Tiny Changeling

The Engineer and I had a baby!

I haven’t written much during the pandemic – it hasn’t felt like there’s much worth sharing when time feels meaningless and trips home keep getting canceled and my creativity, like so many people’s, is stymied by the historical moment we’re living in. But this is one story I’d like to write down somewhere.

Finding Out

We had decided to start trying when 2020 began, and in late May we had pretty much written off the month. I still felt a little weird, though, so without telling the Engineer I decided to take a(nother) pregnancy test one Saturday when I got up to feed the cat.

At that point I had taken several negative tests in previous months, and I was fully expecting this one to be negative as well. After feeding the cat and sitting with her for a few minutes, I went to look at the test. It’s going to be negative. It’s going to be negative.

There were two lines.

I actually had to count the lines several times to believe it. I was so used to seeing just one, but there was definitely a second line.

Usually I try to go back to sleep after feeding the cat. No way that was happening now. So I tiptoed upstairs, grabbed a digital pregnancy test, and told a still-sleeping Engineer that I was going to read for a little bit (untrue) because I felt pretty awake (true). I don’t think he even heard me.

The cat, delighted that I was keeping her company for her breakfast, squeaked at me and twined around my ankles while I tried to wait the full five minutes for the test to run. I think I made it three minutes before “just going to check.” And there it was. Pregnant.

Tiptoeing upstairs again (the Engineer still didn’t stir), I grabbed the stuffed narwhal we bought over a year ago when we first started talking about kids. I set up the narwhal on our kitchen table with the pregnancy test and a note that said, “Can’t wait for my friend to get here! ETA: 9 months.” Then I settled down on the couch with my book and waited.

And waited.

And waited. I finished my book, read a magazine, watched a few episodes of something on Netflix, and still nary a sound came from upstairs. I tried to be patient. It was Saturday, after all, and the Engineer deserved to sleep in, plus I didn’t want to ruin the surprise by acting too weird before he had a chance to see the note and the narwhal. But by 9:30 (three hours, mind you, after I had found out!) I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Are you going to get up soon?” I asked, flopping across the bed to stare at the still-sleepy Engineer.

“Maybe. Why do you have so much energy?” he asked. “You’re like a Golden retriever.”

“I’m just in a good mood today,” I said evasively. “Come downstairs. I want to have breakfast with you.”

“Okay,” he said, “I’ll be down in a minute.”

He was not down in a minute. I positioned myself strategically between our couch and kitchen island so he would have to go around the other way and I could see his face when he saw the narwhal. The Engineer scrolled through his phone, stretched, and generally took his damn time getting downstairs. When he finally made his way down to the kitchen, he started telling me about a dream he’d had while I pretended to look at my phone, fairly vibrating with excitement. He put his frozen waffles in the toaster oven, turned toward the table, and stopped midsentence.

And then we cried and hugged and prayed and planned what order to call family members.

Getting Here

Everyone told me firsts are never early, so when I started having what I thought were merely Braxton Hicks contractions a week before Tiny Changeling’s due date, I didn’t take it too seriously. The day wore on, and the contractions didn’t get any more regular, but they didn’t go away either. I was uncomfortable enough that I didn’t eat much dinner. We spent most of the evening Googling “how to tell the difference between false labor and real contractions” and even called the birth center.

If they become regular and come consistently every 5 minutes. If you can’t talk through the contraction. If you have a baby at the end of it.

Well, I thought, none of that was happening. Let’s just go to bed. (It’s here I should note that the poor Engineer tried several times to ask if I wanted to go to the hospital, but my fear of inconveniencing other people by “overdramatizing” pain is so deeply ingrained that I kept saying no. Plus I didn’t want to pay for a false alarm visit – thank you, American healthcare.)

Except I couldn’t sleep, so the Engineer came downstairs with me to watch TV (and keep an eye on the stopwatch between contractions). We kept having to pause the show so I could breathe through another pain, and I couldn’t sit still so I walked laps around our kitchen and living room. The cat, confused by all the flurry of activity so late at night, walked with me.

