that carries some risk that he will be harmed. He climbs high and jumps far, and I silently hold my breath, feeling his tiny hand squeeze my heart.


From George Saunders's comments on his short story Bohemians in The Best American Short Stories 2005:
It's not uncommon for me to to feel nauseated after reading one of my paragraphs, but this was a special kind of nausea, related to how overwritten this paragraph was, how full of a young writer's desire to invoke exotica about a part of the world he had never been to. It sounded like Isaac Babel on stupid pills, as if Babel had also taken some dishonesty pills, then decided to write about an Omaha, Nebraska, he had invented in his mind in order to serve a secret moral purpose, then taken some inefficiency pills.