Learning to stake a claim


Snapshots from my day:

“We don’t pretend to breastfeed our sisters.”

“It’s okay, honey, everybody pukes sometimes.”

“Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to facilitating a discussion about that documentary about cosmetic surgery for vaginas.”

Did I mention the teething baby, the new furnace, the trying to scrounge up some pennies for the preschool change war, the search for Fancy Nancy’s lost underpants, and the mountain of essays about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn waiting to be graded?

So the scintillating, hilarious, thought provoking, sassy yet warm introduction to me and my family will have to wait another day or two. In the meantime, I offer this placeholder, a couple paragraphs from the writing retreat this weekend. And that sassy yet warm introduction is coming, I promise. I just have to fold this laundry first.

When I lived in Iowa I drove hundreds of miles through the countryside, imagining my great grandmother raising 10 children alone on the prairie: Bill, Ben, Abe, Teena, Theta, Jessie, my dad’s mother, grandma Anna, the youngest. Fields of corn and soybeans now would have been tall grasses then. Farm wives put down roots, planted peonies and lilacs whose blooms and sweet scent persisted long after families moved into cities, let the old farmhouse crumble. Peonies bloom in neat rows in the middle of nowhere now, lining the foundations of an old porch where someone’s great grandmother shelled peas and rocked babies.

Dorothy walked late but talked early, still uncertain on her feet but confident in her voice, singing ABCs and the Itsy Bitsy Spider when Lucy came on the scene in the fall. Just 18 months apart, they tumble over one another like puppies, curls tangled together. Their souls unfold together and apart, butterfly wings. The new baby and I watch from the rocker, she nurses, coos, laughs when the big sisters swoop in to play peek a boo or sing you are my sunshine. They are fierce, stubborn, Dorothy shrieking from the time out chair in frustration, “This is it for me! When I grow up I will live in a house with no timers and no mom and dad!” Every day is a whirlwind of superhero capes and tea parties, tutus and dinosaurs. “When I grow up I will be a helicopter pilot and I will lower down panda bears to catch fish and then when I get married I will be a princess and my prince will fly the helicopter but I will still be in charge of the pandas. Dad, should the pandas catch a trout first or a walleye?”

They will never have to cross an ocean and an unfamiliar country to homestead, bring in the laundry off the line, send their daughters out to clean and cook in other people’s houses, pray for the winter to end, watch for the snowdrops to push tender green shoots up through rich earth just beginning to thaw. Still, they practice writing their names in pink crayon, purple marker, tongue sticking out just a little bit as they focus on making the lines and loops just so. Learning to take credit, take blame, stake a claim.

3 responses to “Learning to stake a claim

  1. well, they might have to do those things at the zombie apocalypse. 🙂
    jen, i love this and you! so exciting! thank you for sharing your very beautiful words. i have been waiting.

  2. Pingback: This is Not a Lifestyle Blog | mama nervosa

  3. Pingback: What Lauren Learned About Identity & Work via a Craft Disaster (aka “Do it, start it, FUCK THIS IT’S NOT WORKING!”) | mama nervosa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s