These days, I have to run from everything in order to write. My mom came over this morning and is watching the baby. There is laundry everywhere--on chairs, under chairs, at the top of the stairs, at the bottom of the stairs, in random bags, and erupting from drawers. Zaley is at school handing out Valentines and eating heart-shaped pretzels. I have so much freedom for the next hour, I feel anxious and unfocused, like my heart is going too fast. It is the first morning since Anna was born that I have left the house to write anything. Usually, I fit words in late at night with her rasping beside me. I have to watch my judgments; when I read, I think, surely, this person couldn't have written this/done this/made this while raising young children. But, in fact, people do. In fact, here I am writing. I might look like I don't have kids. People with kids look at me like I look at people who don't seem to have kids. I have a leather bag with me this morning instead of a diaper bag. My hair is washed. I am not whisper-shouting at my daughter, like the woman in front of me just was at the coffee shop, "You cannot talk that loud in here!!!"
I had to leave the coffee shop. It is my favorite coffee shop: a bookstore and a bar and a coffeeshop in one. There are beautiful books tented open on shelves and glossy Dewey Decimel cabinets used as half-walls. It is so lovely in there, with Louis Armstrong crooning above me from a ceiling of rafters and steel, and pigtailed toddlers peering in at pink cookies, and a smiling older man settling in with his tea. I was there when they opened and gone five minutes later. Annie Dillard explains it: "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."
I find my memory is most often meeting my imagination in the place before I had kids. That mysterious me, only half--or less--of who I am now. One hundred times the freedom, but such aimlessness, no use for space or freedom. Better body, less purpose. My friend Lizzy put it so profoundly--the feeling you have as a mother that makes everything slice you open to a deeper degree than if you were just feeling it for yourself. She said that having her daughter made her feel like "the wind wasn't just the wind anymore."
Now I am at the old library down the street. It is not as unappealing as Annie Dillard would prescribe, but less boastful in its presentations than the BookBar. There are peeling French windows here and historical books laid out on a bench. Out the window, winter still hangs over the sunny field, the trees pushing against the wind. The pond is still ice. The windows rattle slightly when the air changes its force and direction.
But this week feels like a moving forward, which I haven't felt for weeks after so many illnesses in our house and an overnight stay in the hospital with Anna and big snows and chickens for whom we had to shovel a path--a one-foot-wide muddy trail from their wooden house up to our steps where we feed them corn in ceramic cereal bowls.
The last couple of months I have tried to ignore a stuckness, but now that we finally have a surgery date for Anna, I can see that spring will arrive, as it always does, no matter how much an unlikelihood this always seems in January and some of February and even into March. We scheduled her cochlear implant surgery for April 20. It should take 2 and a half hours and they'll do both sides at once. Before that, we will go to the desert where we went when I was pregnant with her where the mountains are made of brown dust and the mornings are hot and the wind pulls across the pool in straight white lines. Memory and imagination, that old me and this new me, that bump in my swimsuit and Anna now, and Anna now and Anna future, and her deafness still deafness, but a deafness opened up.
I want this surgery behind us so I can stop imagining life after it and just live it. I want the surgery over with so I don't have to picture the doctor coming out to tell us if it was successful. I want to know what Anna will be like when we activate the devices ten days later and her brain is ignited by everything I hear but forget to notice or name: the geese honking outside as they bisect the window and settle onto the honey-colored grass, the door clicking shut and the kids scuttling in, the man behind me talking about a conspiracy, the copy machine scooting sideways and spitting out paper.
I am so excited for Anna to hear all of this, but so scared still that we are puncturing the peace of her world. I know that I will always have more of a desire to understand her way of being than I can ever possibly fulfill. This is probably one of the hardest and most beautiful things about having a child who is different.
It is Lent now and it feels like it. There is an extra layer of heavy over everything, even though I can also feel the blood-pump of momentum this time of year. It is a windy day, but the wind is not just the wind. It has a pitch I never noticed till Anna. The breeze comes and goes like a revelation just out of reach. There is a prayer running through me, the morning prayer from yesterday's hours, Psalm 57:
"My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready."