January 29, 2010
Who are you if your father, mother and sister will never see you again? I feel very much alone in the world, but I am not. I have two children who depend on me. I have never had a mother, so I do not know how to be one. I read about Harry Harlow’s monkey experiments. The monkeys who did not receive love and nurturing from their mother, the monkeys who had only a wire mesh mother, these monkeys failed to thrive. When the monkeys have been neglected too long, when they have not been shown any love, they are not able to show affection. What you read when you study about the experiments on monkeys, “After these critical periods, no amount of exposure to mothers or peers could alter the monkeys’ abnormal behaviors and make up for the emotional damage that had already occurred.” (The Adoption History Project)
What I remember as a child and loved is what I bring to my children. I take them horse back riding. I take them ice skating. When we ice skate, we wear gloves, not the mittens I wore as a child with the long string that went through our jackets and held the mittens so we would not lose them. We wear gloves and when we want to we take them off, and if we lose them, they are lost and we continue to skate.
I cook with them and for them. I kiss them and hold them. I collect animals, raise vegetables, a coop of chickens. I take them camping; I move in with a new man who I love and I am not afraid of. I get up early every morning to write in my journal hoping the pages will speak back to me. Here is what I decide. To drink each day like a full cup of water. To drink my day fully, to love my children. I run in the California sunshine, and I hear myself breathing, the breath pounding through my lungs, like my head pounds when the bad dreams turn into migraines. I remember how to candle eggs, to hold them to the light to make sure they have not been fertilized, but I do not candle my eggs. I eat them fertilized, I scramble them with onions and cilantro from my garden.
I dream that I am back at the Farm and we are marching to “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We are marching for forty years because we want to get to the promised land. To lead us is a cloud by day and fire by night. I see the fire in my dreams as we march. I dream of being outside in the woods for nights at a time. There are bears in these woods. Who am I? With no decent jobs, only odd gigs, living in a house in California with my children, my lover, my chickens, my poetry. In the end, it is all I am good for: Raising those children, writing some poetry, loving that one man who loves me back but sometimes finds me very frustrating, those kids get annoyed as well. Not sure if that’s all normal. Not sure what normal is. Raising the chickens and the garden, collecting eggs, scrambling them. I never get a real job. I get a PhD, and I keep doing odd gigs. The press starts taking over parts of my life and when we marry, my husband runs the press full-time and sometimes we love it, and sometimes we drink wine because we don’t know what else to do. We don’t know how we will possibly continue to live indoors without anybody with a real job, but the sketchy gigs hold us up delicately like a spider’s web and we are dew, and the children are morning dew. After a while, I know that I am in a small sailboat and that I do not know anything about sailing. I don’t know how to fake it, never did. But the boat just keeps going and going and the horizon is never very far off.
One night after a reading someone comes up to me and says, “After everything, you seem incredibly normal. Really.” My daughter laughs all the way home, pokes her brother in the ribs. They throw themselves around in the back seat of the car. “Don’t believe it Mom,” he says.
“Normal?” She says, “Indeed.” Writing happens slowly for me, but I think that I have time for some sort of joy.