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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas III.

Our crazy Christmas Eve dinner at Mom and Shane's consisted of crab dip (Mom), spaghetti (me), steak (James), some kind of yummy pear and feta salad (Shane), and pasta salad and cheesecake (Josh). Oliver went to bed early, but I missed him when Mom was getting ready to read the Christmas story from Luke (James argued that she ought to read from Mark instead). Josh went to get Oliver, and I held him, asleep, as Mom read. Josh easily took him back to bed after that. We watched Christmas Vacation and sampled the Italian cream cake Shane had made. I took a bath before bed, and Josh sat with me as he has for years now.

We woke Oliver at 7:30, and I nursed him. He was wearing a blue fleece outfit with polar bears and penguins on it. I wore a black shirt and my hot pink and black snowflake pants. Josh was wearing red plaid pajama pants and a green First Union T-shirt. We went downstairs, and Shane took Oliver to wake up James.

Oliver grinned when Mom showed him his first present. Josh and I were excited too about the play mat with hanging toys and a mirror. Oliver also got soft blocks and sea creature toys. Josh and I gave him a treasury of children's literature. We both wrote to him inside the cover. We're going to make a Christmas tradition of giving him a book for his library--fairy tales, mythology, poetry, classics. Mom cried when Josh and I read our inscriptions.

Josh and I gave each other books, too--favorite authors, childhood favorites. I gave him a poster based on our favorite episode of Doctor Who ("Silence in the Library"). He gave me a beautiful Potter Style Bronte-themed journal. When I get a new journal, I try to remember to write inside the cover about where I bought it or who gave it to me and when. He wrote in it for me: "Given to Becky, from her husband, Josh, the gift of a space to dream-- Christmas 2011." Yes, I love him.

Josh got comfortable casual clothes. Most of his wardrobe is fancy teacher clothing, so he needed stay-at-home dad clothes. I got a gorgeous light blue cardigan with rhinestones around the color, a cream T-shirt with a rhinestone and sequin snowflake, purple jewelry, and a sleek green wallet. My fat, metallic purple one is nearly worn out, and though I've looked for flat wallets, I could never find one that was pretty and that I could figure out how to open.

We gave Mom and Shane photo gifts and mint chocolate soap. Shane got nutcrackers--he has quite a collection--and a guitar. Mom got purses and an aquamarine ring.

We had sausage in croissant rolls (Mom had found Morningstar sausage for Josh) and eggs for breakfast. Then, we got ready for church. This would be Oliver's first church service, and it would be at the church I attended from ages twelve to nineteen.

Josh wore a black suit with a light blue shirt. I wore my new blue cardigan and a sparkly navy cuff bracelet. Mom looked sassy in tall gray boots and a rhinestone-glittered cardigan I gave her for a recent birthday or Mother's Day. We gave Oliver a bath and dressed him in a red Christmas fleece outfit.

At church, it was strange and nice to see the youth minister who had tried to include me when I was twelve, had long hair in my face, and was completely socially inept and miserable and show him my baby. I also saw two girls, grown up now, whom I used to babysit.

After church, I changed into a green velour suit and wine purple T-shirt and nursed Oliver again. We gathered in the living room again, with another huge fire, to open stockings. Many starts and stops followed as Oliver was tired. Most of my gifts to Mom were stocking stuffers. My favorites were a silky purple top, a gold and rhinestone rabbit necklace, and gray pajamas with lace and lavender bows. My stocking brimmed with gorgeous journals and headbands. Oliver's was full of toys and fleece outfits (the only baby clothing Josh and I really bother with--warm, easy, and cute). I especially like the plastic rings that we now use to attach toys to everything.

Lunch was ham, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, Caesar salad, and deviled eggs. We took turns entertaining O with his play mat or by showing him the Christmas decorations. He's so observant.

Josh and I spent most of the evening taking care of an upset baby. When he went to sleep, we sat in the bathroom talking for a while, both of us haggard and tired of being in a dark room. We re-emerged, and I had an odd comfort food dinner of chips and crab dip, Caesar salad, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip.

Though Josh and I were tired, we stayed up to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special about tree spirits and a courageous mother. That one action made us feel like people, like ourselves as a couple, and like our seventh Christmas had come.

