Wow, this is a dusty blog! I had to bring in the upright vacuum cleaner and the heavy-duty sweeper to even find my way to the panel where one writes new posts.
Practically a whole year has whisked behind me since I’ve posted here. There I was, yelling at the snakes–no, I mean making a deal with the snakes that they would leave me alone–and now it’s a whole year later and time to make another deal with them. (Last year they behaved perfectly, but you can’t count on them remembering from year to year, not after they’ve so recently awakened from their long winter’s nap.)
It’s been a mild, sunny spring, and I am writing a new book. I have a contract for a book I’m calling “The Opposite of Maybe,” and it’s a fun book to write–one filled with love and trouble, which really are the most fun books to write.
I’ve been writing it a long time now, and it misbehaves from time to time, as all books do when one is first beginning to feel one’s way inside the story. My main character, a woman named Julia, at first objected to everything about the story: she argued with me about her name, her relationships, her livelihood. You name it: she thought it should be different.
“Fine,” I told her. I don’t like to fight with characters. If they really feel strongly about something, they usually are right. It’s their story, after all. So we made some compromises, she and I, and then she settled down, but I can see that I’ll have to keep my eye on her throughout the writing of this book. She might be scrappy. Theoretically I love scrappy characters, but sometimes you have to try to reason with them and appeal to their better natures–if they have one.
The book isn’t due until February 15, which sounds like a whole lot of time from now…but truly I do know that it’s just the blink of an eye really. And there are many lovely disruptions between now and then: four grandchildren to play with, a bunch of birthdays and major American holidays, a much-anticipated family vacation in the summer with all of us together making campfires on the beach, visits from friends from far away.
But just now, sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts, waiting while the oil change place next door flushes the radiator of my Honda, I’m thinking February 15th seems very far away indeed. It’s plenty of time to hear what Julia wants to tell me.

I hate to complain, but frankly, it has not been The Most Wonderful Spring Ever here in the Northeast. First of all, it dumped buckets and buckets of snow on us for the first part of it–and then, when that started to seem inappropriate even to the weather gods, it started raining and wouldn’t stop for days on end. Throughout the first two-thirds (yes, TWO-THIRDS) of spring, there have been only a handful of days when the temperature has struggled out of the 50s and 60s, and I think one day it accidentally might have reached 70 degrees before heading back down for a late-season frost that night.

But today–May 21st, the day when the world was actually supposed to be ending–the sun came out and the sky filled up with white, puffy clouds against a backdrop of deep blue, and I was moved to shed my hoodie and sweatpants and actually go outside and survey the yard.

It came to my attention that it’s time to make some deals with the natural world.

Here are my proposals:

1. PLANTS:

My responsibilities: I am willing to buy and plant several species of colorful flowers that the nursery near me calls “annuals,” meaning that they will only grow this one season, and then will die. (Never mind that “annual” seems to imply that they will last a year; they will not. I know this now, and I don’t expect it). I will offer this: a nice soaking in Miracle-Gro before I put them in the ground; I will water their little delicate roots, and I will tuck them into place with mounds of dirt and mulch around them to protect them from whatever they need protection from. During the next few months, I will from time to time water them again from the hose, unless I get too busy and forget. Probably once more during the summer, I will remember to give them another taste of Miracle-Gro.

Nature’s responsibilities: In addition to enough hours of sunlight, I respectfully request that nature takes up the task of giving them the water they need. Would it be too much to ask that they not be allowed to get all passive-aggressive and suicidal in front of me and act like I’ve done some massive wrong to them by trying to provide them with a good home? This hurts my feelings. I mean well, and they should know that. Make them stand up straight and act grateful that they’re not still in those black plastic cartons that only gave them a half-inch of dirt. I would also appreciate it if they could just agree to hang on until the end of the summer without getting all straggly and pale and telegraphing to the world at large that they being mistreated. I will throw in extra weedings and at least one more dose of Miracle-Gro if they could just be grateful.

BUGS:

My responsibilities: I’m sorry. I mean the bug kingdom no harm, but I can assume no responsibilities toward helping out the bugs. STAY OUT OF MY AREA. This means you, carpenter ants, that are every morning marching around in the bathtub before I get into it. If you don’t want to drown when I run the water, get the hell out of the way. And you, ticks, who are determined to make every day a nightmare of searching our bodies for bulls-eye rings, the sign that Lyme disease is slowly working its way through our systems…just go hang out with the deer. (Aren’t you called DEER TICKS?) And don’t even get me started on mosquitoes and gnats. Don’t force me to endlessly chase and swat you by buzzing my ears and landing on my skin.

