Susan's Blog

Monday, March 5, 2007

My Millions

The child’s worth ten of the mother.
–Belle Watling, to Rhett Butler, GWTW

The child is father to the man.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1840

They’re my millions. I’ve got two millions. One, two. And you’re the third.
Grandma Esther Senator Gross, to me, about Max and Nat

I know other people are not like this, but I experience life as an ever-shifting force, a moving puzzle beneath my feet. There is no stasis, the only times that do not feel like this are the strange empty sinkholes that pop open during my day, inexplicable periods when there is nothing to do — or is it nothing I want to do?

On top of the problem of this strange boredom is the guilt: I know that so many people have the opposite problem, of too much to do, and never enough time for themselves. So I feel ashamed about this, kind of idiotic to have time on my hands. And then, of course, suddenly it’s pick-up time for the kids, and it all changes, it’s all a blur of seeing to everyone’s needs and then the Dreaded Dinnertime (I have lost all inspiration for cooking for my family. It is boring and it is thankless.)

Ned says that I don’t have enough to do during the day that gives me the positive feedback people need. My work is to write and pitch articles to different editors, and at some point, to work on my second book once it’s accepted by the publisher. So this means a lot of dead time of no contact with people. And then my mind wanders — into trouble.

I would like to be more like Max, I think. He has a lot of time spent in his own mind, working on something on the computer, happy just being. He knows what he wants, and asks for it gently but persistently when he really wants it, such as the blue hair, or his new phone, or to go to a particular rotten movie with his friends.

People ask me all the time about how Max does with Nat. “Is it hard for him to bring friends to your house,” they wonder, as if Nat is something to be fearful of. I understand it is their lack of familiarity with Natty and autism that makes them ask this, but still. If they only knew just how okay Max is with it all. (Knock wood. I could always be wrong, but why? Nat is his brother. This is his family. He doesn’t seem to question the way these things are.)

Tonight I made chili, and I always make cornbread with it; actually, I have Nat make the cornbread. I thought he knew the recipe by heart, but I was wrong. I got everything out, and got distracted by Max who was telling me something about his math teacher, whom he adores. When I turned back to the mixing bowl, I saw a heavy white blanket of flour on top of the cornmeal, oil, etc. Far more than what is called for (one cup). I said aloud, “Jeez, that is too much flour.” I knew that Nat would not be able to answer how many cups he’d put in, so I asked Max if he knew. “Two,” Max said. I sighed. “Nat, that is too much. It is just one cup. I thought you knew that.” I proceeded to shovel out the extra flour, until I had close to a cup, which miraculously had no corn meal mixed into it. Nat started mixing it, and it was viscous, almost immobile against the wooden spoon. I sloshed in a little water to make it less paste-like.

Max slipped out of the room, back to his peaceful space upstairs, while I grumbled over the mess in my kitchen. The oven beeped its preheated message to us and I put the pan in. Nat went back to his station on the couch, where I’ll admit he often sits hunched over in fetal position. Why does he do this? Is he unhappy? Or is he okay like that? I felt a very old, rusty pang inside me, looking at him like that. What more should I be doing, if anything?

Sighing again, I took the cornbread out twenty minutes later. Dinner was all ready. Ned came home a bit late, but everything was still warm. Afterwards, when we were cleaning up, Max said, “That was like the best cornbread we ever had.” I turned to him and smiled gratefully. “Yeah? Tell Nat,” (who was sitting right next to Max).

Max’s face shifted slowly, into the most beautiful smile, a look that sort of said, “Relax, Ma. Everything’s okay.” And he said, laughing, “I just did.”


I really liked how this post flowed together. I love how you write!

I know you have lots of dead time where you wonder, and I wish I could offer up suggestions, but I really think that wouldn’t be helpful. I am glad for those dead times, because when I need a break from my busy work, I can pause, check to see if you’ve blogged and enjoy. 🙂

— added by I Wax Poetic on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 8:33 am

That is so touching.

— added by Mom on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 9:27 am

I feel odd commenting on something that had little to do with the major substance of this (beautiful) post. C’est la vie.

I had to stop reading as soon as my eyes crossed over the words “On top of the problem of this strange boredom is the guilt: I know that so many people have the opposite problem.”

There is no reason for you to feel guilty or ashamed. You probably know, deep in your heart, that your life is much more full than most people.

Perhaps the reason for this guilt is that you’re used to be zipping along at blinding speed. When all of a sudden you find that the world has stopped for a few moments, you feel like you should be doing something … anything.

Life is as busy as we choose to make it. Sure, there are bare minimums we all have to respect, but you have the power to do nothing at all when the mood strikes you.

Don’t feel guilty. Consider those lulls to be your reward. I love it when a “sinkhole” pops open for me. They’re rare, and I rejoice in my perfect befuddlement about what I should or could be doing. It means I must be usually doing too many other things.

— added by Don on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 10:42 am