Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sestina for the Working Mother

I recently picked up Deborah Garrison's The Second Child at the library. It's the most recent work by the Pantheon Books editor, and mom of three.

This one was quite beautiful--no less another reminder of the awkward and sorrowful reconciliation between working and staying at home.

Sestina for the Working Mother
No time for a sestina for the working mother.

Who has so much to do, from first thing in the morning
When she has to get herself dressed and the children
Too, when they tumble in the pillow pile rather than listening
To her exhortations about brushing teeth, making ready for the day;
They clamor with "up" hugs when she struggles out the door.

Every time, as if shot from a cannon when she shuts the door.
She stomps down the street in her city boots, slipping from mother
Mode into commuter trance, trees swaying at the corner of a new day
Nearly turned, her familiar bus stop cool and welcoming in the morning.
She hears her own heart here, though no one else is listening,
And if the bus is late she hears down the block the voices of her children

Bobbing under their oversized backpacks to greet other children
At their own bus stop. They too have come flying from the door,
Brave for the journey, and everyone is talking and no one is listening
As they head off to school. The noisy children of the working mother,
Waiting with their sitter for the bus, are healthy and happy this morning,
And that's the best way, the mother knows, for a day

To begin. The apprehension of what kind of day
It will be in the world of work, blissful without children,
Trembles in the anxious and pleasurable pulse of the morning;
It has tamped her down tight and lit her out the door
And away from what she might have been as a mother
At home, perhaps drinking coffee and listening

To NPR, what rapt and intelligent listening
She'd do at home. And volunteering, she thinks, for part of the day
At their school—she'd be a playground monitor, a PTA mother!
She'd see them straggle into the sunshine, her children
Bright in the slipstream, and she a gracious shadow at the school door;
She would not be separated from them for long by the morning.

But she has chosen her flight from them, on this and every morning.
She's now so far away she trusts someone else is listening
To their raised voices, applying a Band-Aid, opening the door
For them when the sunshine calls them out into the day.
At certain moments, head bent at her desk, she can see her children,
And feels a quick stab. She hasn't forgotten that she is their mother.

Every weekday morning, every working day,
She listens to her heart and the voices of her children.
Goodbye! they shout, and the door closes behind the working mother.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

march, march, march!

those of us in central ohio have been slowly recovering from a bi-polar snowstorm that hit us about 3 weeks ago like a bad case of the miseries. the ice is now slowly melting and there are just a few traces of snow left around town in dirty bits that remind me of the piles of laundry in my bedroom. one thing that i actually love about living in ohio (i'm a southern transplant) is that we actually get snow...and i often look forward to it arriving, preferably during the winter holidays, now excluding valentine's day and president's day.

this year it came kind of late and in a big glob. it snowed straight for almost a week and ultimately caused tons of chaos--for me anyway. my husband and i landed ourselves into crazy bickering sessions over how to handle it ("you're not supposed to boil pots of water and pour them onto your car! don't break my window!!!"). and our cars took a beating as well, ending up with holes in the pipes underneath and layers of salt coating the exterior. thankfully we were able to get around after digging ourselves out many times over throughout the days. there was one sweet moment where about 8 people stopped what they were doing to help get my husband out of the snow while he tried to turn a corner.

the most significant impact the snow has made, i think, has been my mental stability. snow is beautiful and makes things clean and all, but for someone like myself who prefers the predictable, the snow war created a ton of anxiety. i assume because of the work we had to do to get around and the lack of options for childcare once the school shut down for several days. i think also because of how isolated i felt from the world, though it was only for a few days.

so three cheers for march! hip, hip, hooray!