Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

22 May 2007

. . . well, no. Not really. Not yet.

And yet, as the sign in my classroom says, "Create the change you want to see." Or see the change you want to create.

20 May 2007

Three weeks left of school. Early mornings and late nights, driving in the dark, working, grading papers, gliding down toward the valley of summer on a wave that crests at graduation day. Between now and then I will be completely in the teaching zone and almost certainly not posting here.

Then comes summer. Things will change this summer. I'm going to get some sleep, I'm going to find a job, I'm going to have time to be with my family, I'm going to have time to write more often. I need to write more. Too much of my writing lately has been private, often in the manner of an exorcism. I have an idea for a children's book that I'd like to write, inspired by the way that Genevieve craves story and the way I've learned to improvise plots on the fly. I want to get a good recording of my music, perhaps out at Nonesuch where I used to go to school. Down in the redwoods by the little creek on a low wooden platform, long beams of sunlight in the fragrant shade, me and my guitar and the water and some really fine audio.

That's a summer project. Then there's figuring out how to approach this teaching gig differently, so that it doesn't overwhelm me and prompt me to react with self-sabotaging behavior. I love teaching. It's what I want to do. This year, for reasons that still are far from clear to me, teaching was hell. It was good too, educational, worth my time — still hell.

My brain is a fascinating apparatus that works beautifully in many ways, but there are flaws in the design. Some people have a high-maintenance body: the morbidly obese, say, or the gravely ill. I have a low-maintenance body — eat or don't eat whatever I want, whenever I want, stay slender regardless of exercise — but a high-maintenance mind. Much energy is expended hauling it out of ditches. Major construction is now underway on the neural infrastructure, however; look for significant repairs to be made this summer.

This summer. Two weeks from now, the day after I return from whitewater rafting with my 8th graders, Genevieve will turn 3. The number of magic wishes. She's incredible and I can't wait to be with her all day, every day, for weeks at a time. I can't keep up with all the wild invention of her speech. I want to remember everything, but it floods past me like tall grass in a high wind.

She's making up her own stories now, deep into roleplaying, weaving in her latest threads of culture. Her current top picks for the daily Post-Nap Video Hour With Papa are Kiki's Delivery Service, Wallace and Gromit, and a National Geographic special on Siberian tigers. (She is frequently a tiger these days. Her birthday party invitations show a growling tiger cub in a party hat. Genevieve often comes to the table as a ferocious tiger who masticates her protein with what the video narrator soberly intones are "jaws so massive, they can crack the spine of a wild boar with a single bite.") She likes to read a book I just brought home from the library book sale, an old Scholastic from 1967 called Animal Doctors: What Do They Do? This is, like, the ideal book for Genevieve, who was already passionately interested in veterinary medicine. Her favorite song is still "She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain", a number that never fails to make her shake her booty round the room.

On Mother's Day we visited a goat farm. Genevieve got to pet a baby goat that had been born that morning, and we watched the goats get milked. Oh My God.

Marla's belly is growing; there is a noticeable pooch of belly, and when I put my hand on the pooch there's something resilient inside, a firm-walled womb in there.

The themes of Genevieve's play these days are three: Birth, Death and Pain. Does that sound grim? Not to me, but then I think it's less grim to engage with those subjects than it is to avoid them.

Games we play over and over these days:

Hatching From An Egg. Evvy gets under some blankets and I go walking loudly through the jungle. "Oh my goodness, what's this? It appears to be an egg. I wonder what kind of creature is going to hatch out of this egg. I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Oh! I see a crack! There's an eye peeking out..." and so forth until she reveals herself to be a baby crocodile, or horse, or kitten. This game must be repeated immediately, mere seconds after the revelation.

Checked By A Doctor. An animal needs to be checked. That animal may be stuffed, or it may be Evvy, or it may be me. But one way or another, someone's getting checked by someone else. The symptoms will be described. Tools will be applied with care to the affected area. At some point, a band-aid will be employed. Medicine will be made available. The patient will be urged to rest and avoid lifting heavy objects for a couple of days.

Evvy: I'm not breeving!
Papa: OH NO! Call 911, run and get help! You, stay here and help me get her on her back. You're going to be okay, miss. Can you breathe?
Evvy: No-I-can't-breeve-I'm-not-breeving.
Papa (pressing down on her ribcage): One, two, three, four, five. (Pause. Papa presses his ear to her chest.) OH NO! We've lost the pulse! Where the hell is that ambulance? Hang in there, miss. (More chest presses, more counting. Papa blows into her mouth.) Come on, fight! Fight! I'm not going to lose you, dammit! Thank god, here are those . . . things that you rub together and make some electricity, and it, like, shocks your heart into beating again. I forget what they're called. But I have some of them, and I'm building up the charge. Okay, here I go. Clear! (Papa puts those imaginary whatever-those-things-are on Evvy's chest.) Thoomp. Are you breathing now?
Evvy: Yeah. No, no I'm not breeving still.
Papa: Clear! Thoomp. There, now your heart is beating. Now you are coming back to life. Now you will start to cough, and sit up, and say it is all better. And everyone will cheer.

Evvy's Delivery Service. Evvy is pregnant. Something is bulging underneath her shirt, and it must be a baby that's ready to come out. Is she going to do it at the hospital or at home? Will it be a vaginal or a C-section birth? Is it a breech baby? All of these questions are considered, and then the baby is born. It gets a bath, a towel dries it off, and then the mama gets to hold it and give it boobah. (Evvy herself has been off the boobah for months now, and is sleeping by herself for most if not all of the night. During sleep is the only time she still wears diapers. She is a Big Girl Now, and when she turns 3 in a couple of weeks, she will get to try some gum for the first time.)

Dying. Sometimes, people die. And animals die. That's just how it is. Plants die, too. Everything gets born and everything dies. It's okay to die, just like it's okay to get born. You can't really do anything about either one. When it's time to get here, you get here. When it's time to leave, you leave. In between, you get to make all kinds of decisions, like: cremation or burial? What color is the urn or casket? Where will the remains be returned to the earth? What will people say at the funeral? Genevieve isn't thinking about much of that yet, but she's well on her way to forming her own totally healthy fascination with the riddle of death. Sometimes Papa has to get buried. Sometimes a cherry tree grows on top of him.