smartypants

I got accepted to grad school.

Starting this fall, I’ll be taking classes part-time towards an MPA.

How the hell am I going to pay for this?

Where am I going to find the time for this?

Whose idea was this again?

Oh my God, though, this means I get to get GRADED again. Please understand that I love being graded. Where else can you get such easily quantifiable validation and affirmation?

oooh grademegrademegrademe

I’m going back to grad school. holy shit.

Let’s hope I get it right this time.

heart throb

It will not surprise you when I admit that I am an absolute sucker for an good gothic romance novel.

I grew up in a crumbling old Victorian house that was left to us by my great aunt. This bequest happily included all of her wonderfully moldering possessions — and amid all the decorated blown egg shells and embroidered handkerchiefs and staffordshire china was one carefully preserved shelf of old, well-loved books.

Most of these were cheesy old stories of Cape Cod, which she collected avidly. But there was one row of tiny, red, leather-bound books. These books were her favorites.

I remember there were about twenty of these identically bound red books, each only about five inches tall and four inches wide, but the only titles I can remember from the set are MacBeth and Jane Eyre. Those were the ones that I read, over and over.

I went back to them after each brief infatuation with more modern authors, like Louisa May Alcott and Wilkie Collins. In my teens, I discovered old Harlequin romances — not the modern ones with tumescent manhoods and heaving bosoms– but the old titles from the 60′s that held fast to the formula laid down in the best, the classic, Jane Eyre.

A young, poor, innocent girl on the verge of womanhood comes into contact with an older man who is rude/mean/beastly to her. It soon emerges that he has a dark past that torments him. TORMENTS HIM.

He realizes that only she can save him from the demons that haunt him. He realizes this only AFTER he has somehow managed to permanently alienate her, either by seeming to be in love with another, more worldly woman from his own class, or by some sort of profound amplification of said original beastliness.

Only when he has driven her away does he realize, IN ANGUISH, that he needs her.

This was it. This was the part that got me. When this moment of male anguish arrived, when I read that part of the story, the oddest thing would happen.

My palms would start to ache. No, throb. It kind of hurt.

An example:

My favorite old time Harlequin of all time was this utterly fantastic book called Devil in Disguise. It was awful, really, by which I mean AWESOME and desperately British and it is amazing that it was written as recently as 1981, so outdated are the characters and the stereotypes they represent.

The girl is named Clare, the man, Lazar. He’s some sort of Greek shipping magnate. He abducts her to his Greek island in retribution for some supposed crime of her brother, Kip — I think he was supposed to have defiled Lazar’s sister, or something. So Lazar was going to do the same to Clare. And oh, I can’t go on. IT’S JUST TOO AWFUL.

Of course he doesn’t TOUCH her and then he falls in LOVE with her and is filled with SOUL-SEARING REMORSE and so he sends her packing back to ENGLAND where she pines away for him amid her pale, wan suitors named things like CLIVE and NEVILLE.

Then she decides to write him a Christmas card because that’s what you do when someone ABDUCTS YOU WITH THE INTENT OF SEDUCING YOU. You add him to your Christmas card list. And sign it, very thoughtfully, Love, Clare.

So he comes sweeping back in from Thessalonika or wherever in his private jet and takes her back to his villa in Greece where he sits her down and very seriously — ACHINGLY — asks her if she meant what she wrote in her card.

Does she really love him?

At one point in the conversation she says something about how she was kind of afraid of him, you know, because of the whole abduction thing, and this PAINS him so that he has to turn his manly head away from her, corded muscles ridging his taut neck with the strain of it all. of having caused pain to the woman he loved.

I’m telling you, I read this book maybe fifty, sixty times.

And every time, when I got to the point where Lazar turns his head and weeps a manly tear, every single time, my palms would ache.

For. Real.

This brings me to tonight. Tonight I watched the latest Masterpiece Theatre, the fabulously gothic reproduction of Jane Eyre.

