Monday, September 30, 2013


Mummy:  "OK, you can each choose a book, and then let's go sit on the couch."

Winton: "We have two books."
Clara: "Two books!"

Mummy: [picking up pile on couch] "But!  There are THREE books here!"

Winton: [laughter] "We tricked you!"
Clara: [snuggling against Mummy] "We tricked you about everything but the love."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

back in Balt

Dogwalk with children this lovely fall morning.  Them: pretending to be horses.

Clara: "My name is Rainbow Mane!"
Winton: "My name is Scheissekakka"

Apparently my trip to Germany has wielded significant influence.

It's good to be back.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Homi K Bhabha/ Toni Morrison, Germany, Whose house is this?

Home is the oldest sawhorse in postcolonial studies, in diaspora studies, and possibly, if you count The Odyssey and its chronicling of Odysseus' nostos, in literature.

It's always fresh though, and circumstance (travel, away from the kids and missing them, away from a new situation of bifuracted residence in Baltimore) makes things resonate.

Bhabha opened his plenary today with Kathleen Battle's rendition of this Toni Morrison lyric.  I can't stand the atonality of the music, but check out the lyric:

Whose house is this?
Whose night keeps out the light
in here?
Say, who owns this house?
It's not mine.
I had another, sweeter, brighter,
with a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;
of fields wide as arms open for me.
This house is strange.
Its shadows lie.
Say, tell me
why does its lock fit my key?

Bhabha went places with this that touched side-by-sideness and DuBois and states of internal immigration (Adrienne Rich) or sovereignty (Butler/Spivak).

I went places with this too, in careful blocky handwriting all over the inside of my conference binder as I tried to think through my right place in the world in a series of numbered and competing considerations (ultimately narrowing eight items into a condensed list of one through three).

In sum:
#1 is important and without it I will die or go mad;
#2 is something I should be able to not want, but I want it;
#3 and #2 are incompatible.
In the incompatibility of #s 3 and 2 I lose significant parts of #1.

My right sweet light place open field is my children.
Bhabha contends we live in both houses, the sweet bright one and the strange one, simultaneously.
I am walking  German cobbled streets, eating too much kuchen, missing the children, marveling at the irresolvability of my maths, and wondering what Morrison's third house would be like if she wrote one.  Better still, a fourth house, one that goes beyond my #s and presents something better:

Say, whose house is this?
Whose light keeps the night
out there?
This house comforts people I love.
And me.
I had another, but this is sweeter, brighter
with a view of mist rising from summer darkness into a fall light
and rooms wide as arms open for me,
echoing with playing children.
The rules in this house are strange
but its flower boxes grow the old, new, herbs and nettles
and are gorgeous.
Say, tell me
how the unorthodox lock fits my key?
Whose house is this?
Say, tell me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

In Monster

I took the train from Hamburg to Muenster (Monster) today.  It stopped in Bremen en route .

My mother was born in Bremen, in 1935 (ish). My mother, like the protagonist in the movie Big Fish, doesn't tell factual stories, so the details of her life are hazy to me at best.  It seems probably that she was in Bremen during the war, and later Hamburg, and that still later she was put on a train with other children evacuated from the city to Switzerland.

My mother has left Germany behind her, totally.  Germany as a whole is her Monster.

She doesn't know I am here.

Today the train sped through fields of remarkable flatness, over bridges above narrow canals of water, through groves of tall, straight-trunked trees whose small round leaves explain incontrovertibly what Klimt was going for in his paintings, past two-storey farmhouses with clay-tiled roofs, and into Bremen with its ornately-fronted Geibel-Hauses (reproduced in the Eighteenth-Century style after the bombings or original?  Hard to tell from the train). It's beautiful here.

Mother tells the story of being at her grandmother's farmhouse (where?  Somewhere in this flat green countryside?)  and riding the black pig across the fields, until it plunged into the canal at the end of a field in order to get her off.

(It's nice to be thinking of my mother and not so much of the various ways my heart is parceled.)

