I have this book, The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelly Rowley, that I haven’t finished yet, but I feel okay to write a blog post about it because it’s not really about the finished book, though it is. It’s about the physical book itself and what it has meant to me.
Is this weird? Maybe. Sentimental? Definitely.
Being a new parent is hard. It’s hard in a way that is indescribable until you’re in it. It’s like having a new puppy, but not at all. The stakes are higher.
There are so many nights when you are up every few hours to feed or hold or comfort your child. Those nights can be especially dark. In my case, our son wouldn’t take a bottle so it was all me, all the time. I would watch my husband snoring peacefully and want to dump a bucket of ice water on his face, how dare he dream.
I know people will frown, but truthfully, many of these late night feeding sessions involved sliding through social media to stay awake. We do what we must. Usually around 1 or 2 a.m. I’d be on instagram and a picture would pop up. Always a coffee, a computer, and words. Sometimes a candle, sometimes a window. I came to rely on that little light of consistency to get me through the longest, darkest hours.
I was fully aware of what it meant to me in those moments, but was still surprised by the lurch in my heart when I saw that those words, collected had become a real life, tangible book so many months later.
I’m not generally a pre-orderer, I’m impatient, and I like going to the bookstore when new books come out, but this time I had to. I needed to know that the second it became available it would be in my mailbox. And so it will.
I got an early copy! It arrived in my mailbox two days ago and as I ripped off the envelope there were tears in my eyes. This “thing”, this object that represented so much was in my hands.
Then I panicked. What if I don’t like it? What if I don’t like anything? I haven’t been able to get into a book since the beginning of January, maybe I should wait. Yes. I better wait. But I can’t.
And so I didn’t.
As soon as Eli was asleep I settled myself on the couch and cracked the book and read. And read. Andreadandreadandreadandread. I was able to invest. I was in it. IN. IT. It was glorious and oh so necessary. I don’t do well when I’m not invested in a book, it’s not good for me. This was a godsend.
I had to post on twitter because it was 100% true:
Today is wednesday. I had to fast all night and go in for a three hour test this morning. I brought my usual: journal, homemade planner, and current book. I planned to break it up and spend an hour with each.
I started with The Ramblers and didn’t pick up anything else I brought. I spent three what could have been painful and boring hours immersed in this world. I could breathe.
For me, personally, this is an important book. I may even become superstitious about carrying it everywhere. From its inception it has been exactly what I needed when I needed it.
Also, so far, it’s a really really great book. I keep forgetting that the characters are not real people* and that this all came from someone’s brain. Masterful, I tell ya. Get it, read it, tell me your thoughts.
*Especially Smith, because I know a girl named Smith who looks nothing like the character but it throws me a little anyway.
I often begin the year with a page in my notebook dedicated to “Books Read.” It’s one of my favorite things to look back on, but has never made it past 7 entries. I forget. I move on. I forget because I move on. At the end of the year, sometimes before that, I go to Goodreads and frantically tick off what books I can remember having read. Of course books are missed. It shouldn’t bother me so much, but it’s principle.
This year I want to keep my log all the way through. I want to know what I’ve read, when I read it, how I felt about it, you feel me? My intention is never to write a “Best books of 20whatever” (really, I couldn’t. It’s rare I read a book the year that it’s published).
I keep remembering part of a post I read on BookRiot:
And then I realized, late this year, that I was reading myself crazy. I was reading while I was catching up on the DVR. I was reading while I was EATING DINNER. I was reading every chance I got. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to catch up. Have you ever gone onto Goodreads and seen that you were three books behind on your challenge? It’s nerve wracking! I felt like I ALWAYS had to be reading, no matter what else might be going on. The challenge was exacerbated by the guilt that I had so many books in the house, both paper and electronic, and felt that I needed to push through them.
This would be me. In fact, it’s already happening- kind of. I picked up Best American Essays 2015, then put it down, because how would I count that? Short stories? Nope. And what about big books? A Little Life? Not going to happen. Then there are the books I go back too again and again, or books I read last year that I want to revisit. Do they count? HOW do they count? Ugh. Cue Linus passing out in the pumpkin patch.