Around 1:00 am, when several contractions had come 5 minutes apart on the dot, the Engineer said, “Okay, you couldn’t talk through that one. We’re going to the hospital.” Luckily he had packed his bag on a hunch the day before, so I threw some last-minute stuff in my suitcase and we said goodbye to the thoroughly puzzled cat.

At the hospital, they confirmed I was in labor, checked us into a room, and asked about our birth plan. I definitely wanted an epidural. (This was the best choice for me – every birth is different! No shame!) The anesthesiologist and nurse who guided me through it were fantastic. The nurse should have been a yoga instructor, her voice was so calming and grounding. Once the epidural was placed, I tried to get some rest – well, as much rest as I could with someone coming in to flip me over every half hour since I couldn’t move myself.

The rest of the night and morning passed in that weird timeless haze where you’re waiting for something to happen. I emailed my bosses with the subject line “In labor,” feeling SO ANNOYED that I wouldn’t have the chance to tidy up all those last-minute tasks I was planning to tackle this work week. It was Monday morning! Tiny Changeling wasn’t supposed to come for another 5 days! I was supposed to have stuff handled!

The day went on. The Engineer was such a good support, and our team of doctors and nurses were wonderful, but as the hours passed I was getting hungrier and more tired than I had ever been in my life. What I wanted more than anything was to hit pause, eat, sleep, and come back to it fully rested. I knew I could do this, just not in the state of exhaustion I was currently in. Eventually one doctor informed me that if we didn’t see progress soon, we’d need to consider a C-section.

For months, I’d been telling myself, “Whatever gets me and the baby out of there safely,” and I stand by that. No form of birth is “less than” another. But in that moment, after hours of labor, to be told I’d probably need a C-section honestly felt like utter failure. You said I was doing well! You said we were making progress! What happened?!

But Tiny Changeling was stuck, and we needed something more than I could give on my own. Another doctor came in to consult and recommended forceps. The Engineer and I agreed – and I immediately burst into tears. My emotions couldn’t take it anymore. The room started filling with people to assist or observe or do other medical roles, and they kept asking if I was okay, but I couldn’t explain, so I just cried AT them until everything was ready.

Three more pushes.

They placed our baby on my chest. “We have a little girl,” the Engineer announced.

“Wait, was it a surprise? I love that!” someone exclaimed from the back of the room.

And there she was, looking just like her dad, and also somehow just like me, and also completely herself.

Tiny Changeling arrived on January 25th, and our little family is so in love – even the cat is protective of her!

Endings Are Weird II

My dad is retired. Sort of. He went into the office the day after his retirement party, which bothered me because I like neat and tidy endings, but it also seemed appropriate. The fini flight, as they call it, was an echo of some other, real last flight years ago that none of us fully recognized for what it was.

I’ve been a pilot’s daughter my whole life. It was something fun to throw in the faces of boys in my third grade class when they went through that phase. They would muse about the secret lives of pilots, and with a bored air I would tell them I’d been in the pilots’ lounge tons of times. They asked me what it was like. Sometimes I would maintain an air of mystery. Sometimes I told them it was boring – all the TVs were turned to the weather channel. The trappings of pilot life didn’t impress me, since I saw my dad’s flight manual and wings and uniform too often.

On the fini flight the uniform was novel again. He looked the way I remembered him looking when he went off on trips when I was little, and I kept doing double takes all day. For the past few years he’s been wearing ties and button downs, because for the past few years he hasn’t been flying. He calls it optics, since the tremor from the Parkinson’s is bad enough that passengers might be somewhat unnerved by a shaking man flying them through the air in a large metal tube.

I was flown once by my dad. I was tagging along on a 25-hour layover to Boston to look at a college, and when the crew bumped me up to first class the man in the seat next to me seemed confused. Why was a random 16-year-old sitting alone in first class? There was a delay of some kind, and Dad came out to chat with the passengers. The man next to me said, “Ohhh. That has to be your dad.” (There’s a certain family resemblance.) I nodded proudly.

I thought there would be more flights like that.