This is another, somewhat more respected piece of literature that is burned into my memory cells. And you know, bit for bit, plot element for plot element, I gotta say that those Harlequin authors owe a deep, deep debt to Miss Charlotte Bronte.

And like fucking clockwork, when that tormented soul Rochester raised his agonized eyes to poor sweet Jane and asked her if she believed in redemption — again with the throbbing palms.

This raises several vital questions:

1. How did I ever grow up to eventually have enough feminist cred to enroll in a leading women’s college?

2. How have I ever managed to have anything remotely approaching a normal relationship with a man, with these dark, shameful, as yet unfulfilled expectations lurking deep within my psyche?

3. What is this crap with the palms? Romantic stigmata?

Man, I sat down a few minutes ago with the simple intention of writing some thoughtful, mature review of the new Jane Eyre and how they had faithfully recreated the themes and motifs and all the other crap I learned in English lit at Mount Holyoke.

But I can’t. My hands hurt.

as an artist

I was just looking over some of my Flickr photos and I came across this, from my last trip to Vermont.

figurines

There was this little hidden garden of porcelain figurines on the side of the road. It was both adorable and disturbing.

Which is, after all, the very best kind of adorable.

On reflection, I guess I was in a sort of over-arching mood of disturbing, like I had just re-read The Lottery just prior to vacationing in an old farmhouse in a remote town in rural New England.

Which, on further reflection, I guess I had.

dollface

dollhouse

domestic

some guy

nice birdie

sculpture garden head

monkeys on donkeys!

statehouse stairs

owl

of babies and biological clocks

It should come as no great surprise, what with all the baby-having going on around me, that I should reflect on my personal role in the chain of life, procreation, and continuing the family name.

My position is the same as it always has been: profoundly ambivalent. I could honestly go either way. And my position on my position is that this sort of life-changing decision should really have some sort of whole-hearted verve behind it.

Enough people in this world have babies with a kind of meh, why not? or Whoops! Looks like I’m having a baby! attitude. Due to the extremely fortunate circumstances of my birth, I have the luxury of this being an actual choice.

I am thirty-five now.

And although I have this sort of constant underlying hum of an awareness of maybe sort of probably wanting a kid of my own one day, occasionally amplified by events such as watching folks around me do this very thing, I just haven’t felt the overwhelming TUG yet.

Also, let’s face it, I am just now coming back into full cognizance after years spent in a self-induced haze. After a year and a half, the anaesthesia is really only just beginning to wear off. Who knows what urges I have actually been suppressing all this time?

And then there are the basic truths I know about myself and how I like my life to be. I love being alone. Truly, madly, deeply.

I have had periods in my life (much of them recorded herein!) when the isolation was so intense that I was kind of silently keening inside, but I am talking more about those cherished stretches of time when I can just be alone with my thoughts for hours at a stretch, reading, knitting, cooking, hanging out with my cats. Like today.

What with my husband and me having such conflicting work schedules, I am actually able to pretend for long stretches of time that I live alone, albeit with an invisible housemate who leaves dirty dishes and socks all over the place. Despite the hassle and grumpiness that this unfortunate tendency evokes, I really enjoy maintaining the illusion of a solitary life.

I love going joyriding around the back roads of Cape Cod all alone, walking the winter beaches, sipping coffee alone in coffee shops, buying dinner for one every night at the grocery store rather than stocking up with a week’s worth of groceries every Saturday.

When I think about having a baby, I alternate between thinking that I could just bring her/him along on all these solitary adventures and thinking that I would just have to kiss them all goodbye forever.

There are also the more mundane worries, like how little money I can spare for another person, how I don’t have health insurance, how my tiny house is really only big enough for two people whose schedules don’t overlap too much.

I realize that those can all be overcome. You decide to have a baby, you get your act together and get that health insurance you’ve been putting off buying, you try to get a raise or a better job, you put away some money for either a new home or an expansion to this one.

