Roots and Branches

So, I recently got a nomination from a friend blogger who said that I work my ass off at my writing, which was really very generous of her, since I haven’t written anything but blog posts in about a year, and rarely even that. I keep a journal, but trust me, you don’t ever want to read that, unless you like whining more than George Castanza. So I feel sort of shamed into posting, but really, it’s because it’s 3 am and I can’t sleep because we’re moving to Colorado in July.

Oh, did I mention that we’re moving? We’re moving. To Colorado. In July. Insert hysterical laughter here. Part of my insomniac journey tonight has been through the Fort Collins craigslist home rental listings, sending an e-mail to a seemingly reputable real estate agency. I also like Pinterest and art blogs, so that’s been part of my midnight party, too. More on that later.

It sucks that I have to wake up at 7:30 to take my son to school, but at least I’ll have an appointment with my therapist to help me out, after I drop him off. He is three now. Have I mentioned that? They talk about the terrible 2s, but I’ve heard from several sources that it isn’t the 2s you have to watch out for. It’s the 3s. He has also been working with three therapists: Special Ed, OT, and Speech. All of whom tell me that the tantrums are actually a good sign. It means he’s engaging with his environment. He’s learning to say “no” (loudly). He’s developing a will of his own and pushing back. I believe them when they tell me this is good. I want him to be independent and strong. But fuck, if it isn’t the hardest thing to live with. Ever.

Jack was the most docile, compliant two-year-old you’d ever want to meet. Mostly because he was too afraid to even make eye contact, let alone argue. With us he was pretty verbal, but with strangers he rarely spoke at all, except in repetitive or memorized loops of language. Now he’s fighting back, and it seems that he’s making up for lost time. We have given him more time-outs in the last week than he had in the previous year. Because although it’s good for him to speak out, a screaming, red-faced fit because Mom’s checking e-mail instead of showing him the seventeenth viewing of a ceiling fan video is not behavior we want to encourage.

And he ends his first year of preschool at the end of this week. After that, he’s all mine, all day, every day. Woohoo.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Jack, and most of the time, I also like him. He’s pretty clever. He likes to sing and make jokes and make me laugh. I’d love to get him into a swimming pool soon, and on the little trike our neighbors gave him for his birthday. But I’m dreading the battle of wills that is living with a three year old, who is thankfully on track, developmentally. I’ll continue taking him to OT, but the other therapists will also be gone, so I fear regression, too. I fear a lot of things, these days.

Brian, meanwhile, has been feeling very low-energy and lethargic. He worries it’s his thyroid, but the blood work from the doctor says no. On one hand, that’s good news, but on the other hand, what the fuck is going on? This move to Colorado is his idea, and I think he’s terrified, frankly. We moved to North Carolina for me, for my schooling. I was scared, but I had been on my own and made scary choices before. Brian has often slid into the jobs and living situations he’s had, almost by accident. This is a big deal for him, choosing to move so far away from his family, choosing to pursue the dream of mountains in the face of a high-paying computer programming job. He won’t be leaving the job right away. He’ll need to get certified before he can start climbing and guiding for a living, and that will take years. But there’s a joke about mountain guides: What’s the difference between a mountain guide and a large pepperoni pizza? The pizza can feed a family. So there’s that, too.

So, for those of you playing the home game, we’ve got, let’s see: the fear of change, the fear of starving, and the fear of some mysterious illness killing my husband. Plus, the fear of Jack’s regressing over the summer and sinking back into his own private world of autism. The fear of him not regressing but never growing beyond this murderous phase of tantrums. The fear that all of this will be a huge mistake, and I’ll lose everyone I’ve ever loved. Have I forgotten anything? Oh, yes, there’s climate change to consider, too.

When I start panicking about losing Brian, that his current malaise is really cancer or HIV or a brain tumor, I am learning to stop and ask myself what’s underneath that fear. This time of year sneaks up on me, sometimes. It’s May, spring time, happy time. It’s not like sucky February that I can see coming from a mile away. May’s supposed to be a nice month. But it’s also my dad’s birthday month. And Memorial Day was always his big party for himself. He invited a hundred people or more, cooked pigs and chickens and corn on the cob. People brought gallons of potato salad and mounds of dessert. He’d set off his homemade fireworks in the back yard, aimed out over the empty cornfields behind the house. Every time one exploded, the peacocks at the farm across the road would start screeching. (I feel as though I’ve written all of this before. Am I boring you?)

I’ve been so damn mad at my dad for so long, it’s been hard to dig down into the other feelings underneath. I miss him. He’s gone, and I’ll never see him again. Never hear his cackling laughter. Never get offended by one of his off-color jokes. It’s all gone. He’s gone. The party, the laughter, the cookouts, the crazy homemade fireworks. All gone. So when I start freaking out that I’ll lose Brian or Jack (or both), I think about the ones I really have lost. Maybe if I can face this sadness, the fear will leave me alone.

I have a series of paintings and sculptures I’ve been working on that have to do with trees and roots. One huge collage of a tree trunk and roots, all made up of tiny bits of notes my father left behind, and torn pieces from my mom’s handwritten recipes. Tree sculptures made from thick wire my Uncle Dick (also gone) gave me years ago. A hanging lantern made from checkerboard fabric, stamped with  numbers and dangling small squares with more numbers printed on them (square roots). A six-foot-square shower curtain with a huge portrait of my mother’s face, at about 19, taken from a photo I found and transferred; I scribbled family tree names and birth and death dates across her face, stenciled cherry blossoms and birds over her hair. None of these, but some other paintings from the series got damaged recently in a flood in our garage (my studio). I was devastated, even though I tried to pretend I wasn’t. These pieces aren’t just canvas and fabric and wire; they’re my family, the people I’ve loved who are gone. I don’t want to lose them again.

And yet, I realize that in order to move forward, to make a new home and a new life, some of this old stuff has to go. I don’t know what that means, exactly. I’m not considering torching my artwork. But the old fears of loss, the old patterns of hanging onto things so they can’t leave. They need to go, so I can grow. We have boxes in the attic and garage and shed that need to be tossed, given away, or consolidated. I have a good forty pounds that didn’t used to be part of my body. But I don’t mean just *stuff*, what about the psychic detritus that’s been collecting dust for years? What do I choose to pass on to my son, and what do I decide to leave behind? What old ideas need to stay here in the swamps of the past, so we can climb to the clearer air out West? How do I keep my roots and still branch out?

I wish I had an answer to that.

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One response

  1. Girl, fear not: You WILL LOVE COLORADO. Once upon a time, my mom and sister packed up their cars and drove west. They did not know where they would lay roots, but when they got to Denver they stopped for a reason. It was truly a magical place. I visited while they were there. It was hypnotizing and wonderful. As far as fear goes: we all battle it. It is part of that never-ending journey to become our fully realized selves. You got this girl. And since when is blogging not writing? Take that graduate school snobbery and bury it. You and me are writers…always. If not here, on the paper page. If not on the page, in our minds — all these stories unfolding in our thoughts. You know who you are…don’t forget it. 🙂

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