Oliver won't remember his first Christmas, but we will, and it's our Christmas too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas II.

Josh, Oliver, and I picked up James on our way into Charlotte. We met my dad at Katz Deli. This is where Dad used to pick up egg salad sandwiches for me when I watched kids at the nearby women's gym. The restaurant was packed. I had my usual egg salad (how could I not?) and the fabulous fries. James had breakfast with thick pancakes. Dad had matzo ball soup. Josh had baked macaroni and cheese and a fancy hummus, veggie, and pita bread plate.

At his apartment, Dad had gifts and stocking laid out. His fiancee, Michelle, arrived with a snowflake book for me. We gave them a collage frame with photos of us and Oliver. Dad said he'd been meaning to ask for photos for Christmas and that whittling down our vast online albums to just four photos would have been impossible for him.

Dad gave Oliver a royal blue, velvety jacket and pants (Ralph Lauren!). He gave us a date night-themed gift bag with perfume and cologne and a gift card to Olive Garden (one of our favorites). Nanna and Grandpa had sent toys for and teethers for Oliver and Applebees and Panera (our very favorite!) gift cards for us.

The stockings were full of fancy snacks and fun items Dad and Michelle found on their trip to Universal Studios. My favorites were Josh's Kwik-e-Mart name tag and my ruby slippers socks.

Oliver charmed everyone as usual.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas I.

On December 23, we drove to Wilmington to see Josh's parents, siblings, and siblings' significants. We all met at Sarah and Adam's house. Adam was hard at work cooking amazing bits, just like he did at my first baby shower. Josh had commented that he wished I wore more skirts. He has often listened to my preferences for clothes, hair, and facial hair, so I tried to pay attention even though it's winter, and I'm usually a jeans-and-cute-T-shirt girl when I'm not working. I wore a gray tweed skirt (just above the knee), a black tank top with white polka dots (a fabulous new Old Navy find), a wine purple cardigan with ribbon trim, matching beaded hoop earrings, black tights, and black knee-high boots.

The food was tremendous--cheese (including fresh mozzarella) and crackers, potato skins (no bacon for the veggie heads), crab and risotto poppers (delicious -- and which Zach lovingly called crab balls), and probably other wonders I can't recall. I do know that the evening ended with homemade chocolate mousse and whipped cream.

Oliver received practical gifts of fleecy clothes and diapers. His aunt Sarah, who is not inclined to sew, had made him an amazing jungle-themed quilt. It will cover his bed when we convert his crib to a toddler bed.

We gave Oliver's Grammy a "granny bag" (canvas tote with Oliver's photo), Grampy a "grandpa mug" (with Oliver's photos) and various prints, Sarah and Adam a World Market gift card (so they can have a shopping date at their favorite store), and Zach and Tina a Chili's gift card.

Josh's parents gave him a joy stick and flight simulator game, a fancy pen and pencil set, and a DVD of his favorite Christmas movie (A Wish for Wings That Work). They gave us a digital picture frame--we're excited about that. Susan usually keeps me well-stocked with cozy socks, and she kept that going in pinks and reds. I also got candles (gingerbread, Vanilla Cinnamon, and Marshmallow Peppermint--my new favorite) and bubble bath and lotion in Vanilla Cinnamon and Be Enchanted. The shimmery purple gel and sparkling label of the latter are worthwhile on their own. The silver branches remind me of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."

Oliver was by turns smiling and fussing. Sarah and Adam's regular and Christmas decor (silver tinsel and snowflakes even adorned the guest bathroom) fascinated Oliver. He's so observant now, and he's cooing as he begins to want to speak to all he sees.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Maternity Fairy Clothes: Lady in Waiting

This is just two days before Oliver was born and the last day I went to work. Crazy! Here are the purple flats again. A coworker and I realized we were wearing the same shoes, though hers were black. My having a meeting just forty-eight hours before the hospital admitted me seems crazy!

Mom and I love looking around at Francesca's. We had never actually bought anything until one day when I went in and drop a lump of cash on three jacket-like items (including this jacket and the navy ruffled cardigan from an earlier post). Neither of us cared for the military style until we saw this jacket. I think it's even cuter buttoned up, but of course, I couldn't wear it that way. I think everything is better with ruffles, glitter, rhinestones, or sequins.

