I’ve been feeling brittle, emotionally. Nothing particularly bad has happened, just all the little things adding up and putting their own tiny weight on my anxiety, so that I don’t realize it’s ready to break until it’s near happening.
Just like the little things stress me out, the little things lighten the load.
I got my library copy of I Hate Fairyland vol. 4 by Skottie Young. Nothing like candy-colored massacre to cheer anyone up.
Cheryl Strayed’s soothing voice giving advice on Dear Sugars. She and Steve Almond released their last episode, but I think I’ll go back and listen to some of the ones I missed.
baby toddler dancing to the concert scene in Sing. It is a sight.
This closeup picture I accidentally took of the wood on our deck. It was a pleasure to find on my phone when I was flipping through videos of my dog and kid.
And writing. Anything I can get it, getting out a chapter while she naps, scribbling a few sentences in my car before walking into work, madly typing up a blog post after she’s gone down for the night and I’ve finally finished those chores.
I am overly fond of collecting things.
There were My Little Ponies. Garfield comics. Beanie Babies, of course. Once I had one of the things, I needed all of them to go with it.
My mother tried to focus me sometimes. For a little while I tried collecting little ceramic animals. At the store, I picked up a whale, an otter, a racoon…
“Why don’t you try collecting certain ones?” my mother asked me. “Just collect the ocean animals.”
I paused, my stomach twisting. I did what she said, because it was logical, because she was right. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I wanted them all.
I’m an adult, now, and I still feel it. My sister-in-law bought me a Disney Starbucks “I Am Here Mug” for my birthday once, the EPCOT one. I love it, just like she knew I would. But there’s a little twinge in my heart when I look at it. Because I don’t have the rest of them.
And I need them.
My daughter is barely 1 and 1/2. She doesn’t understand that certain things go together. But she’s beginning to gather. This past week she picked up every little acorn she found on her grandparents’ porch, and toted them around the house in greedy little fists. She fished through a clear vase full of sea glass, picking out only the deep dark blues. She is beginning to collect, and even though I fear for the space in our already overly-cluttered little house, but I’m also excited by this new part of her personality she’s showing, this little girl who is so amazing and special and yet sometimes just like me.
Each time I go to the library with my daughter, I show her books. “This one’s got dogs!” “Look, a duck!” But she sits in the rocker, or chews on a train, or presses her snotting nose against the glass of a papier mache Charlotte’s Web display.
Then we’re in the picture books. She sees one, and she points, excited. Finally, I think, a book she wants. And I go to grab it…
…and it’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
“What? We own this book.”
“It’s sitting on our bookshelf.”
“I read it four times yesterday!”
She looks at me as if to say, What part of “Ehn!” don’t you understand?
I plop her on the carpet. I place the book between us, and open the first page. And for the first time since I brought her inside, she sits still.
“Brown Bear, Brown bear, what do you see…”
Here are some movies my daughter has been obsessed with.
Secret Life of Pets. Cute jokes about pets, but by the 500th viewing you start to realize that the plot makes little sense and you can’t understand how the characters move around. What is the rabbit’s actual goal? How did that guinea pig stuck in the vents make it into a different building? Why didn’t Katie properly introduce two strange dogs before leaving them alone together for what has to be the longest workday I’ve ever seen? According to my toddler, though, this movie has everything: it has dogs, it’s got, well…more dogs. She is in. To. It.
Trolls. I’m going to admit — I enjoyed this. I liked the songs, I liked that everything looks like it’s made out of felt, I even liked the crazy story. It was just fun. There’s been no big demand from miss baby, though, so we haven’t rewatched yet.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Baby’s first anime! I wanted to watch it, and I put it on thinking she’d ignore it. Instead she pointed excitedly at the screen whenever a cat or some other animal showed up, and in between seemed like she was actually watching the movie. Mama’s little girl is an anime fan; guess the apple really doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
Moana. Songs: check. Beautiful water: check. Adorable pig: double check. My daughter claps when the end title slams on the screen, as if in appreciation, and she’s made a enough lilting sounds during the musical numbers to convince me she’s trying to sing.
I finish nursing her for the night. Sleepily she reaches for her pacifier. I help her plug it in her mouth, and she settles in my arm as I open Llama Llama Red Pajama for the hundredth, three-hundredth time.