Nature’s responsibilities: Go away. Go elsewhere. Surely these bugs have lots of other things they could be doing. Remind them.

SNAKES:

My responsibilities: First, snakes, I know how much you enjoy that fun game of popping out from between two rocks or from underneath a leaf when I’m outside doing my Once Annual Weeding. I’ve seen you lurking in the shade in a place where my foot was about to step, and watched you masquerade as a stick only to move quickly away when I got near. Ha ha! VERY FUNNY, snakes. And I know that I bring on your presence sometimes myself by being, shall we say, Overly Focused on just where you might be hiding (that time in the garage over by the rakes was a real hoot, wasn’t it?). I also do myself no favors by constantly talking about your scariness to others, swapping stories of your wicked tendencies, and then straining to discern if every single stick might in fact be another one of your brethren. I promise to stop talking about you, searching for you, obsessing about you, maligning you. I hereby admit that you OWN the planet earth and all its grasses and rocks and streams. Take my yard and all the fields, but leave me the house and the little plot of land where I have planted the above-mentioned annuals.

Also, please note that I planted marigolds all around. I read on the internets that you hate marigolds and won’t go where they are planted. I know my planting them may seem unwelcoming and perhaps even a hostile act. I don’t want to enrage you or anything. I just don’t want you to become confused about precisely where the boundaries of our agreement are.

Easy way to remember: Woods=yours. Where there are marigolds=mine.

STAY AWAY. Please. Don’t make me say bad things about you.

I remember 1968 as a pretty good year. I went to Hawaii that summer and stayed with my grandmother. Just before I left, I had fallen in love with a guy named Steve, and he wrote me letters while I was there and signed them, “Love, Steve.” Not even “love ya,” (or worse, “luff ya,” both of which mean something else altogether.)

It was a good year. But for some reason, it was also the year that the appliance industry went completely insane and decided that what the world needed were stoves and refrigerators and dishwashers in HIDEOUS colors. Why settle for a white stove when you could have one that was Harvest Gold or Avocado Green instead? And why have stoves that simply sat on the ground like other appliances? No, let’s DROP THEM IN TO THE COUNTERTOPS! Yes. Make them a hideous shade of green and wedge them into the kitchen counters so they can never come out again. THAT is what the American household has been craving.

This was way cool in 1968.

And oh yes–make them indestructible.

When we moved into our 1968-built house in 1993, there were many things to love: the screened-in porches, the acre of land with rose bushes and a flagstone patio–but I eyed the appliances with quiet horror: the avocado green dishwasher, refrigerator and stove.

Still. Realistically, how much longer could they last? They were already 25 years old.

“It’s okay if you break down soon,” I whispered to them on a daily basis. “You’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.” (In our family, we don’t seem to be capable of parting with anything until it breaks down. It’s a pathological condition.)

The dishwasher was the first to obey. It broke down six months later, and we replaced it with a nice white, whisper-quiet model.

Next, a year or two later, the refrigerator obliged me. I thanked it for its service as it rode out of the house on the Maytag man’s dolly, while a gleaming, new, modern, ice-making model took its place.

But the stove. It would not die. Oh sure, the heating element of the oven went out once, and we started pricing stoves and realized quickly that because our stove was the now-infamous type known as a DROP-IN, (meaning that it is smaller than the average stove and doesn’t have any feet to it) we would either have to pay Big Bucks to replace it with another drop-in, OR we would have to dismantle all the kitchen counters to make room for a normal-sized modern stove.

My husband replaced the heating element for $30, and we sent the children to college with the money we saved.

The stove made up its mind that it would not die. It just sat there day after day, an ugly avocado green thing–like an angry frog–perched in the kitchen, heroically roasting vegetables, baking birthday cakes, cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, boiling water for the tea day by day, expecting gratitude for its undying service, no doubt. In an age when nearly everything can be counted on to break within the first five years, this stove celebrated its 40th birthday with no fanfare. Then the 41st, 42nd and 43rd came and went. I could feel it quivering with its plan for immortality.

