Where I’ve been.

I’m just starting to get back outside (aside from trips from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office and back again.)

For the first time in a month. 

Why?

Well, about a month ago the baby went to bed and I knew it wasn’t for good, but I needed (needed) to get my hands dirty. It was a race against the baby clock. I ran downstairs as quietly as I could. Shoving tied shoes onto tired feet. Mind spinning – what to do? What to do?

I head to the front bed, overgrown with weeds and grass and getting worse the longer I leave things to seed. Rip. Tug. Puuuuuuull. Weeds and grass flung out of the earth and onto the walk. Faster. Deeper. 

There.

The weeds were gone. The grass was gone. I loaded the bundle into my arms for the bin and wandered back to tackle the roses. 

Screech…

I look up to see two heads pop out of the upstairs window. “He’s up.”

I race inside. Shedding my shoes and shirt and launching up the stairs into bed with the baby to try and nurse him back down before he’s too awake to settle.

Whew.

Fast forward two days later and I’m nursing him in the middle of the night and…That’s a killer spider bite on my pinky. 

Fast forward to the next evening. You guessed it. 


Ooze. 

It’s not even that I didn’t see it. It’s that I didn’t even look. I didn’t realize I’d been exposed. I’d just spent three days spreading the oils all.over.the.house.

I’ll spare you the pictures of my pinky trying to swim away in a sea of ooze. Or the crawling dime-sized blister on the back of my hand. Or the 8″x4″ map of seeping Australia on my stomach…

I got a new patch every few hours for ten days straight. It took washing every.thing.in.the.house.every.day for five days to stop the cycle. I covered head to toe, sitting on sheets, everything else was molten lava.

It had been ten years (just) since I’d last gotten poison oak. I used to get it every summer growing up. This was the worst time. I’ll be ok if I can make it at least two decades before i get it again. And you can bet your raised eyebrow I’ll be weeding so very carefully going forward.

I still look like I’m recovering from a motorcycle crash without enough gear. I still hear, “Mama, bad rash. That’s a bad rash. Skin hurt?” But I can stomach standing outside now without raging my way into a miserable fit. So there’s that.

Teeny tiny nom.

Do you see it? No?


 How about now?

Not anymore. “Tomato? Mmmm…I like tomatoes. I’m chewing. All gone.”

This little plant hitched a ride a long way. From kitchen to compost. Compost to garden bed. Garden bed to front bed in the soil surrounding a (still unhappy) rosemary plant. It grew. And grew. Dodging lawnmower blades and only getting misty watering twice a week, it grew. 

Perhaps next year I’ll plant an intentional tomato there. 

Feel the feels, y’all. 

“Sometimes I think the urgency to continue on to the next mundanity is a calculated distraction designed to prevent one from feeling all of the depth, breath, and heft of each moment. Each moment is wrapped in layer after layer and rare is the painless peeling.”

– me, soaking up every iota of input from the moments spent swaying, holding my son, who will be even older tomorrow, until enough tomorrows have passed that he no longer fits in the cradle of my arms, his head too large someday for the crook of my neck. Me, soaking up so much that I overflow and tears slip between my lashes and I breathe into the cramp growing in my back to stand and sway a little longer. 

Sparks fly.

I had two half days to myself. Daycare started unexpectedly early, work a few days off yet. I thought to build. 

I gathered my list, loaded in the car, and drove the quick five minutes to the lumber yard.

The cables corraling the lengthy planks made extraction nearly a circus act. I attempted a quiet extrication and – success. Twelve foot board after twelve foot board. Up up up, balance…swipe the cable restraint away, lower lower lower, hand over hand and…on the cart. Repeat. 

It was slow going and I was on a milk timer. Assessing my speed I realized it would be a lot faster if I wasn’t trying to be quiet. Why was I trying to be quiet? I was in a hardware store, in the lumber section, no one else was being quiet. No one else was female either. 
BANG.

I let the plank drop. Onto the cart. 

BANG.

Still concerned about the time I thought again: I need to move faster. 

I had set my cart up on the side of the aisle so as to not take up too much space. I moved my cart so that…

BANG. Swing. BANG. Swing. 

That was the pace I needed. My cart was loaded in no time. 

I pushed my way to the front of the store and got in line. A man came over from the tool rental area to do a remote checkout of my items. I asked him if he would check if there were any trucks left in the lot to rent. I mentioned he’d miscounted my boards and was about to under charge me. 

There was a truck. I left my lumber and set up the truck rental at the service desk. The lumber checkout had gotten more popular in the meantime. The looks I got pulling the truck into the loading bay. The looks I got retrieving so much lumber. 

“I’ll call someone up to help you load up,” the man who had rung me up declared kindly. 

“Oh. Ok, thanks.”

Wait. I don’t need help. Why am I getting help? Why did I say ok? 

Hey. I’m going to start loading up. If they get here before I’m done, great.”

I went outside. The drop gate wouldn’t drop. Oh, well. Up. Swing. Slide. Up. Swing. Slide. A man approached with headphones on. He saw me and deflated. Picking up the end of one board he waited for me to pick up the other end. Up. Drop. I picked up the ends of three boards. He didn’t notice. He slipped. He noticed. He picked up three ends of three boards. Up. Drop. Up. Drop. The lumber loaded, he walked off. Never a word or a smile. 

I drove home. I enjoyed driving a truck again. I felt how I’d felt in the summers in the country growing up. Farmers and fields everywhere. I unloaded the lumber into my garage, pumped, and headed back to return the truck. 

Truck returned. Walking back to my car, I got whistled at. Doing nothing other than walking empty handed through the parking lot on a Wednesday afternoon. 

I’m not a terribly quiet person. Shy in new social situations. Outspoken and opinionated at work and with friends. I actively work against the institutionalization of gender expectations within myself. And yet I tried to be quiet in a lumber yard. I tried to not take up too much space. I accepted help I didn’t need because someone thought I did. 

Having become the mother of a daughter, I’ve become ever more mindful of gendered life. She regularly wears shirts with lizards on them, a pink tutu, plays with dump trucks, and wants her nails painted. Having recently had a son, new pieces of indoctrination come to light. He smiles. Baby boys that do so are called flirts. Baby girls aren’t. Because from infancy boys’ sexuality is acceptable, girls mustn’t be promiscuous. Older boy children get to be charmers, girls are boy crazy. 

It took me this long to realize I was even trying to be small and quiet in a situation as mundane as the lumber yard. What else am I missing? What am I unconsciously indoctrinating? 

I can’t. I do, but I can’t.

The loss and the hate. The fear and the sacred. The helpless and the want.

I can’t today. I can’t power through. I can’t refocus. I can’t feel any more.

It’s all too much.

But I do.

I check boxes. I pick up pjs. I make decisions. I eat. I breathe. I move through.

There has to be more to do than write letters and add words to the internet.