There was a break, sometime after the diagnosis, and then he did go back to flying for a bit. On the whole, he always assures me, he’s doing well. When he grounded himself again we didn’t realize it would be permanent. It happened slowly.

Some endings are like that, I think. When Bird and I wrote a bio to give to the passengers on the fini flight, it was the first time I had written anything in months, and I procrastinated on it until the morning it was due (sorry, Dad, but I figured you’d understand given your own work process). I hadn’t realized that my writing had ground to a standstill until I had to break the unarticulated hiatus.

Sometimes we stop doing the things we love without meaning to.

The passengers seemed to like the bio, however it turned out. I noticed they kept thanking Dad for his service, and I noted to my stepmom that I honestly forget most of the time that he was ever in the military. Sure, I know intellectually that he flew for the Air Force, that that’s how he got into flying in the first place, but to me the finality of the day was about his commercial pilot life, not something he’d already retired from years ago. People take what they will from stories, I guess.

We always tell my dad he needs to write down his stories from years of adventures in flying, and he always swears he will. So, Mr. Retired, now’s your chance. I’ll write if you will.

All Are Welcome

The Engineer and I often talk about our “forever home” and the various attributes this dream house will have. We want a vegetable garden, a renovated carriage house where the Engineer can tinker with his five motorcycles (yes, we have decided on five) and I can read in the loft, a wood stove, a playroom for our kids, sustainable energy-efficient technology, and of course a library with a secret door behind one of the bookcases. But most of all, what we want is room to welcome others in.

When we scroll through Zillow over lunch, learning about each other’s architectural and aesthetic preferences (I always want to redo the kitchen cabinets, he always looks for staircases), we keep coming back to wanting a guest bedroom, a space that our kids and their friends can hang out, a place to offer anyone who might need a place to stay. Even though the word made me twitch for a while (due to its overuse in the Unfortunate Internship), the value we’re really looking for is hospitality.

Most of the time, I feel like this is a thing that Future Me will be able to do. Future Me will be the one to invite people over and have an open-door policy and be the second home to the neighborhood kids. (Future Me will have better furniture and magical amounts of free time, too.)

But that desire to welcome pops through in unexpected ways already. In our old apartment complex, our friends from church would literally just walk into our apartment at all hours; we often compared it to living in a sitcom where no doors are ever locked. When we were choosing our house here, we intentionally searched for a two-bedroom and got a daybed that converts to a king bed so we could encourage loved ones from the West Coast to come visit.

And a few weeks ago, one half of our New Couple Friends asked if she could crash on our couch since she would be in town to finish up some things at their old apartment. Instead of the couch, of course, we made up the day bed in the study, I made her tea and breakfast in the morning, and we had a lovely chat before she headed home. Although it never crossed my mind to say we couldn’t host her, I briefly wondered if it would make me feel harried or stressed to have someone over on a random Monday night/Tuesday morning. In reality, getting to hang out quietly comparing our DuoLingo progress in Spanish and laugh at my cat’s antics was comfortable. 

Maybe Future Me doesn’t have a monopoly on hospitality after all.

 

 

 

Moses Floating in a Basket: A Follow-Up to Skits and Donuts

Interestingly, “Teaching Moments with Skits and Donuts” has been one of my most popular posts over the years, but not necessarily because of the VBS experience that spawned the post. A lot of readers end up in the comments there searching for the apparently elusive lyrics to what I remember only as “the Moses song.” At least once a year I get an email asking for the lyrics!

After my mother kindly sent me the video last year of 6-year-old me belting this out with my VBS class, I transcribed the lyrics we learned and shared them in the comments of the original post. The inquiries didn’t stop, however, so I’ve decided to make them their own post in the hopes of helping out others who just can’t remember how that song goes. (And if anyone wants to repay me by pointing us to the lyrics of “More Joy in Heaven,” that would be great, because Bird and I can’t remember much beyond the refrain and what Bird calls “every second-grader’s Mariah Carey moment,” the ear-piercing key change in the line “With 99 safe in the field the shepherd set out to rescue the stray.”)