*pictures of books I already had on my phone.
I have no words to add to the discussion on the recent attacks in France. Like everyone, I am angry but anger isn’t enough. Neither are prayers thoughts and virtual hugs. I found myself this morning rolling my eyes and saying, fuck your prayers, do something. And then craving yoga. Yoga.
Because yoga is totally taking action.
But then (so many “but thens”, so little time) I got it. Meditation, yoga, movement, breath. Those are MY prayers. And they help me to quiet the anger and judgement and desire to punch someone right in their fucking zealot face, so that I can see the way to action. To calmness. I have to connect to that before anything else. And from there growth and movement happen.
I have a memory.
I am five, maybe four, in the back of a limousine. I am alone, but how can I be? That makes no sense. A nanny must be with me. Or Sandy, the motor home driver. I’m crying because I don’t want to go home without my mom. I look out the window and up to the street lights that are yellow and blurred by my tears. I’m trying to catch my breath between sobs.
Another memory, another time, another limo. I’m with my mom and her boyfriend this time. I’ve fallen asleep on her lap. I wake up panicked that I was snoring. They assure me I wasn’t. I don’t believe them so I keep myself awake for the rest of the ride.
Finally. Final memory. I am older. At least a couple of years. Maybe I’m seven? I look out the back window as my nanny and I drive away from the house. My mom is standing outside waving, watching us go. It’s so early that the sun has just come out. I’m sad, but a confused sad, because we are going home, to Memphis. I hate early flights.
I still hate limos.
I’m about to bum out some vegans. I’ve eaten meat here and there over the last few years. I still eat dairy on occasion even though I believe it is one of the great atrocities of our time. And eggs, because to be honest I forgot about what happens to male chicks. I really truly forgot. It’s horrific. But I’m on the road back. Because I am a mom. And life matters. Doing the least amount of harm possible matters more to me than ever. Also, I have a dog. His legs remind me of chicken legs and his emotional intelligence is less than that of a pig, so, again, how can I eat those other animals in good conscience?
On my way home today I saw a moment at a bus stop. A woman was rubbing her little boy’s head. He was burying his face into the side of her back and wearing a bright green cape. It stood out, I think, because of its tenderness. It was lovely, but also sad. As a mom, I projected my own fears and insecurities on to it, seeing a little boy, who left school early because he didn’t feel well and, because his mom can’t afford a car, had to walk all that way and wait on a busy street for a bus when all he wanted was to be home in bed.
That scene made me think about a documentary Cyrus and I watched a few weeks back called, “Los Angels: Skid Row is my Home”. It’s a look at the people who live on Skid Row and the effects of gentrification and society on their lives. I’m not going to lie, it’s intense, but worth it. So worth it. Did you know that Skid Row was a planned community of sorts? That it’s the only extremely low income housing in the city that is surrounded by services designed to help these people? It left me with the obvious reminder that, as a society we have to do better. But how? And after a few days of stomach knotting outrage, I set it away in the back of my mind, only to be looked at once a day.
That was all still on my mind when I got home and signed into Twitter, where I saw the hashtag “#PovertyIs”. It’s exactly what it sounds like: People posting what poverty is. It’s fucking heartbreaking. And true.
#PovertyIs a mother going hungry for another night just to feed her children in a society where restaurants throw food away every day.
#PovertyIs making enough to pay rent but not enough to feed your family WHILE BEING TOLD IT’S TOO MUCH INCOME to qualify for food stamps.#PovertyIs delaying taking your kid to the doctor hoping ear infection will heal, because copay plus medicine means no groceries for a week.
Today we met:
A baby tortoise
A toddler tortoise
A teenage tortoise
An ooooold tortoise
It was magical and so were they. Even Eli was impressed, which was a surprise because so far he’s only liked birds. I guess as long as animals are neither furry, nor particularly cuddly, they’re alright with him.
The only pictures are in my mind, and I’m perfectly happy with that.