We kept pricing drop-in stoves that were a more reasonable color. Surely they would grow cheaper, wouldn’t they? But no. They were probably having to be custom-made somewhere, since no one was buying them except refugees from 1968 like ourselves. They climbed upwards of a thousand dollars. Who would put that kind of money into a too-tiny stove just so you could have one that was another color?

Ridiculous.

“Paint it,” people said.

“Don’t paint it,” said the guy at the paint store. “You have no idea the trouble you’re in for.”

I am often willing to be warned away from trouble that involves a paintbrush and some burner elements, believe me.

And then on this past Saturday, a friend called and said that he had a present for us. He had just that moment been riding down the street and had seen a person hauling a white, drop in, General Electric stove out to the curb. Throwing it away! WHAT WERE THE CHANCES? My friend practically flipped his truck he pulled over so fast. “Are you throwing that out?” he asked breathlessly, and seconds later, he and the guy were loading it up into the truck–and it was on its way to its new home. Our home.

“Oh, by the way, it does work, doesn’t it?” he asked before he pulled away, and the man said, “Sure! Works great.”

We were elated but…well, cautious. We put it in our garage and cleaned it up some, although it didn’t need much. Truthfully, our green one looked much worse for wear. This stove was clearly a youngster of only 35 or 36.

Today an electrician came over and helped us lug out the old green one and hard-wire the new one into place. (Because in 1968, you didn’t just plug in your avocado green stove–oh no, you had to have it HARD-WIRED right into the heart of your house.)

I held my breath as we tested it. Everything worked!

We moved the avocado green one out onto the porch until we think of what to do with it. I put on some Beatles and Little Rascals music to salute it as it left its post. I said I was sorry for the unkind things I’d said about it all these years. It really was a very good drop-in stove, come to think of it. I’m sure it would have made it to 143 if only given the chance.

2011 at last!

But I’m glad to say goodbye to the last vestige of 1968.

You have to understand: my mother wasn’t the sort of person you could imagine ever turning eighty years old. She was blond and beautiful and so sure she’d always be young–and she was so disappointed as each sign of aging came to her: the arthritis, the wrinkles, the thinning hair, the watery eyes. I mean, no one likes that stuff, but she seemed shocked that such things could dare to happen to her. Shocked!

“How can I get so old?” I remember her asking me one time when she was probably 50. “How can I ever not be pretty?”

It’s a little sad to think of, I suppose–someone who was so taken with looks that the thought of them disappearing made her feel as though nothing at all would be left of her. Wasn’t this the same woman who had told me when I was 10 years old that it was important to develop a personality because cuteness just wouldn’t see you through?

When she went to hospice four years ago at the age of 76, the nurse told me she was the first nursing home patient they’d ever had who insisted on wearing a toe ring.

And we laughed, my mother and I, because, as she put it: Cancer takes so much from you. You don’t have to give up your TOE RING to it, too, do you?

I’ve been through several deaths with people, but none quite like hers. When my father was dying, he simply got more and more quiet and introspective, stared out the window for longer intervals, whispered his requests for songs he wanted to hear on the CD player, and occasionally he’d rouse himself to try to make pleasant conversation about the cardinal outside at the bird feeder, or just who I thought might win the World Series.

My grandmother told me three days before she died that she’d be coming to my house in the spring–a fact I knew was untrue since she was in a hospice, hooked up to feeding tubes, with a terminal diagnosis. When I tried to talk about actual endings, she shushed me. “I’m going to be fine,” she said.

But my mother talked about it.

She’d call me in the middle of the night and say, “Where do you think I’ll be when I die?” and “How can I just not exist? What do you suppose that’s going to feel like?”

My uncle, her brother, was planning his wedding for the summer, and she and I would sit outside in the late May warmth, watching the azaleas bobbing in the breeze, and she’d say, “It’s the weirdest thing, talking to him about the wedding. I won’t still be alive then.”

“Maybe you will,” I said.

“No,” she said, and she wasn’t even particularly sad when she said it. “I won’t.” She was the one who had heard the cancer diagnosis, the prognosis, and then marched over to the phone, called hospice, signed the papers, and even joked with the startled, soft-voiced man who was being so delicate and careful. She was facing death head on, unflinching.

But now she looked out at some children playing across the street. “I just can’t picture how it’s all going to happen.”