Anyway, without further ado, here are the lyrics I learned many years ago to the Moses song:

Mama had a baby
A long time ago
But she couldn’t keep him
‘Cause the Pharaoh said “No!”

She took him to the river
In a basket boat
Said a little prayer
“Lord, help him float!”

CHORUS:
Moses, floating in a basket
Drifting down the river Nile
Who will, who will save him?
God will save this little child!

Pharaoh’s daughter
Was bathing in the Nile
She looked in the basket
And saw the little child

“What a cute little baby!”
She tickled his chin
“Now who will help me
Take care of him?”

CHORUS

Moses had a sister
Who loved him so
She told the Pharaoh’s daughter
“I know! I know!

I’ll go and bring you someone
To give him food!”
She ran and got her mommy
Yes, that was good.

CHORUS x2

Depression 2.0, Now With Fun New Features

I haven’t written here in a while – longer than a while, really, but let’s ignore the specifics. I haven’t written because the words have been gone.

I’ve reached for them, certainly. I could show you all the drafts I’ve half-started, all the snippets scribbled in an optimistically blank notebook that promise this time I’ll truly Start Writing Again, this time the words will be back for good.

But I’ve been busy with other things.

Shortly after finding gainful employment that fits beautifully with my past experience and skill set, I entered another major depressive episode. Except it was different, so I doubted myself. It didn’t seem like Last Time, more like a vaguely distant cousin of Last Time, and I wasn’t sure if I should be worried yet. Then my counselor announced she was closing her practice, and I burst into tears in my new boss’s office, and I had to leave church because I was shaking, and I thought perhaps I should be worried.

I found a new counselor relatively quickly, whom I am still seeing, and in my intake appointment she asked the usual series of questions. I told her I had depression, I already knew that, and she said she would ask anyway.

Turns out I also have anxiety and a touch of a panic disorder. Neat.

I’ve been learning what my new symptoms look like, what works for me in this season of life, and what old coping methods I can no longer lean on. One thing was the same, though. I wasn’t reading. And with me it’s a short distance from reading to writing.

So I’ve been absent here, not because there’s been a shortage of things worth writing about (in fact I tried, many times, to write about the things I was feeling, suspecting that if I could pin them to the page I might process them better, but they slipped out of my grasp) but because my brain did not want to give me that option.

I think I’m back now. We’ll see. But this post came easily, and that’s a start.

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Found on Pinterest from The Paris Review. It expressed the sentiment well.

 

Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Knowing how obsessed I am with C.S. Lewis and his works (I plan to one day own them all. ALLLLLLL.) my wonderful mother gave me this book for my birthday: a fictionalized account of how Joy Davidman grew into one of “Jack” Lewis’s best friends and eventually became his wife.

I will admit, I was cautious about my excitement at first. Sometimes I’ve found that digging into the biographical facts behind a favorite author reveals disappointing details, like the literary version of “don’t meet your heroes.” I knew from other books about the Inklings’ group dynamics that some of Jack’s friends disliked Joy or thought her a bad influence on him, so I wasn’t sure how well this book would go.

Still, like Joy herself, I wanted to get to know a great man whose writing had moved me. So I plunged ahead.

What I found was not a book so much about falling in love with a man or even a favorite author, but a book about a woman falling in love with God and with who she knew herself to be. Joy struggles in her first marriage both because of her husband’s faults (alcoholic, abusive, absent) and her own perceived lack (prefers the title of “writer” to “wife,” is not a good housekeeper, resents putting her own work aside for her husband’s). Her conversion to Christianity and growing understanding of God bring her to acknowledge her own needs and to recognize that they, too, are good. I enjoyed reading about Joy’s own journey of realizing the need for constant surrender to God’s love, particularly her epiphany about seeking destructive love because true Love (in God and in a virtuous relationship with someone like Jack) is frightening.

Despite the full title (“The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis”), the story was thoroughly Joy’s own, and not too focused on falling in love with a famous man. Too often the women beside historically significant men are erased or diminished and deemed important only because of who they married or slept with. But Joy was a writer and a scholar before she ever met Jack, and she had a mind of her own.