Friday, September 20, 2013


I am on my way to Muenster, Germany for a conference.  Clara likes to refer to my destination as "monster."  It feels a bit like I am travelling to a monster, or through a monster.

Here, if I name it most specifically, is my monster:
What if my children don't need me?  If I am not there, if I am not in their lives every second making myself indispensible, if I am not the one they go to with nightmares in the night, do they still need me?
(And what if, oh you rotten stinking internet for having planted this terrible seed in my brain, it would be better for them if I died than if I divorced their father?  What then? Suicidal ideations, anyone?  Lengthy conversations with self in mirror about cost/value of self's existence ensue.)

Muensterous and self-indulgent musings from the floor of BWI's international departures terminal.

Muenster: the hotel looks like it will be very modern and flashy (I love that).  And my mother comes from Germany but has never told me anything about it, so I am curious to be there as a grown up with my own eyes to see the world.

And I think perhaps I am doing well in my career and am creating a research niche for myself, perhaps, with the whole third culture literature thing.  So, there's that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Clara, Spelling

Clara figuring out how to spell, on her own.

"Jric" (Drink)
"Jitli" (Gently)

Both included in the guide she wrote to caring for cats:

They need "milk to jric" and tuna with mayonnaise stirred in "jitli" (gently).

What happens to Mummy's lunch anyway?

Winton, in car, 5.35 pm: "Mummy, what do you have left of your lunch for me to eat?"

Mummy: "What do you mean?"

Winton: "What lunch of your lunch did you save me because you knew I'd be hungry?"

Mummy: [sigh] "A banana"

Winton: "Mummy.  Never eat your bananas.  Always save them for me, okay?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Winton Said

While pushing a doll stroller with two soft toys in it:
"Let me go in front.  I'm doing all the hard work here."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Artistic Redirection

One strategy I concocted was writing an email to the kids the nights I am away, for their father to read to them in the morning.  The email comes with pictures of me holding a stuffed animal of theirs, so they can see it with me and be amused.  Plot lines, and adventures were evolving around these stuffed animals.  At work, I'd print the email and pictures (often tiny sizes of the pictures so I don't use up all my printer ink) and when I'm with the kids, I pass them along.


At my departure yesterday I was issued a list of demands:

Clara: Send us pictures Mummy!
Winton: With words on the back.
Clara: And I want mine separate from Winton's.
Winton: Take pigeon.
Clara: Wear your glasses, and don't put your hair down.
Winton: Take pigeon.  And "I love Winton" on the back so I can make it a flappy picture with words on the back and have it on the wall by my bed. [He intends, I think, to tape one side of the picture to the wall and not the other so he can lift the flap and read my words when he chooses.]
Clara: I want mine separate from Winton's.
Winton: With words on the back.  And pigeon.
Clara: And not too small.  The picture shouldn't be too small.  Print it at work.  Ok, Mummy?
Winton: With words on the back so I can make a flappy.

Ok then!  No story.  Pictures of me.  No hair down.  Separate ones for each.  Some loving sentiment on the back for them to refer to when needed.

Never mind my creative ideas re: plot lines and adventures.  The children have spoken. And Mummy will deliver (or try to . . . Clara has something very specific in mind and in spite of direction I may not get it right.  She is, after all, the child who had an epic meltdown at bedtime with me once because I smiled closed-lippedly rather than showing my teeth.)

I love my kids.  Sweet, specific, demanding little bubs.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Feral (Self-Indulgent, Melodramatic)

What leathery sinew is this that stretches from behind my ribs all the way to my children?

(In my rational mind: they are fine.  They are happy.  They are with their father, and he loves them and cares for them.  He is a good father.)

In my animal self: I am pacing and whimpering.  I feel that cord pulling my heart out of me.

(Rational: this feeling is all about me.  It does them no good.)

Animal: I just want to be near them, would chew off my own leg.

