There is an art to this. To waiting, to being present in uncertainty when moments are only whatever it is that they are until the next moments arrive.
Today writing terrifies me. It terrifies me because of the way these stories last, the way we tell ourselves stories in order to be who we are, to become who we are becoming. It makes me ache, to see the small uncertain snapshot of myself as I am right now: here at the dining room table, in a room so humid the pencil digs into the soft pulp of the paper like a finger nail scratching at mosquito bitten skin.
Outside it is pouring and green and warm. Water drips from the gutters in irregular staccato and farther out the rain falls steadily with a rushing noise that fills the valley, the house, the sky with sound. Upstairs, in his crib, my son is sleeping, likely on his belly with his cheek pressed softly into the matted sheepskin he’s slept on since the day he was born. He’ll sleep for another hour and then wake and my day will circle about again, and I will become something less productive and possibly more real.
In thirty years what will these moments mean?
Today I re-read, slowly, meticulously, intentionally, every line Joan Didion’s piece, “On Going Home,” examining each comma, each particular use of parenthesis, each use of metaphor and observation, and found myself nearly in tears at this last paragraph, knowing as I know, that her daughter died at 39.
It is time for the baby’s birthday party: a white cake, strawberry-marshmallow ice cream, a bottle of champagne saved from another party. In the evening after she has gone to sleep, I kneel beside the crib and touch her face, where it is pressed against the slats, with mine. She is an open and trusting child, unprepared for and unaccustomed to the ambushes of family life, and perhaps it is just as well that I can offer her little of that life. I would like to give her more. I would like to promise her that she will grow up with a sense of her cousins and of rivers and of her great-grandmother’s teacups, would like to pledge her a picnic on a river with fried chicken and her hair uncombed, would like to give her home for her birthday, but we live differently now and I can promise her nothing like that. I give her a xylophone and a sundress from Madeira, and promise to tell her a funny story.
What can I promise? What do these moments hold?