Corn grows in our yard like a flower this year. Pink tassels for blooms.
Corn grows in our yard like a flower this year. Pink tassels for blooms.
Me and my siblings don’t have much of a connection to our roots. When I asked my maternal grandmother once what ethnicity she is, she said that she’s American. I pushed further but that was the only answer she wanted to give. But on my father’s side, people immigrated from the Ukraine not that many generations ago. I don’t think many fathers keep their ethnicity alive as well as mothers, aside from the gift of their last name: my father doesn’t cook, and in food we see what we’re made of.
But once a year we would visit his mother, and on those days we’d get our Ukranian food. What we probably all remember most is pedaheh: Ukranian pierogies, often filled with cheese and dill. When I smell dill, it propels all of me toward my grandmother, not just my stomach but all of my senses. I don’t think that any other smell does that quite as strongly. Maybe that’s the pull of ethnicity, forming a memory in my bones while I’m being made. We never got the recipe from my grandmother — she wouldn’t offer it up, she wanted it to be solely our memory with her, she was stubborn. But last week I asked her daughter, my aunt, who offered it without question.
My first batch didn’t turn out so well, but the second batch is exactly what I remember. I love serving them to Rosie and Steve, and feeding a growing baby with them. It keeps something in my heritage alive that I didn’t know I even cared about until now.
1. make dough
2. pull off a piece and press it with your fist into the size of a flat peach or orange
3. put a tablespoon of a mix of dill, feta, and egg in the middle
4. pull the sides up and press together until it resembles a small football
5. wipe the outside with sour cream
6. bake a bunch of these at 350 for 20 minutes
He wanted to stop at the paint store on the way home. When I asked why he said it was none of my business. Conversations can get roundabout around here. I asked again and he said he needed the paint to paint trees. I didn’t believe him. I understand being private about artmaking. There’s a pink one in the woods somewhere, too.
I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as my summer fun book. I didn’t expect it to be rigorous and I didn’t think I would enjoy the writing, but I was wrong. I read it in just a couple of days, immersed in her life as a small family trying to eat only the food they grow for one year. I am a sucker for books about food — I could probably read Michael Pollan daily — and this book was no exception: I was inspired to make my own bread and cheese and eat everything from our garden.
But what made the book more difficult for me was their insularity and its contrast to our life’s porousness. Their family of four has their own unique rules that start with food but encompass a lifestyle: living with enough land to grow food means they don’t live in the city; working to grow everything on their own means that everyone pitches in with growing, weeding, canning, and cooking; eating only local food means there’s no room for sugar and prepackaged items. With summer’s schedule we have Rosie this week, and I’m reminded too strongly how little control either house has. While last week she lived like a vagabond, crashing at one friend or another’s house each night, in our house I want her to have a good night’s sleep and I can’t tolerate friends in our basement each night — not because I don’t like them, because I do really like her friends, but because it means teenagers want food at midnight and want fancy breakfast in the morning, and Rosie doesn’t get a good night’s sleep. Rosie is mad at me for my rule: two sleepovers a week at our house sounds more than fair to me but she wants more. She comes to our house with money her mother gave her, then it’s gone and there are Pringles and soda in the downstairs trash. I watch her walk out the door wearing my jacket without asking, and I know this rule about privacy and clothes-sharing is different at her mother’s, but I am not so kind — it was in folded my bedroom on my dresser and it comes back smelling like perfume I wouldn’t wear with a movie ticket in a pocket (I am especially rigid, I’m afraid, because much more than once a shirt of mine never came back). Jack comes over and almost immediately turns on the computer to watch a re-run of a show called Family Guy, then he’s singing a song from the show about a bag of weed. He knows the rules, no television before it’s dark outside, and certainly not that show, but he also doesn’t know, he tests, just to see, because life between two houses is unstable.
When we have a kid that’s just ours… I have said in my head for six years. But I don’t give up on these kids who didn’t ask to teeter-totter between two worlds. And I also try not to let the rules of my house alter by a world I am not a part of. I want this house to be completely ours, no compromises. At her mother’s Rosie doesn’t have to pick up her own towel because her mother is good enough to pick it up for her, but at our house I make her because I’m not her maid and because these small details help keep her connected to reality and responsibility and that’s that.
I know that the outside world is always going to intrude, even when I raise a child all in one house. I know that I prefer to live close enough to town that we can walk to the farmer’s market, and I know that that means we’re close enough to town to also buy a soda. But this week I can grieve for all I can’t choreograph that I wish I could. I am sad to build a family culture in this way, part-time, that often doesn’t feel whole.
“Streets with No Name” is a beautiful post in the blog Sweet Juniper about Detroit’s chemins du desir, the pathways of desire: where people have voted with their feet in spite of where the concrete instructs them to walk.
When you sleep, sweat collects on the back of your neck and in your palms.
Dandelion fur floats along your jaw in the spring but you can only tell at sunset, the sun sideways making everything fat.
Mornings you will not make it up a hill but it’s not your fault: you are 150 percent more plasma, more palms, more psalms, which does not feel like blood but more like children on your ankles.
Your face will look like the face of 2003, beer-swollen and hopeful. You will look up at the sky as you chew.
As if in hibernation, food will collect in the backs of your arms and under your chin and in your breasts and thighs. I am sorry, but you will not be able to zip up that dress. You will sit there on your bed alone with the dress unzipped, chewing. Light will dapple your thighs like an invitation. Your humor will not reply.
