Rogue Homilies by Deidre Price

a study of life that smacks of the divine

Tag: motherhood

How to Make Peace, in Five-Year-Old Terms, in the Age of Trump

At the end of every soccer game last season, my son and the opposing teams of five year olds lined up and held out a hand, palm open. They passed as swiftly and evenly as they could, each player serving as a segment in twin human centipedes, to the friendly sound of cascading high fives, each miniature clap as happy as the biased parental ones coming from the sidelines at the sight of a scored goal.

I remember thinking how civil it all was, how they were more focused on the juice boxes and allergen-free snacks to follow than they were the outcome of the game, how they would at times stop playing altogether, forget the color of their shirts, and sit and play in the grass, dissecting dandelions.

These images come to mind again as I think about the past political season and how I wish at moments that we could all ‘be five’ and take a respite from it all. I wish this were all a game. It’s anything but. But I can’t help feeling like we’ve each spent time in some game, that we’ve been players and pawns for too long these past several months, that we’ve lost sight of the faces and focused on the jerseys and the sounds of the sidelines instead of our own consciences.

At every turn this past year, I felt as though I were arming myself with information. Reading for education or amusement no longer happened. We were on teams and then, after the primaries, we entered the finals, many of us disgruntled and begrudgingly adopting new colors. We wore them anyway, even if they didn’t flatter. We ran toward opposing goals, and our feet moved in the direction our coach had told us to. We ran, head on into others, swept a leg if needed.

We played dirty.

The game ended, our arms too loaded with equipment to manage a single high five. Our mouths remained full of arguments we hadn’t even gotten to yet.

I feel sure that politics has always made a mess of people, but this past year, we felt the stakes were higher, dived in willingly, and some of us threw our children in, too, even in places where it was too deep.

My hope this year is for us to take off our numbers and stop using the language of labels. My hope is that we’ll work on looking one another in the face and have more conversations in person than in online forums.

We are engaging between commercial breaks and relying on microwave media, sustaining on sound bytes. We are in such a hurry to get to hate. We’ve become our own click bait.

Many have lost friends in this election, and odds are the opinions these loved ones held had been held for some time before this past year made them transparent. With all the typing and clicking and tagging and sharing, it’s become harder and harder to insulate others from our dissent, and it’s become easier and easier to see the lines that were already, albeit more politely, traced in the ground between us.

Now we’re open 24/7 with green dots beside our names as though they were neon signs. We are always “Hot Now.” We are always open.

You’ve heard it before, but put the phone down. We’re fueling our own neuroses. Find something beautiful, and stare at it.  Find someone beautiful, and be with them.

Eat something that looks like an encounter with God.

Visit libraries, read every book, and use up every last ounce of your days to teach your children all the big lessons about big love.

Have tea parties at every age. Throw your doors and arms wide open and let everyone in. Shove down for love.

Be near to what’s going on in the White House, but cling nearer to your neighbor. Be present for your families. Notice your friends without any and adopt them in. Set the table and sit down. Break bread and keep breaking bread all the days of your life because we were made for times like these.

At the end of the day, I know exactly who we are and what we’re about. We are made of much–enough even–to make it through even a season of this much division. I think we had an amalgamation of good intentions gone horribly wrong, but that, at our core, we still, collectively, hope for good in the world, and we’re willing to work for it.

I’d like to think that, deep down, maybe we’re just dehydrated from all the back and forth. Maybe we need a nap after all the late-night tweeting.

Maybe, in the words of that precious Hook child, we “need a mother very badly.”

I’ll go first. Then you.

Here, love. Have an orange slice.


  Deidre Price, author and speaker, is a mama of three and lit Ph.D. Her most recent work appears in Boxcar Poetry ReviewThe Healing Muse, The Penwood Review, and The Mighty. Find her latest poetry chapbook, Lie/Lay/Lain: The Body in Tenses (Rogue Homilies Press, 2016) on Amazon.

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Love by Proxy: My Hipster Daughter, Minecraft, and William Carlos Williams Walk into a Bar… (A Devotion)

My un/homeschooled thirteen-year-old daughter Daina has several addictions in addition to books which are, of course, her One True Love. In Daina-language, she says she belongs to “many fandoms,” which smacks of something between Disney and Dungeons and Dragons, but she’s a hard sell for corporate darlings, and she never burns when I douse her in holy water, so I find myself in the peculiar position of out-of-touch mom.

I, the youth group lovely who landed herself in a maternity ward two short years into college life, practically grew up with Daina. I still don’t feel ‘done,’ if I’m being completely honest. I can do Mom voices really well, though, and the littles in the house believe them enough to walk to Time Out unassisted.