The beginning of the book did move a bit slowly with the author’s decision to include excerpts from Jack and Joy’s letters every few paragraphs. It made the story feel very choppy, with near-constant interruptions. But once Joy went to England, it smoothed out and became an engaging read.

4/5 stars on Goodreads


Do you think there’s danger in learning too much about the authors behind your favorite books?

December Book Blizzard

The lovely thing about vacations is I get to read so much more! And when that vacation is also Christmas, where I usually receive even more books, well

This year, between stocking up for long plane trips and receiving some wonderful gifts from family, I ended up devouring 7 books over 2 weeks, which is an average of a book every 2 days. Not my best record (thinking back fondly to the Christmas break when I reread the entire Harry Potter series in 2 days) but a respectable amount!

Here are the books that made up my blizzard of reading at the end of 2018:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

I want everyone to read this book. I so admire and deeply appreciate Ijeoma Oluo’s willingness to create this work, particularly given that people of color are already frequently required to take on the often exhausting role of educator in racial encounters. Oluo weaves her personal experiences and research together into all the drawn-out, in-depth conversations you wish you knew how to have with people. She presents advice for having these conversations in your own life, reminding the reader that they will fail and be wrong at some point in talking about race. It’s just going to happen. The important thing is that talking about it anyway and learning from those conversations will improve our nation’s systemic racism and give us ways to address other institutionalized forms of oppression.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

This was an absolutely gripping read as I followed Johnson’s lyrical, mythical writing in her telling of a mother and daughter and how they both remembered and misremembered a pivotal event in their shared history. It read like modern mythology, which was apt since it is a retelling of a myth. I didn’t know which myth Johnson was dealing with until almost the end of the book, and when all the pieces fell into place, it fit perfectly. I just happen to have a strong dislike for the myth in question! I wished it was something else, since the new association left me with mixed feelings, but the experience of the novel up to that point (and setting aside my personal feelings about its basis) was incredible. A minor plot point about the mother making up words shared only between her and her daughter and how that singular language isolates the daughter later in life was also an interesting concept to consider.

Pandemic 1918: The Story of the Deadliest Influenza in History by Catharine Arnold

I began this cheerful read on the plane back to the Pacific Northwest, probably scaring my seatmate. I’ve been fascinated by the 1918 influenza pandemic ever since a friend had me read Gina Kolata’s book about it in 8th grade. (We even made our parody assignment of “The Night Before Christmas” flu-themed. “‘Twas the year 1918, and all through the world / A virus’s wrath was about to unfurl…”) Arnold gathers firsthand accounts of the flu’s devastating waves throughout the world, demonstrating how the war facilitated both the virus’s spread and research into defeating it. The timeline was difficult to follow, nudging toward Armistice Day and then suddenly jumping backward as we visited another region, but overall it held my interest. The anecdotes from civilians and institutional workers alike were what made this book great for me.

The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson

I have wanted to read the first translation of Homer’s Odyssey by a woman ever since it came out last year, and my wonderful mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas. I dove in and finished all 24 books in about 24 hours. Wilson not only strives to eliminate the male biases that come with male translators, but she uses plain language because, as she points out in the introduction, flowery antiquarian English is no closer to actual ancient Greek than our modern speech. While I’m not exactly afraid of old-fashioned language, the plainer words definitely made it easier to get into the story – especially since I have a strong apathy toward Odysseus himself. Wilson does not excuse his infidelity while praising Penelope’s opposite behavior; she merely presents the story and its moral ambiguity.

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath

I’ve loved Rejected Princesses since discovering Porath’s comics online, so I asked for the book version for Christmas, and my brother-in-law tracked it down. This one was a quick read, since the illustrations are usually a full page and the language itself is so funny and relatable that I just wanted to keep going. The book includes not only historical but mythical and legendary women from various cultures as well. Porath also organizes the stories on a spectrum of “maturity,” from 1 (happy endings, good triumphs over evil) to 5 (the heroine herself is probably morally ambiguous, depressing content, probable death). Aside from learning about intriguing women throughout history and cultures that I was previously unfamiliar with, I appreciated that Porath doesn’t make the women saints or put them on pedestals. He acknowledges their realness and their flaws.