I love this warm and irreverent stripey lining.

I have no idea what is coming my way, but I'll have my precious boy soon.

And that is the last maternity fairy clothes post.

Maternity Pants: Motherhood
Top: Target
Jacket: Francesca's Collection
Flats: Target

The Spirit.

The Christmas spirit didn't envelop me this year. This wasn't the first such year, and I'm never sure why. Even as I felt a little flat, though, I knew that when I look back on this Christmas a few years from now, I won't remember that flat feeling. Similarly, when I look back on my Disney World honeymoon with Josh, I don't immediately think of the dizzying heat or the endless love bugs or the swollen insect bites on my ankle. I think of everything we saw and did. The same is true of Christmas, I think. In this way (as well as in many others), I think that what we do matters more than what we feel, especially in those small pockets of time.

Josh built our first fire in our new home (which I will write about). We built it before Oliver went to bed so that he could watch the bright dance. Josh played the three bell chimes of the first song on Aaron Neville's Christmas album. When Oliver went to bed, we spread a snowflake blanket by the hearth and lay down together, just watching the fire and remembering how we used to fall asleep that way in our apartment in Charlotte.

Josh hung our silver beaded and rhinestoned stockings from the mantle. While I was at Target, I'd picked up a small green knit stocking for Oliver. We put it between our two silver stockings. It looks quite precious and little. I set up our funny little tree on the counter. It's fiber optic--no lights or ornaments to tempt the cats. Josh set a few of his childhood nutcrackers on the mantle. His parents used to buy him one every year.

My mom and Shane came to visit and help us unpack after Thanksgiving. Mom and I went out to Barnes and Noble, and I had a Peppermint Mocha Frap. I also bought a beautifully illustrated Gift of the Magi, which I'd wanted when I worked at a bookstore the Christmas before last. We haven't read it together yet, but we will.

At Old Navy, I bought a gray and black sweater with rows of silver sequins to wear on Christmas Eve. At Target, I went ahead and picked up the pretty hot pink pajama pants with black snowflakes, even though I didn't need more pajamas. I found a first Christmas fleece outfit for Oliver--white with a little ice skating creature and the same creature on the feet...I think they're puppies, Josh thinks they're reindeer, and Josh's mom thinks they're bears. Oliver wore it several times, but we found it was too small (like all his newborn clothes) just a few days before Christmas.

I painted my nails metallic fir tree green and wore purple sparkle on my eyes often. I never did play my favorite Jingle Cats video, but I can still do that. In little ways, I invited the spirit, and I think those memories will be blessed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mothers: David's.

Josh had the idea that we should write about the fictional mothers and fathers we'd like to emulate. I can't think of many or much detail for mine, in part because many of the books I've loved are about orphans, or the mothers are beautiful, tragic creatures who die young and early in the story.

One of these tragic mothers is in The Book of Lost Things, which I still haven't made much progress in (due to my own distress and fatigue rather than any flaw in the book). David sees her as a figure both familiar and mysterious, tangible and mythical. 

"He sat up late into the night, squashed into a corner of the living room while grown-ups exchanged stories of a mother he had never known, a strange creature with a history entirely separate from his own...a beautiful woman in a bright red dress who was stolen from under the nose of another man by David's father... (Connolly 5-6).

I want Oliver to see both my best self, and when he is ready and wants to, my flaws, history, and humanness. I don't plan to keep secrets. I don't want him to suddenly find out something that makes him doubt himself, his origins, or his safety. I do, however, want him to see I am not only my roles, just as he will not only be his.

"...he would step often quietly into the room in which his mother was reading, acknowledging her with a smile (always returned) before taking a seat close by and immersing himself in his own book so that, although both were lost in their own individual worlds, they shared the same space and time." (Connolly 4).

This is one of my most important aims: to model a love of books, reading, paper. I want to provide books for him and show him, rather than tell him, how fascinating and vital stories are, whether we find them or make them.

"He thought of his mother's a symphony, capable of infinite variations on familiar themes and melodies that changed according to her moods and whims" (Connolly 4).

