Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The making, take 1

For the better part of a decade, I’ve cast on cardigans and cables for the babies of friends and family. In the process—whether sitting on an overcrowded Delta flight to LAX or in a  stuffy jury room in Center City, Philadelphia—I’ve tried to imagine the little creature for whom I’m crafting. Usually this means imagining a miniature version of my friend or my cousin, and inevitably, when I meet the child, I’m struck by just how wrong my image was. The child is some other version entirely, a creature all her own.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bronson Alcott lately (father of Louisa) and his contention that “the child is the book.” Channeling European romantics, Alcott believed that every child arrives already endowed with the essence of her being. The truth of her soul is always already there. The parent, then, becomes a guide for the child’s process of revelation, revelation to the parent and to the world of that soul, of that “book.”

I’ve been thinking about Alcott as I scour the local used bookstore for children’s classics, like Mog, the Forgetful Cat (what a gem!). I’ve been imagining J, and Homer, and the baby snuggled together on the teal couches, reading Mog again and again. I’ve also been thinking about Alcott as I keep my needles in constant action. I shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve been simultaneously knitting and reading term papers.

There are many projects to catalog here, but I'll start with just one for today.

This little number is the puerperium cardigan. It's a free pattern on ravelry. A friend in my knitting group who is expecting a boy in January tried it first and I thought hers rather ingenious. So I pulled out a lovely, variegated skein that I bought this fall in Vermont (my treat to self after just through a talk). It's smooth and tiny, just right for a late March baby.

But I mention Bronson Alcott and puerperium cardigans in the same post because knitting for my own child feels a strange mix of wanting to impose a certain aesthetic from the start (I do romanticize the age of homespun) but also being weary of imposing too much. I suspect that this will be my biggest challenge as a parent: wanting to heed Alcott's advice but being a bit too anxious to always let that soul emerge organically.

Monday, December 3, 2012


It’s been a long time. I won’t make excuses. I’ve turned to other places, other venues to exorcise my angst and my creative energies this semester. But I still feel drawn to writing here, if only in fits and starts. My most recent hesitation arises from an inevitability. This blog, one that was born shadowing my solo life in Philadelphia and then gained only a tentative hold on my married life in Kentucky, is soon to morph into a story of another sort.

This one. I know some will mourn the transition of this space into yet-another-mediocre-oversharing-mommy-blog, but I figure there are so few still left reading, that I can simply reinvent this modest space without too much resistance. I've long been intellectually interested in mommy blogs and what better way to explore their strangeness than participating in the genre? At the very least, I figure this little person (who appears to be a perfect mini replica of J) might well give me back some motivation to scribble here.

Having single-handedly kept the child-rearing and natural birthing sections in the black for the last couple months, I’m confident that I’ll have absolutely nothing new to add to the conversation. But I do need an outlet for knitting projects and children's literature ramblings. And our stumbling through parenthood this spring may prove amusing, if nothing else. Take, for instance, our visit last month to the doctor. Seated in a back waiting room, J and I looked up to find this watching over us:

This was the punchline after a long, tiring week of navigating the Kentucky maternal healthcare system. Ultimately, everything turned out just fine and we expect a chromosomally-appropriate baby in March. But twice in one week we were told to “have faith” and to “trust God,” at the doctor's office. The Lord walked precariously close to each of these conversations as well. When we asked routine questions about the health of our baby, we received cryptic messages about the beauty and the magic of the limits of human knowledge. When I tried to press the case, I experienced bald sexism that would have seemed a parody had I not been its object. I've spent the last few weeks fantasizing about surreptitiously adding neon label to my medical file. It would read: “Feminist, agnostic patient married to a Jew. Resist the urge to frame diagnoses with any of the following: God, Jesus, magic, salvation, mystery, faith, or Walmart.”

Ah Kentucky, ah reproduction.