This is proof of adultness, I think, that you can convince someone to move without yelling at them.

This is to say that, when I feel disconnected from this daughter-sister-friend, my heart breaks a little.

Here are weird things I’ve heard this week:

  • “Look, Mom. I just sheared my sheep!”
  • “Have you seen all this wheat I’ve grown?”
  • “Yes! I finally tamed my horse!”
  • “I have to breed my animals.”

This is the language of my people, but these words aren’t her own. She’s adopted my parents’ Alabama tongue. These are rural rumblings, and I’m looking at her like this:

kid meme

I’m fluent in Starbucks and have the human equivalent of echolocation which directs me to clearance end caps at Target. I don’t ‘sheep.’ I don’t ‘wheat.’ When I think of horses, Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle comes to mind.

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Some Days I Make Soup: A Writer in Progress

Lesson One about being a writer is that you should be able to admit in public over coffee that you’re writing a book.

The funny thing is I can’t say it above a whisper or while looking anyone in the eye. It’s as if the volume and eye contact is a verbal contract that I’ll finish it someday. Someone, eventually, would know that it happened and then, it would be in print forever, as if to suggest I’d be eternally bound to those opinions and that I’d have to defend them in even more public spaces in front of family and childhood friends who will always believe they knew you best and lament that you’ve “changed.”
The second funny thing is that I whisper confessions of writing among friends, too. This morning over coffee I admitted that I’m working on, not one, but two books and that one of them is a book of poems.
And why is this so hard to say? Why is it that the thing that every kid brags about and posts on refrigerator doors is something that grown, passable adults somehow must attribute to French blood or mental illness? It’s all fine and dandy to have it done and published, but to be working on a book? It somehow feels sadder than it should.
So I give myself a hard time. I’m used to having writing in progress, but I’ve suddenly come down with a bad case of being a writer in progress.
I think of awfully vain questions some days like when I will need a dot com and how many books it will take until I matter. When my mind wanders in these ridiculous ways, I bring everything to a grinding halt and thrust myself back into an actual moment with actual people.
I find someone small to celebrate.
I find someone who needs loving on.
I make soup.
On days when we’re still in our pajamas until noon, my three-year-old son invariably asks if we can make soup. So, we do. And I savor the details.
I start with swirls of olive oil to shine and pop in the silvered pot bottom. I dice onions that haven’t sprouted anything yet (the others, I count as freestyle gardening; I leave them boasting in the windowsill). We sweep them in to the pot to shine until they look like wet glass.
I mash garlic like potatoes and toss them in for a short chat with the shallots, and I splash chicken bouillon in for nothing more than the sound of the sizzle.
I add money-carrots, we call them. I cut them in coins and, because of this, we must wish on them as they fall into the pretend broth fountain. Celery follows and swims around like small green rafts for shredded chicken moving like minnows closely behind.
We hold hands over the can opener to turn and count and turn and count until the top opens, leaving us with a rinsing job that is best likened to dismantling a bomb. And the defused can of beans goes in with three hard shakes best done by my son, followed by more shakes of dried herbs as though he is overfeeding fish without the risk of anything but glory.
It simmers while we tell stories.
He asks between stories a string of questions and answers as the world’s smallest sous chef: “Is it hot? No, it’s not hot. Is it warm? It’s not warm. It’s perfect? It’s perfect.”

Yes, it’s perfect.
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How I Balance Books and Babies

 
 
While I pored over the second galley proof of the literary magazine I edit with one of my nearest and dearest colleague-friends and a too-strong cup of caramel coffee, I received the following text from my husband: “Evangeline just took her first step!” He and our three kids had been at Grammy’s house for the afternoon while I slipped away during naptime to take care of some emergency editing (there is actually such a thing, and it, as you might guess, falls squarely and surely under the heading of “first world problems”).
I’d just gotten settled into an empty house by clearing the dining room table, adorned with half a bouquet of flowers I’d stolen from my mother-in-law after she’d performed a flirty flapper’s rendition of “Button Up Your Overcoat” at a continuing education showcase program and asked me to put them in water for a while since I’d be going straight home.
I’d even prepared my apology in advance for the rest of the house. It’s briefer than ever these days: “You’ll have to forgive the house with the exception of this dining room table. I’m not gifted in housekeeping.” I sometimes work in the word “knack.” I find it charming and use it in hopes that it distracts from the dust. The idea that people dust and vacuum weekly really is so foreign to me. I applaud those of you who do it, and I’ll work the word aplombinto my language massage if it makes you forgive me for the dirt and dog-hair tumbleweeds lining the hallway in the meantime.
E apologizes sometimes. This is her right after she ripped a page from one of my books. Is it just me, or do her eyebrows slightly raise as if to say, “You know I’m only eight months old, right? You didn’t think I was just going to turn the page like an Oxford grad, did you?” She has a gift for the “shame on you” look. If she chooses motherhood someday, she’ll be brilliant at it. I could learn so much from this little (n.).
 