When I first spoke to Oliver face to face, I knew he knew me. Now when I speak or sing, he doesn't usually look toward me immediately. He continues looking at the leaf pattern on his bed or the shadows on the wardrobe, but he changes--a calm or hint of delight tickles his face. I want that to remain true: though my voice will not always capture his attention, I want it to be a source of comfort, something that makes him feel safe and loved as he becomes himself.

Connolly, John. The Book of Lost Things. New York: Washington Square Press, 2006. 4-6. Print.


The losses I've had, self-inflicted and blindsiding, permanent and temporary, seem to intersect or at least echo each other. This is what that sounds like now.

I feel like someone else, like I'm looking at reflections or symbols of whatever was formerly familiar. I don't know how much of that is sleep deprivation or the recent inability to focus on much besides scrambling through the end of the semester. I don't know whether or not, after the initial break, the world through the looking glass will be better, clearer, or brighter.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Worst Glitter.

About two weeks ago, I got home at 1 p.m. on Friday. We had a relaxed afternoon. I started reading The Book of Lost Things and was a little emo over the boy whose mother died and whose father took up with the hospital administrator. Later, I slept near the foot of the bed while Josh sat at the head of the bed, back to the window, Oliver beside him. A few nights before, our bedroom had been illuminated in blue. Three squad cars were at a house across the street. Policemen ran toward the house in their bulletproof vests, yelling. Later, I heard the loud speaker. I told Josh we should stay away from the windows until they left. I remember wondering if we ought to try to move.

This night, I had the vague sense of Josh grabbing me and of me protesting or maybe even shushing him. I woke up fully when I hit the wood floor at the foot of the bed. I immediately tried to sit up and figure out what had happened, but I heard Josh yelling, "Get down! Stay down! Don't move!" I couldn't see him. Then, I heard my son screaming. I tried to question Josh but he kept yelling to ensure I didn't move above the line of the bed.

I somehow assured him I wasn't moving and said, slowly and gently, "Do you have our baby?" I had no idea if Oliver was hurt or if he was in his bed and I needed to crawl to get him.

"Yes," Josh answered, and I heard him calling 911, shouting at the dispatcher who was being too slow and calm. "Do you understand? Someone has shot through my window."

Then, I understood why I was on the floor. I thought about how I had once been sitting, pregnant, with my back to that window and had the sudden vision of a drive-by shooting. I told Josh that if I were ever hurt, he needed to call an ambulance immediately and tell the paramedics that I was pregnant. "Even if they couldn't save me, I'm far enough along that they might be able to save him if they were fast." This had mortified Josh somewhat, but I'd said it more than once because I wanted to make sure he wouldn't waste Oliver's precious minutes on grieving me.

When Josh hung up (which I thought was odd--aren't the dispatchers supposed to keep the caller on the phone until the police arrive?), I said, "I think you need to come over here," having realized that he and Oliver were on the floor on the side of the bed, which was much closer to the window. He crawled to me and let me take Oliver. I crouched over him, holding him to my chest. He had fallen asleep again.

The police arrived in minutes, and I realized I was only were underwear and a pajama top unbuttoned over my nursing bra. The blankets had fallen to the floor with me, and I found my pajama pants and struggled to pull them on while holding my son and staying low. The pants were up to my knees when the policemen walked in, and the not caring leftover from the hospital kicked in.

Three of them came, one a young patrolman, one a big K-9 unit guy, and the other the lieutenant. They had their big boots and bullet proof vests. The K-9 guy started asking questions (Had we had words with anyone? Had anyone been begging us for money?) and touching the doors of my wardrobe opposite the window, feeling for a bullet hole. He opened the wardrobe doors and touched a hole in the plastic over one of my work jackets.

"Was this hole here before, ma'am?"
"I don't know," I answered, feeling a little desperate that I didn't remember every tear and worn place in my home and life.
He noticed Oliver and that I had begun to shake hard. "That's okay; that's fine," he said. He asked if I would mind going into the living room, so they could search. He must have noticed my half-dressed state because he gestured to the young patrolman and said, "We'll step outside for a minute." He closed the door behind him, and I felt strange about being alone in that room, standing when Josh had repeatedly shouted (desperate for my safety) for me to stay still, pulling up my blue snowflake pajama pants, and carrying my son into the living room.