Disney’s Twisted Tales by Liz Braswell

My other brother-in-law also knows me well. Last year he gave me the boxed set of the Disney Villains series, and this year brought books 1-3 of A Twisted Tale. These books imagine what might have happened if a key plot point in a Disney story had gone a different way. In this case, Aladdin never gets the lamp from Jafar, Aurora doesn’t wake up when Phillip kisses her, and Belle’s mother was the Enchantress who cursed the Beast. These were intriguing – and also extremely violent. Far more Grimm than Disney usually gets. Surprisingly, the Beauty and the Beast story was not my favorite, but I loved the new take on Sleeping Beauty. I’m always up for dark fairytales, so these were fun for me.

 

 

Finishing a Series…15 Years Later

I first discovered Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic quartet during the Dark Ages of my local library. Our beloved brick building had been torn down and the library relocated to a former auto shop, where many of the books had to be left in storage because there was simply no room.

Sad as this was, the cozier shelves made the newly narrow choices stand out. I discovered some new favorites I would revisit again and again, including the four young mages of Winding Circle. Following them in their journeys to claim their strange magic, I read Sandry’s Book, Tris’s Book, and Daja’s Book. And until recently, I thought I had read Briar’s Book too.

Thanks to PaperBackSwap, I know better.

I bought the first three books at a used bookstore in my little college town a few years ago, eager to revisit Pierce’s masterfully crafted world. Her worldbuilding is still incredible, reminding me with each little detail of how fully developed these cultures and magics are. The relationships between the four central mages and their teachers were beautiful and believable. All of the kids have understandable abandonment issues, and all of them deal with that in their own ways, from pushing others away to becoming a people-pleaser. I don’t even like all of the kids; Tris annoys me to no end with her so very teenage insistence on knowing best and dismissing authority. And yet they and their world captured my heart so that I remember it well. Revisiting Winding Circle, the temple where they live in a cottage called Discipline and learn their magics, felt like remembering an old song where the lyrics come unbidden as you sing.

Until I finally got Briar’s Book in the mail and began to read.

It turns out, since I have no memory of this plot, I probably never read it before. In all the years of checking out and rereading these books, I never actually finished the quartet. As I got deeper and deeper into the plot, I kept waiting for that sense of familiarity, of buried memory to resurface as it had with the others, but it never did. Vague memories surfaced of three books – not four, how could I not remember that there were only three? – on a library shelf.

Briar’s story is a nice end to the quartet.  Instead of exploring their bonds and magic (and bonded magic) as something entirely new, Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar begin to grow into new ways of helping their society. It moves the foursome out of discovery mode and points them toward the future.

But I’m still going to have to go back and reread the whole quartet.

It’s Always Once Upon a Time in New York City

2017-10-27 19.41.54The Engineer surprised me back in May with tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for our anniversary this October.  (If I hadn’t already known, this would clinch it – he’s a keeper!)  So last weekend we flew up to New York for an anniversary weekend trip.

For me, New York as always been something of a mythical place.  It’s the setting of so many stories, from Disney’s Oliver and Company (where astute readers will note I got the lyric to title this post) to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and it’s a place where so many stories get their start, with all the publishing companies and magazines headquartered there.  I’ve read about it and seen it pictured so many times it felt almost unreal.  But as I was absorbing all those different versions of New York City, I failed to realize just how much actually visiting it would mean to me.

It hit me when the Engineer leaned over my shoulder and pointed out the lone statue I had somehow missed as we flew in.  “There’s the Statue of Liberty!”  And then I saw that iconic skyline, and I felt a swell of emotion I haven’t felt since seeing the Tower of London for the first time in person.  Without my noticing, New York had become something of a dream destination – and now we were here!