And this little, this eight-month, nearly nine-month wonder, walks as if it’s a brief wish in a line of longer, loftier ones. My son was dragging his legs military-crawl-style with two eager and determined elbows for months before pulling up. This is him.*
 
 
 
 
            He didn’t walk until he was fourteen months old, so the text was not only telling me our daughter had walked her first steps but also that she was some kind of superhero. The papers should have been notified that moment, actually. I’m not sure what I’m doing just putting it on a blog. This is actual news. Someone with a camera not in their phone should have been on call to photograph it.
            My colleague’s response, when I read the text, was one of regret, like “Oh, you missed it!”
I shrugged it off, “Oh, she’s the third. And she’ll never know.” We both agreed the story should go that I was there, and it was amazing. No one needed to know anything but that.
But the more the missed first step settles in, the more my heart goes in two directions. Half of me says that she should get ready for me to miss many more things. It’s just not possible for me to be two places at once, and I’m needed so many places at once sometimes. The other half of me remembers winning a spelling bee, among many events, my dad could not attend because of work, and knew that because it even came to mind, it mattered much more than I wanted it to.
My son calls me out on it often. He is nearly three, and he is incredibly bright. That fourteen-month-walking jig was up really quick when we realized that was his giving us a head start because he hasn’t stopped since. His brain doesn’t stop. Like my oldest, he is intuitively wise. He knows that the front yard is no place for a laptop when the weather is good, and we’ve got a bucket of sidewalk chalk calling our names.
 
 
I thought I was killing it as Mom last week. Papers had to be graded; kids had to be raised. One beach chair on the front walk later, and boom—WorkingMamaPalooza. Lies. All lies. He walks up, presses a few keys, closes the laptop, and says, “No laptop, Mommy. You done.” Smart kid.
I have enough Working Mother’s Guilt for all of us, and I’m done being distracted with questions of semantics, like why there isn’t anything like Working Father’s Guilt, or speculating about the answers some churchly friends would say in response to my bringing up Working Father’s Guilt—questions I get all the time anyway, like “Are you still working?” and “Are you a liberal?”
            Guilty or not, I’ll say I feel being caught in the gap between books and babies some days. I am fully present and all in with whatever’s in front of me, but some days, it’s a revolving door.  In the past three weeks, we’ve had five sinus infections, an allergic reaction to medication, four trips to the pediatrician, three trips to the pharmacy, two days of missed work, a couple hundred dollars bet on recouping, and a thousand loads of laundry. Seriously, it probably would have been easier to just move or buy new children. But, we’re very nearly well, so things are looking up. This was E before she broke out in hives. The calm before the storm really only means a storm is coming. It’s nothing to relax or take a cocky selfie about. Yet, here we are.
 
 
            Sickness is a monkey wrench thrown into the Swiss clock of our household constitution. We cannot be sick. The whole thing goes to hell.
            I’ve been consumed lately with the notion of “breathing room,” or “adding margin to my life,” but the trouble is I’ve been living with time credit cards, and the debt piles up until we get sick, and it’s a feeling very similar to playing Level 10 in Tetris on no sleep while someone is kicking you in the face. I’ve been so consumed with these notions that my study of breathing room, margin, and recreational reading have begun eating into that margin that would have been there, so I’m maxed out again.
            When someone shakes a pity noggin or points a finger of shame in my direction, I want to tell them that it could be worse. I could be doing drugs. But honestly, I’d never waste money or time on drugs while hummus and Downton Abbey still exist, and they’d call my bluff. Everyone knows what I’m about: Jonathan and Jesus. Anything else is window dressing.
Still, how do I do it? I’ve never known how to explain it before, that sense that I’m busy but managing just fine, that I’m tired but not broken, that I’ll keep doing what I’m doing because I’m called to be here and there, that heavy hope that this is okay and we are fine, but the words came today, as they always do.
I focus on the honey, not the hive.
 
 
 

*(It should be he, not him, because it’s a subject complement, but honestly, who’s doing that these days. If I would have put in he, half of you would have thought I were wrong and roughly the other half would have thought I were pompous. It would be only that sweet spot of 1% that championed me and my whole grammar fight, and with my slack-jawed and mostly intentional word mangling [I call them letter butterflies sometimes], I doubt you all read these things. Thanks to those who hang in there despite me.)
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