I was worn out with grief and regret and arrangements, and I didn’t know quite how to be with her. I sat next to her for hours on end and let her talk. It was all I could think of to do for her. It’s sad now, thinking of her imagining not existing–sitting there so alive, so full of opinions and thoughts and regrets and remarks.

“I like this toe ring a lot,” she said. She and her toe ring. They were going to part ways.

She and I were going to part ways, too.

“I’ll contact you if I can,” she said one day out of the blue. But it wasn’t out of the blue, not really. It was just that we’d been at that moment discussing the banana pudding in front of her, pudding that she was pushing away from her. She had stopped eating by then. She was preparing to go, and she was sure it was coming soon.

When they called me at 6 a.m. a few days later and said she had died, I wasn’t surprised, of course. She and I had talked about this moment so much. I went to the hospice and sat with her in the room for a long time, or the part of her she’d left behind that really no longer seemed much like her. I couldn’t figure out if she would want me to see her like that or not. Maybe she would want me to turn away.

I knew she wanted me to take the toe ring, and so I did.

She would have been eighty today. She always said she hated growing old, but maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad. She could have gone to my uncle’s wedding that summer. She could have seen her first great-granddaughter born, could have met the two great-grandsons who were newborn infants when she died, infants she never got to see.

I don’t know where she is, but sometimes I still feel her around. I know sometimes what she’d say in situations, or at least I’m pretty sure I know. I can summon up the sound of her laughter. Is that just a memory or is it the same as her contacting me?

I’m not sure. She would have been eighty today. Would that have been so bad?

All my inanimate objects are ganging up on me again.

At this moment I have no idea where I put the GPS, the external hard drive to my computer, my favorite pair of sunglasses, my blue hoodie, the leggings I bought in New York three months ago, the spare toothbrush heads I just got for our electric toothbrush, or the beaters to the electric mixer. I also can’t find the garlic press, the “good” scissors, the bottle of orange nail polish I love, and my spare house key.

Luckily I didn’t even know my cell phone was missing until I went to call its number so that I could discover the precise coat or purse pocket in which it was lurking.

Instead, a woman’s voice answered. “Hello!”

I was stunned into speechlessness. I kept saying, “Um….” and then “ah….” and finally I said, “I thought I was calling my cell phone!” And she said, “And I think you probably are calling your cell phone. I found it on the floor of Woolsey Hall last night.”

We had been to Woolsey Hall for a concert the night before, and I had turned the ringer down on my phone and then jammed the phone into my jacket pocket, thrown my jacket over the seat, and then sat down on it. There is no cell phone in the known world that is not going to take advantage of a moment like that, out of its usual pouch in the purse’s zippered side pocket? Are you kidding me?

And here was this woman, all willing to give it back to me! She was in New Haven, about twenty miles away from me. The only thing was, it was 8:15 a.m., and I had a meeting at 9:30 thirty miles in the opposite direction, and I looked like hell. No shower yet, no make-up, and my hair was still mashed up from my pillow and sticking up at all crazy angles all over my head. But I’d never get everywhere on time if I stopped to think about my HAIR. Besides, what good is combed hair if you don’t have a CELL PHONE? I had to go!

She didn’t give me her name or address, but she told me that if I came to a certain intersection and called her cell phone number, she would run out and give me my phone. So I threw on clothes and ran and got into my car and sped through rush hour traffic into New Haven. Did you know that the average stop light gives you exactly enough time to put on one eye’s worth of mascara or one lip of lipstick, IF you have the tubes out and ready to go right as the light changes from yellow to red. (And did you know that drivers behind you give you only ONE nanosecond after the light turns green before they start their angry honking?)

I didn’t let anything get to me. I was thrilled beyond measure that I was getting my cell phone back. Nearly everyone I know who has ever lost a cell phone has…well, just lost it. I left my former cell phone once in a different theater (same M.O….phone in jacket pocket, jacket flung on seat, cell phone slipping out on floor), and later discovered it for sale on EBay. (I recognized its cracked case and its flower decal.) Right now I have a friend who is missing his BlackBerry and calls it every now and then only to have its “new” owner hang up on him as soon as he hears who it is.

I had thought of everything, even rewards for this wonderful woman: a box of Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints that I had on the kitchen table, and $20 that I borrowed from my husband. Quarters for the parking meters in New Haven while I got out to wait for her.