Josh was rigid in the green recliner. I sat on the couch. Both of us were hyper aware of the windows in that room and everywhere in the house. Because the rooms were so small, even safe corners or closets big enough to huddle in together didn't exist.

The young patrolman stayed with us, asking occasional questions and saying he knew how shaken we must be, especially with a new baby. I could see him wanting to say, "You shouldn't be living here."

The K-9 guy came out with a small white rock. "Was this in your room before?"
"I don't think so," Josh said.
"Did you hear a gun shot?"
"I heard people arguing and then two popping sounds and the glass shattering."
"Okay. If you'll come outside with me, I'll show you what we think happened."

Josh pulled on his boots and went outside with the K-9 guy and lieutenant. I think the patrolman stayed with me. The two men showed Josh how the rock had probably gone through the window and how the hole was consistent with that. Josh asked how a rock of that size could have busted the screen, shattered the glass, and exploded the blinds. They said that the person must have thrown it extremely hard from the street or must have been standing in our yard. We've seen thought, with others' input, that the person must have fired the rock through a paintball gun, potato gun, or at the very least, a slingshot.

They assured us that they weren't trying to "belittle the rock" (which we later found a little funny) but that they were glad it wasn't a bullet. The report would be ready on Sunday if we wanted a copy.

We stayed in the living room. Josh paced. I called my mom. I was surprised she answered, and her voice was strained when she answered with "Becky?"
I immediately said, "We're okay," and told Josh he should do the same when he called his mom. I cried as I told my mom what had happened. Something about my mother's voice triggers the outpouring of pent up emotion even as I try to convey information.

I could see the adrenaline and fear pumping through Josh. I thought he would never be able to sit down again. I wished he would cry, either with me or while talking to his own mother. He hadn't cried since the hospital, and I knew that, even beyond his heart and mind, his body needed that relief. That white rock, which looked like it would have come from someone driveway or a border around a small, decorative tree, had seemed to bring with it all of the losses and near-losses in Josh's life, and maybe all the mistakes and guilt too, as it cracked the window of our bedroom just above our infant son.

Thinking about the glass fully took us a long time. We were still in the living room when I thought to look. Josh found glass on Oliver's pajamas. I found little glints on his face and later found a terrifying shard in the folds of his neck. I was so scared to try to move it, afraid I would only make it pierce him when it had, mercifully, not done so yet. I had the idea to use a piece of tape to pick it up. We did that too many times. Even the next day, after an hour of sleep in Oliver's room (which doesn't face the street), I continued finding little shiny bits on his face. I couldn't understand why until I looked down and saw that my chest was covered in tiny bits of glass. Josh and I put Oliver in his crib, stripped our clothes in the hall, and took turns showering. My hands stung as I washed my hair.

I went into our bedroom to get my phone charger. The blankets were still on the floor. The blinds were hanging, literally, by their threads, letting the sunshine pour it. My breath caught. Our room, the room in which we had slept, talked, fed our son, began to recover from skirting death, sparkled with glass in on every visible surface and in every corner. Our bed, Oliver's bassinet, the floor were we had crouched, all was glittering with cruel shards and sand-like bits. At that moment, I didn't think I could ever wear anything that sparkled (what if I saw traces of eyeshadow glitter on Oliver and thought I saw glass?) again.

That night and the next night, we slept at a hotel, using the points my dad offered. We spent the week of Thanksgiving at Josh's parents' house, and I commuted an hour and a half to work. We knew we could not sleep in that house again because of what had happened, what we thought had happened, what could have happened, and oh, just the new bitterness of that place. We washed Oliver in the bathroom sink at the Hampton, and Josh and I slept, completely satisfied with having nothing but Oliver's bed and diaper bag, an overnight bag, and my blanket (which I've had and slept with since I was a baby and grabbed on our way out the door, suddenly seized with a bizarre fear that I'd never see it again, as if I were grabbing my family and one treasure and fleeing a burning house). Whatever the reality and whatever the symbolism, we were going to take our baby and run.

Our bed, with an ad I had torn out of a magazine that night to show Josh because I thought the little girl looked like she could be our daughter, our Eirene.