You make plans. You do things that wouldn’t necessarily be your first or second or top ten choice of things to do with your time and resources, because you are no longer the one calling the shots.

Also, I hear there is a lot of pooping involved.

population growth

OK so today was baby day!

I was on my way to a birthday party for one baby (my one-year-old niece) when my phone rings. It’s my best friend, and I have been waiting for this call all week.

She had a baby! On Wednesday!

I got surprisingly emotional when she told me (I cried), but I think I was kind of worried about her without admitting it to myself. She had a pregnancy once before that was problematicalistic, and I guess I was sort of holding my breath all this time.

She refused to find out the baby’s gender until the birth, so there was also the added element of suspense and surprise when the baby was revealed to have been a boy all this time. Until today, I was just calling him The Bean.

But now he is Henry! Hooray for Henry the Bean!

Fortunately, I am already close to finished with the freaking adorable set of clothes I have been knitting for him the past few weeks. I had to take a quick break in knitting his hat and socks and blanket ensemble when I suddenly remembered my niece’s birthday this week, but now that her party is behind me I can go back to Beanland.

knits 001

A bearcub hat! And booties! For Henry! the Bean!

(All that remains is the matching striped blanket. There is no way to photograph how soft this fleece yarn is, or how fantastically perfect it will be for a brand new baby person.)

For my niece, I had all these well-laid plans. I was going to knit her a wee little teddy bear. It was/is going to be my very first project involving felting. I have all the yarn and stuffing in my bedroom, honest!

And then I guess life happened, I got super busy, and I never started the bear. So when my mother called me on Wednesday night to ask me if I was going to the birthday party, I realized I had all of THREE DAYS to produce something for her.

Mom was already going on about the pink cabled cardigan SHE had knit for the wee girlie, and since I am totally not competitive at all in the least, I muttered something like byegottagotalktoyoulatermom and frantically started searching for a quick and easy pattern THAT WOULD NONETHELESS WOW THE WHOLE FAMILY because I am totaly not competitive at all in the least.

I found this, which had the singular virtue of calling for yarn that I already had in my possession, and started knitting it up right then, even though it was already way past my bedtime at around 11 at night on a weeknight.

I stayed up way too late again knitting like mad the next two nights, and today somewhere in between doing several loads of laundry at the laundromat, paying some bills, and feeding the cats, I managed to finish the decorative collar at around 12:15 pm.

The party, needless to say, was at 1 pm. A half hour away from my house.

I had just enough time to wrap it up in tissue paper, feel inadequate as a knitter and an aunt, flirt with the idea of stopping at the bookstore to buy her a “real” present with some “educational value,” stifle my feelings of inadequacy and guilt with some difficulty, overcompensate by adding more ribbons to the gift bag, and speed off to Eastham.

Before I left, I asked my boycat Satchel to model it for me.

knits 002
OK so no fancy pockets and flowers like in the original pattern. I told myself it wasn’t because I was lazy or god forbid pressed for time, but because I was going for a more simple look. Because I can already sense that my niece is a straightforward, earthy, zen kind of chick. Almost Shaker-like in her simplicity.
Yes, my neice is an Eileen Fisher kind of toddler, in a world of ersatz Versace babies.
So I was maybe one mile from the birthday party when my phone rang. I was maybe a little lost, trying AGAIN to figure out that back way to Eastham without taking the wrong turn and ending up in a non-negotiable left-hand turn situation that causeth me to smite mine forehead.
I had taken that wrong turn AGAIN and was just turning around in somebody’s second home driveway (nice landscaping!) when I got the call. Since I was already mostly stopped, I just parked it and got the story and listened to Henry chirp and burble and cried a little and this is where I was sitting and what it looked like when I heard you were born, Henry:
Henry
And then I went to my niece’s party, where she was very happy to hear about Henry, too.
knits 003
And now you know why today is baby day!