You will eat four eggs in the morning alone, alone. For lunch you will eat with the dogs, apples and cheese.
Your veins will tell everyone’s eyes where to go, to follow the map of unnamable tributaries: nipples swell and they do not descend like airplanes. Nipples swell like they are supposed to so you may turn away. You will sleep.
You may slam the porch door. There will be a thick boundary, a corset pulled taut like a failed parachute wrapped around you. All love is an intrusion.
You will sleep and dream in color of rhubarb and demons, and you may wake screaming.
When you lie on your back your right leg goes numb but not your left one. When you walk your left thumb goes numb but nothing else. When people need something from you your heart may be cold, no longer inside a diplomat but in a castle with a thick moat, your words like chain mail around your stomach.
While nearing the end of a book, you will cry and then sleep with that book in your arms, your breath a rhythm that makes the words a baby that doesn’t end.
Last night I went to the bathroom and there was blood. I sat on the toilet and cried, and then I googled the worst. This had happened before, it had looked exactly the same, and we had lost twin A. The nurse this morning instantly understood the concern and told me to drink a lot of water to prepare for an ultrasound within the hour. Actual conversation:
me: Do you require that everyone who’s bleeding at 12 weeks get an ultrasound?
nurse becky: Not all the time, but you’re special.
me: Thank you.
nurse becky: You are special in God’s eyes. But also you have a history of bleeding with spontaneous abortion and you have cysts from the IVF procedure, so we have to monitor you more closely.
(To hear from a nurse, no matter if she was joking, that I was special in God’s eyes, I felt small and scared enough that I actually really needed to hear it.) I called Steve at his volunteer activity to tell him about the sudden doctor’s appointment, and he asked if he should come. I said no, and he said that I should call him for anything. I was at that moment in the parking lot of a swimming pool waiting for Rosie’s lessons to end. There were people everywhere and I started bawling. Joon licked my ear. When the first IVF hadn’t worked, I could say that it wasn’t meant to be. When we lost Twin A, I felt similarly, though we had heard the heartbeat and I was naturally torn between sorrow over the loss and optimism over what remained. But this time, I felt the fighter in me that wouldn’t let me accept this fate. The same fighter that wouldn’t let me be okay when we learned that we would never be birthing a child at all, or at least not naturally. This internal mechanism isn’t helpful or thoughtful, it just swings its arms and aims at anyone who might have hurt me or who might have caused this. I cried in the parking lot because I felt small and porous, angry and scared. I was not going to be okay with losing this baby. I was going to fight and cry instead. Steve called back and said I should pick him up on the way to the doctor’s office.
This is how much water I drank. I drank so much water that, after I’d picked up Steve, in summer construction traffic, I opened the car door while I was driving and vomited it out, again and again. Also, I’m pretty sure I was nervous. Steve assured me that it would be fine – he said we didn’t owe anything to the universe right now, that we’d already been through enough to get this far. I wanted to believe him that it worked that way.
At the doctor’s office, we saw that the baby is indeed fine. When I asked the ultrasonagrapher why she thinks I bled, she said that kids scare their parents all the time for no reason. There it was in its sac, its heart beating normally, it size accurate, its head as big as it should be. When I laughed, it moved. Not huge scooping movement like in the last ultrasound, but small ones, reaching its hand toward its head, slowly kicking its legs. We got to watch it for a long time, Steve making sort-of funny running commentary throughout.
She strained to see the sex, but she couldn’t make it out this early. I have thought on and off that it’s a boy, I can’t yet imagine it a girl, and when Steve saw it in the ultrasound two weeks ago, he agreed. Today he agreed again, but when I asked why, he said scientifically that it’s because it was moving a lot and it had a big head. Rosie’s mom thought that Rosie was a boy her whole pregnancy, but out she came, so I’m not saying that our guesses are godly or accurate. And I’m also not saying that I care either way: I’ve closely raised Rosie and I’ve raised Jack with one hand tied behind my back – both have been worthwhile, difficult, and awesome for different reasons that may or may not relate to their gender. And if men tend to want to raise boys and women tend to want to raise girls, then it must be okay to be whatever you are. When we started the pregnancy, I was adamant that we would find out the sex; the further we get into this, the less I care. (Though still we’ll find out – I dislike the lie of the nurse seeing and knowing and not letting on. It feels like part of this century that people now easily can see the sex, and I’m content with having a five-month surprise over a nine-month surprise with that information. I am confident that there will be plenty of other things to take in at nine months, and I think that knowing the sex is helpful for bonding purposes for Rosie and Steve because they don’t get to bond by carrying it [yet]). But in truth, after twelve-plus weeks of eating as carefully as I can and worrying over pregnancy books and feeling the fatiguing effects of being the best host I can be, I don’t care whose mouth or nose or eyes or sex it will have or what day it arrives. Like everyone says and like I couldn’t feel until going through this, all I care is that the baby is healthy and whole.
We’ve had these peonies all over our house in different vases for at least two weeks. Today I tried to compost them to prepare for a house guest, but I couldn’t get rid of them. I love how they look when they die — like old stacks of paper that were wet and then dried, or like wax.
I love the posture of gardeners, squatting in the dirt, folding over tiny things.