But when I got there, I realized that I’d forgotten a really important detail. It turns out that when you are missing your cell phone, it’s nearly impossible to call the person who has it once you’re not at home anymore!

“Oh,” I thought. “Well, I know what I’ll do. I’ll just call my husband and have HIM call her and tell her I’m here.”

Duh. Again: NO cell phone! (I think I may be mentally ill.)

Just then a stranger passed by and made eye contact–it may have been my sticking-up hair and the half-applied mascara and lipstick that made her unable to look away–and when I explained the whole story to her, she at first started backing away from me. I could see I sounded exactly like those people who are always trying to scam other people with a story ending with, “So could we please just go to your bank and withdraw a lot of your money so you can give it to me?” But then she agreed to dial the Cell Phone Rescuer’s number. And five minutes later, a woman wearing one of those orange construction vests came running across the street from a road crew, and handed me my cell phone. We shook hands and I offered her the cookies and the $20 bill.

She pushed the money back at me. “I’ll take the cookies, but I’m not taking any money for this,” she said. And then she hugged me and jogged back across the street, back to work. When she got to the other side of the street, she turned and waved.

It was worth briefly losing the cell phone just to stand there on that street corner on the first sunny spring morning in a long time, thinking how lovely some people are. You can’t trust the inanimate objects, of course–they will always try to get away from you at every opportunity–but how nice to learn once again how great the ANIMATE ones are.

Hello! I have decided to crawl out of my cave, blow the dust off this blog, and try to get back to normal.
It’s part of my spring effort, you see.

After having survived a winter here in New England that involved such new concepts as “roof rakes” and “thundersnow,” I’m afraid we are all a little bit shell-shocked up here in the Northeast. It’s hard to think of it as the same old universe you always knew when people are telling you that you actually need to go outside, climb up on your roof, and start RAKING snow off, as though it was simply a pile of leaves. Because if you DON’T, those people were saying–(and many of them were wearing official uniforms and speaking into microphones), OTHERWISE, your roof will collapse while you are sleeping, and you will wake up in the middle of the night with an avalanche on top of you, as well as some stray bits of roof.

It was not a wonderful winter, not with that kind of talk–and spring has been slow in getting here. It’s windy and cold still, definitely not the flowery, languid Aprils of my youth, back when I lived in Florida and California. Frankly, I find it difficult not to resent this time of year when it seems as though the weather COULD work with you some, if it would just stop blowing all that wind around, let the sun break through the overcast, warm up those buds, and turn that grass green.

One day a few weeks ago it actually got to be 70 degrees, so we KNOW this possible, right? Ever since they changed our planetary diagnosis from “global warming” to “climate change,” I’ve not been able to get warm.

BUT. I am going to stop complaining right now, and share with you the little secret of how I’ve managed to hang onto even one microunit of sanity this winter, and it is by watching this video called “Animal Crackers.” I’m sure all of you have watched in thousands of times yourself–even you in the more reasonable climates who didn’t need a video for sanity because sanity existed right outside your doorway! But here it is anyway, just in case you’re having a bad moment and need some hysterical laughter to see you through.

There is no excuse for me lately. I have been writing and writing, and that means that a lot of other things have fallen away: cooking, coherent conversations, laundry, just to name a few of the really obvious ones.

The life that’s going on inside my book is the one that feels the most real lately, and yet I’m aware at some level that it is so not real that it’s possible that I’m the only one who’ll ever know about it. But I have a character who insists on talking to me all the time, and twice this week I’ve had to pull over while driving just to jot down on a torn Stop & Shop receipt what she had to say about her grandmother. Therefore I have little scraps of paper upon which the following phrases appear:

SOAPIE SHOULD KNOW AGE 88 IS TOO OLD TO BE HAVING AN AFFAIR!

and the ever mysterious:

STORY TELL YOGA PREGNANCY–NOT YOGA, BUT ENGLISH SECOND LANGUAGE

That one may be lost for all time.

Days like today, these pieces of paper are all that tether me to the real world of my book. They let me know I’m a writer.

A few years ago, I included a post in which other people wrote to Connecticut Muse and told how they know they are writers. And here are a bunch of their comments. Feel free to add your own to the mix. It’s a wonderful subject for discussion.