I read, but I’ve memorized the book, so I also watch her. She tugs gently, purposefully at her curls. Her eyes close, but she isn’t quite asleep. She shifts a little at each page turn, and when I finish and bring her to my shoulder, she lifts her head and looks at me. I finish a song, kiss her face, and place her in her bed as she reaches for it, milk and words already lulling her most of the way to sleep.
In college my boyfriend (now husband) had on an episode of No Reservations for background noise. I didn’t appreciate the beauty of food shows then; I actually found the Food Network wholly boring, over all. This was a guy going to restaurants — a food show — so I ignored it, loafing around his room…
…until the host started quoting Kubla Khan (one of my favorite poems), and he did it to emphasize how much he enjoyed eating roasted pig. (Something about the “dome of pleasure”, if I’m remembering correctly.)
Then I knew, I wasn’t watching a food show. I was watching a fantastic show.
This was how I was introduced to Anthony Bourdain. I watched his show through my early post-college years, and liked catching his new show on CNN. I’ve fallen out of watching him so heavily the last few years, but he was still a celebrity who brought me joy. It hasn’t hit me yet, that he isn’t out there making new documentaries, quoting Romantic poetry as he digs into a new favorite food.
Every year I like to put a tremendous amount of effort into growing vegetables only to inevitably watch half of them die, or go to rot because I don’t pick them fast enough, or be overcome by weeds that grow back like hydra heads when I pluck them. It’s fun (?) for me. Out in the sun, earbuds in, digging holes and getting lost in myself for a little bit.
Now I look up at every small sound from the toddler a few feet away. I pat the ground with my shovel as small hands come up beside me and do the same. I shift her small body around, keeping those tiny, unknowingly careless feet from crushing a small plant, only to cause her to fall back in frustration and crush something else entirely.
Even if I wait for her to sleep, I’m constantly checking the monitor, making sure she doesn’t need me, that I didn’t miss something while I did this thing for myself.
Choosing my plants has shifted too. Cucumbers and tomatoes made it into my cart like always, but I also picked watermelons, and peppers, which I do not like, but my daughter does. She’ll get to see them grow, and pick them for herself.
My head is too full of her, and even gardening isn’t something I can do entirely alone anymore. Like so much else of my life it has changed, shifted–but certainly not into anything bad.
Bonus Content: John Green also just made a video about gardening, and after an amusingly roundabout way of saying gardens don’t save any money, declared that he highly recommends it.
Here are a few of my favorite things from this week.
Raised by TV. A very funny podcast where Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus talk about television they watched as kids. It’s like being in a conversation with my favorite friends, which is fantastic, though it’s hard when you’re trying to surreptitiously listen to a podcast at work, and Lauren Lapkus saying “One time the computer turned on by itself at school and I thought it was a leprechaun” makes you choke-laugh.
Axolotls. I already knew about this animal, but I processed a children’s book on these little Mexican salamander things this week and I was reminded how adorable they are.
My writing group. I was just mentioning offhand a problem I was having with a story, and they managed to convince me to keep trying, and got me excited to start working on it again. Proof that it’s always, always good to get a group of writers in your corner.
I was right on time for my recent doctor’s appointment. I blew into the office at 1:30 exactly, and had only just scrawled my last answer on my paperwork when the nurse called my name. I didn’t have to wait one minute.
I was so disappointed.
I like to wait. Sitting at the doctor’s office, camping out in the airport. I even look forward to my time sitting in the dirty, dirty waiting room at the car mechanic’s. When I’m in those places, there’s no where for me to go. No chores or tasks or background noises to distract me. I’m trapped, and so I can focus, reading or writing or whatever it is I want to do, with no guilt or sense that maybe there’s something more important I could be doing, right up until a stranger calls my name.
After story time a little girl ran up to a table of painted rocks, clearly marked “Don’t Touch!”, and proceeded to touch every one of them.
“Stop it!” the mother said, and the girl dropped her hands to her side. She continued to stare at the rocks, bright green and blue, paint swirled and spotted .
“I want to put one in my pocket.”
Her words were so quiet and clear, the confident voice of someone who knew exactly what she wanted out of life: to take one of those smooth, bright, carefully colored rocks, and keep it in her pocket just for her.
She didn’t get to, obviously. The mother towed her away before she could filch anything, which is probably for the best. But I hope she was able to find something else to stow away, something pretty and perfect and all for herself.