2017-10-27 11.56.40Like the Tower, which was so steeped in history I could feel the air thicken, New York seemed filled with palpable stories.  Actual stories of buildings gave a visual representation of the tales upon tales that have piled up here as people live their lives and visit and go away and set their novels and memoirs and children’s books in this city.  I wanted to roll down the window of the cab and hold my hand out the window.  I was sure if I did I would feel the texture of all the narratives floating around us.

Immediately, I felt at home.  I felt I could slip into the same stream and feed off the same energy as all these people surrounding us.  Part of this is my weird ability to navigate cities; I hate driving, and I can barely remember certain routes through my own hometown, but if I’m walking around a city or figuring out a train map?  Easy.  I led the long-suffering Engineer (he hates cities) on walks through Bryant Park where they were setting up the Holiday Village (complete with ice rink!) to the stone lions at the New York Public Library, then down 6th Avenue to find the Macy’s where they hold the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Some iconic places we just stumbled upon, like the Chrysler Building on our way to dinner before the show, and Tiffany’s with its own diamond necklace draping its facade.  We sought out the Empire State Building and the Plaza Hotel (though I didn’t go in to see where Eloise lived).  I took a picture with the statue of Balto, and when I read the plaque below it a little girl’s voice surfaced in my memory from the introduction to the animated movie.

Everywhere I looked in the city, I noticed a fragment of a story slipping by.  If it wasn’t a lyric from “N.Y.C.” in Annie, it was a line from From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  And when I wasn’t thinking of my favorite fictional characters, I could so easily imagine the narratives taking place in the little diner where we went for breakfast, or among the people meeting their friends on a street corner.  Sometimes I didn’t have to imagine – the Engineer actually saw a couple get engaged next to the boathouse and overheard the whole story!

The Engineer liked wandering through Central Park, even going so far as to rent a boat so we could row about on the lake.  “We’re in people’s Instagram photos!” he joked as we glided past the Bethesda Terrace.  Sure enough, many of the tourists at the water’s edge were holding up their phones to capture the ridiculously picturesque day.  The leaves on the banks around us were in varying stages of turning color, lending some wonder to the buildings rising above them at the park’s horizon.  There was just enough sun to tempt some turtles to clamber onto the rocks near the lake’s edge – we spotted six in one cove, lined up by size like Dr. Seuss characters.  The air was crisp, a perfect temperature for Pacific Northwest natives like us.  Fall in New York City – in fact, New York City itself – was everything I had ever imagined it to be.

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Omnipresence

I was chatting with my dad a while ago about this blog when he mentioned that I hadn’t said anything about him or my mom in a while.  It makes sense, he said, because they aren’t really in my life anymore.  He said he understood, that it was logical for a person of my age and place in life.  It was just an observation.

And I thought about it.  It’s true, I don’t write explicitly about my parents very often.  And it’s true that as I’ve grown, particularly over the past few years since beginning college and leaving home, our relationships have changed as they need to parent me less and I cross that threshold into Seeing Parents As Actual Humans.

But I don’t think it’s true that they aren’t in my life anymore.

I don’t write about my parents precisely because their presence in my life is so ubiquitous that it would be like writing about air.  I don’t write about them because their influence, their values and ways of thinking and ways of challenging myself are so deeply ingrained that it seems obvious to me that those influences are there, unnecessary to state.  Anyone who meets me quickly learns how much I admire my parents, how both of them showed me how to be kind and work hard and stand up for myself and hold onto integrity.  Anyone who then watches me interact with either my mom or my dad then usually says to me afterwards, “Wow, you really are that close.”

I don’t call as much as I should.  I don’t always answer text messages.  (I’m trying to work on those things.)  I have even moved time zones, all the way to the other side of the country.  So, no, they aren’t as personally and directly involved in my life as they were when they were pulling me in a wagon around the state fair or picking me up from rehearsal in high school.  But, as much as I would love for them to still be nearby every single day, I do have the way they raised me, and so much of my vocabulary, my humor, my decision making comes from them that I forget that it needs to be stated.

So, Dad, I love you, but you were wrong.  I don’t write about you and Mom because you are still so deeply a part of my life that it seems obvious to me that you are there between the lines of everything I write.

But I’ll try to say it more.