Also: I’ll be speaking about writing and creativity at the Women’s Creativity Conference at Quinnipiac University this Saturday (March 5) at 9:30 a.m. Want to come and join in the discussion? For more information, or to register, go to Creativity Conference or call (203) 582-8954.

You know you’re a writer if looking out the window is part of the job.

Andy Thibault

You know you’re a writer if:

you make notes right after sex
you stutter when asked what you do
you edit others conversations in your head while listening to them
you always carry a note book
you go to bed too late and get up too early
you are constantly saying…I should write that down
Joel Fried

You know you’re a writer if you get cranky when you don’t have time to write.

Pat Aust

You know you’re a writer if you check your email twelve times an hour when you’re supposed to be working on your computer. No, actually it could be more than that.

Nora Baskin

You know you’re a writer if you’ve done everything you possibly can in life to avoid writing but still find yourself needing to.

Marc Wortman

You know you’re a writer if you have constant bags under your eyes, your purse is stuffed with at least five pens and random pieces of paper napkins on which you’ve made notes for the next chapter of your novel, you are constantly on a caffeine high, you never back up your material, you wake up nightly with cold sweats from a free-floating anxiety wondering if anyone is going to buy your book.  The only thought that keeps you relatively sane is: if all else fails, you can always run away, never to be heard from again.

Judith Marks-White

You know you’re a writer if your friend tells you a heartbreaking story and your first reaction is – wow, that would make an incredible plot for a novel. You know you’re a smart writer if you manage to keep that reaction to yourself.

MJ Rose

You know you’re a writer when you are not writing with pen to paper or with fingers to keys, you are writing twenty-four /seven in your brain because everything around you becomes a story.

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

You know you’re a writer if you are still in your jammies at five o’clock, the dog hasn’t gone out since the sun rose and your kids are wondering if someone has paid you a hundred thousand dollar advance that they don’t know about.

Linda Merlino

You know you’re a writer if the poetry book on your kitchen table was a pile of napkins last week.

Brian Trent

You know you’re a writer if (like me at this very moment) you are wakened at 2:37 am, a character whispering (shouting perhaps?) in your ear, urging you, no, commanding you, to fire up your laptop, cup of tea in hand, and write the next chapter, in which she insists on taking you places you never intended to go!

Madeleine Parish

You know you’re a writer if your work clothes are mostly sweat pants and pajamas.
Kathryn Smith

You know you’re a writer if:
…you burn through more ink cartridges than Kleenex in the winter
…you see the next story line while arguing with your lover and leave to “get it down” before forgetting it
…on good days there’s a lingering smell of burnt plastic coming from your keyboard
…the dogs would rather float away, whimpering, than interrupt you at the key board to take them outside
…there are oxygen lines, intravenous feeding tubes, and large Starbucks syringes attached to your desk, and nobody in the family notices any of this anymore.

Daniel Holden

You know you are a writer if everyone has told you that you’ll never get published and you keep writing.

Julian Padowicz

You know you’re a writer if you can’t remember some of the plot details of the book you just released because you’re so engrossed in writing the next one.

Chris Knopf

You know you are a writer if every overheard remark becomes a beginning of a story, if  what you glimpse from the corner of your eye triggers a vignette, if you awake in the morning wondering what the characters in your novel are going to do today, if something you read  evokes a memory you can use in your writing, if all of life is about making connections that help you understand who you are, well then, indeed you are a writer! Claire Vreeland

You know you’re a writer when you walk around in the zone, open to believing that every person is a potential character, and every object suggests a metaphor.

Pegi Deitz Shea

You know you’re a writer if everyone around you is totally engrossed in watching James Bond extricate himself from his latest cliff hanger escapade and you are sitting with pencil in hand making notes about the couple in front of you.

C.J.Golden

You know you’re a writer if you’re still in your pajamas at 5 pm and yet you’ve been working all day!
Roberta Isleib

You know you’re a writer when every moment of every day you turn whatever you are facing at the moment into a short spurt of prose or poetry in your head, including your dreams, and it has become so commonplace that you have stopped writing things down and bemoan the loss of them later as the story or poem idea that would have wowed your readership, as if you had a readership because you are, after all, a writer.

Faith Vicinanza

You know you’re a writer if writing about something makes it real.

Patricia D’Ascoli

If there is anything better than holding a new baby and carrying TWO ice cream cones, I just don’t know what it could be. I could pretend that one of the cones is for the baby, but you probably wouldn’t fall for that.