(Rational:  It does them no good to show up at preschool and school crazy as a wolf  that's been penned indefinitely in a too-small cage and demand to hug them and sniff their heads.  This I must not do, will not do.)

Animal: [ So what do I do?]

(Rational: Swim faster.   Let the chlorine wash the animal off me, the churning water roar a silence to still my fretfulness.  Or, and: Write the internet for advice.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Breakfast Delicious

For weeks, the house has had a sign, made by Clara (age 6) on the door.   It reads "Breakfast Delicious," which is the name of her "restaurant."

Today while I was mowing the lawn, a passerby on foot asked me "Is that a joke, or for real?  Do you sell dinner?"  He looked genuinely interested in eating.

Clara nearly had her first patron, but of course Breakfast Delicious is primarily a Breakfast place: we don't really do dinner for paying guests.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Car Seats

Doesn't matter how nice the day is, driving to work without people--small, talkative (frequently annoying) people-- in the back feels like a vast emptiness.

However!  It IS a nice day, and there are 16 minutes before class and I am already ready (Oh the luxury of time!), and I've had a very nice morning (barring missing the kids).  Indeed I had a nice evening yesterday too.  The result of the nice evening and morning is that I'm at work today and I don't feel utterly unhinged: that's novel.  I like it very much.  I feel like I could have a conversation with someone today and not delve into either craziness or weepiness (or at least not immediately).  That's all VERY good indeed.

And yesterday afternoon involved a visit to the duck pond with the kids (who found a dead koi and enthusiastically pummeled it with a stick), a bike ride with the kids, and a dinner that featured chicken cooked in tomato sauce and a lot of red wine.

Empirically, objectively, even in terms of scheduling: Life is good.  The kids are fine.  I am fine.  There is much, a great deal, to be happy about.

In the great guilt-fest question, "OMG but how can I be a good Mom if I am not there every second of every day?  Or of every night?," one answer might be that being a less-worked up and guilt- ravaged mom, a mom more able to enjoy the sunshine, would be being the best Mom I can be right now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The mind is its own place

Is it just me that comes home from the therapist feeling more crazy than before, not less? (Yesterday: probably my fourth therapist visit ever over the last 43 years of my existence.)

I get caught up in my desire to know what does she think of what I'm saying?  And what does she think of me?
Why?  Why does it matter what the therapist thinks of me?  I'm not renting her out as a friend.  I don't worry about what my physician thinks of me (or not much), but at the therapist I feel like she must be judging me, or she should be judging me and why won't she deliver the verdict, dammit?

Anyway, 90 minutes of that, a late school pick up which involved retrieving a tired boy (and me interpreting, narcissistically, his tiredness as evidence of his being traumatised by his crappy ass mother) and then also retrieving an overtired/ overexcited girl fresh from gymnastics, and then a protracted bedtime which involved both children working it for extra snuggles (and me, guilt-ravaged, easily falling prey) and:
it's no surprise that I left my alarm clock at the house
packed the wrong clothes for work today
and arrived here in such a black mood that goths themselves would have been impressed.

Post title is of course a reference to Milton's Paradise Lost:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven

I know brainwashing has terrible pejorative connotations, but today would be a great day for a good thorough spring cleaning so that I can see out of my own head more clearly.

It's important, cause under current (trapped in own head) conditions, I nearly miss the brilliance of such observations as Clara's last night.  Of the soup pouring off her spoon into her bowl she said "Look! It's a waterfall for ants."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Stepping in and out of what was, until very recently, my life is profoundly disorienting.
In the afternoons, I still get the kids from school, and we do fun things, and I make dinner and read to them and then put them to bed. Normal . . . but Not Normal.
No one warns you that it is the dog who will most break your heart with his joy on seeing you again after an absence from the family house.

In other news, Winton insists that his nipples are called "Pimples," while Clara's are "Boobs."

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Defined: cutting something (experimentally) off a living organism, sometimes without anaesthesia.

Redefined:  A day that is not my day with the children.