I think it was Melanie Wilkes who said it best, in Gone With the Wind. “Oh, I think the days that babies come are just the happiest days!” or something like that.

Melanie could be pretty sugary-sweet sometimes, but she nailed that one all right: it is the best day when a baby comes–especially if it’s a baby you’ve been waiting for, and a baby who fooled everyone into thinking she was going to come weeks early and then, after hours and hours and days and days of false labor, seemingly decided to forego the whole getting-born thing after all. The bulletins from the inside were: “Thanks, but I’ve just decided to remain an inside person. It’s true that it’s getting crowded in here, but I’ll be fine, thank you.”

We were concerned. Okay, at times we were distraught. Had she heard about the BP thing? Had the World Cup vuvuzelas made her rethink life on earth? And what about the wars and the housing market and the fact that Vienna and Ryan broke up when anyone knew he shouldn’t have picked her anyway.  You never know what kind of news a pre-baby can hear about and get frightened by.  We who were waiting for her tried to concentrate on having good conversations, just so she’d have an incentive to push the EXIT button and come out to be with the rest of us.

“It’s not so bad,” I called to Allie’s belly. “Really. The BP thing is far from us, and anyway, Kevin Costner’s on the case. We liked him in Bull Durham and that other movie about ballplayers where he built a ball field, so even though he’s been a bit sappy in everything since then, I think we can be happy that he’s cleaning up the Gulf rather than trying to act young anymore.”

Surprisingly, Allie remained pregnant for days after I delivered my Kevin Costner talk.

I switched over to discussing the World Cup and the fact that no one in the U.S. really cared about soccer until recently, and I admitted that I still don’t and can’t understand the rules at all–but I said it was fun to watch people getting all excited and painting their faces and wrapping themselves in flags while they jumped up and down. I said that watching humans get excited is one of the pleasures of life. (I promised that mostly in life on earth, you don’t hear the vuvuzela being played.)

No birth.

We all took turns thinking up good reasons to get born, reasons we would have signed up again if given the chance. (Every now and then, I think, this is a pretty good exercise to do: renew your contract with life.) I came up with  iced tea, the Beatles, swings at the playground, changing the furniture around, shade on a hot day, ice cream sundaes with strawberries and whipped cream, the first day you can wear flipflops, laughing until you can’t stand it anymore, falling asleep on a soft pillow, ferris wheels, fireflies, rain on the roof, bagels and cream cheese, loving somebody who loves you back, the coming attractions at the movies, hot baths, candlelight. (It was June, so all my reasons had to do with summer, I realize now. I’ll have to redo this in the winter.)

“All that is just big picture stuff,” I told her. “But rest assured that immediately when you come out, there’ll be people there to welcome you: your mother and father, your grandparents, your big brother, your aunts, uncles and bunches of cousins.”

No response, except that we figured she gained another pound.

“Okay, here’s something you haven’t thought about. You’ll have room to stretch. I think you should come for the stretching, if for no other reason.”

So she finally came out, a day after her due date. And then, when I met her, I realized why she hadn’t come out before: it wasn’t that she was scared or doubtful. She hadn’t heard about BP, or the vuvuzelas. She’s just one of those people who seems perfectly happy wherever she is. Put her on a blanket, and she lies there looking around. She doesn’t seem to care about being swaddled or carried around every single minute. She’ll cuddle and sleep in your arms or in her bassinet, or on a blanket on the floor. You don’t have to constantly rock her or make little noises like, “Bobobobobobo” to keep her interested.

I think she’s decided the world is a good place after all.

And, as you can see, she seems pretty happy to see that there’s somebody right there beside her: 3-year-old Miles is showing her the way. Lucky Emma Charlotte.

I was going to write about spring and how it came early this year, and how it’s still only March yet the forsythia is in bright bloom, and the daffodils are up and waving in the sunshine.

Except as soon as I had formulated all these thoughts, winter decided to take one last swipe at us. Indian Winter, I believe is the technical term for it. We’re shivering today and are dressed back in coats, glowering at the gray sky and huddling against the wind.

But that’s okay. Because who needs spring when you have the Most Fun Video Ever?

Ten million viewers can’t be wrong. (I may be responsible for about two million of these views. I simply can’t stop watching this!)

Watch and enjoy. Spring can wait.

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