Monday, May 2, 2011

The Bin Laden Effect

I woke up on the morning of September 12, 2001 in my fiancĂ©’s apartment on the 23rd floor of his building on 39th Street in Manhattan. Neither of us had slept much at all, of course. And after that first foggy moment between sleep and waking when nothing is quite clear, the memory of the madness we were living descended.

We stumbled around his apartment in silence; the chaos in our heads and hearts too noisy to talk over. Reporters on the television we hadn’t turned off the night before were frantically trying to make sense of the nightmare still unfolding all around us.

From his building, we could see—and smell—the black, burning cloud at the tip of the island.

“Nothing is ever going to be the same,” I said to him. “Everything is different now.”

This morning, like millions of others, I woke to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead. Since first hearing the news, I’ve been stumbling through my morning trying to wrap my head around what that actually means, the chatter of reporters once again in the background.

There is undeniable symbolic importance to his death, a final sentence delivered to the Al Qaeda figurehead by a brave group of U.S. special operatives.

An awful lot of people have waited an awfully long time to hear this.

And yet, I can’t help but ruminate on my own words on 9/12. “Nothing is ever going to be the same.”

For so many people, this remains an unalterable truth. And the news of OBL’s death—though admittedly very welcome—doesn’t do much to change our present.

It’s remarkable and terrifying to think about the millions of lives OBL’s atrocities have altered. Because of one man’s evil, the course of human history has been changed.

It isn’t the first time that’s happened. And if history teaches us anything, it will likely not be the last.

I understand the jubilation across the country, even if I don’t share it. Like millions of others, I am glad Osama bin Laden is dead. And I’ve been experiencing my own quiet catharsis this morning.

But there’s still an empty space at bottom of New York City and in the hearts of millions of New Yorkers. Empty chairs at dinner tables won't be filled because of this. Our country is still fighting multiple wars. And OBL’s murderous ideology still lives even as his body sinks to the bottom of the sea.

Today, like the morning of September 12, I have a deeply unsettling feeling.

But this morning, my disquiet comes from the opposite realization:

As much as we wish it had, nothing has changed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Woah

My headspace has been occupied with Single Mamahood quite a lot recently.

Duh, you say.

Sure, I've been at this Single Mamahood thing for a while now, and I've written about it here. But it's been on my brain more than usual because I've been working on a new book about, duh, Single Mamahood.

But that's not what I want to tell you about right now.

In my Googling escapades masquerading as research for my latest project, I came across something else.

Something...something.

And I apparently came upon this new something on the same day it was officially named a New York Times best seller.

The something is a book called Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love.

The author is Matthew Logelin.

And the story is tragic.

Matthew and Liz met at age 18. They fell in love fast and hard, the way 18-year-olds are prone to do. But, unlike most adolescent love stories, their young relationship actually weathered four years of long-distance negotiations, with Matthew having stayed put in their native Minnesota and Liz having wisely chosen to leave the cold winters behind to pursue her education in a state with a more practical climate: California.

Against ridiculous odds, their love lasted.

No, it blossomed.

No, it fucking transcended.

Fast forward several years, and they were married. Fast forward a few more, and they were pregnant.

Liz's pregnancy, apparently, was difficult, and their baby tried--more than once--to meet the parents too soon.

Finally, on March 24, 2008, it was time for their baby--a girl--to arrive.

When she did, she was tiny, not quite four pounds. But she was a fighter from the first, and she persevered, just like the love her parents had for each other. And now her.

Liz, however, wasn't afforded the same opportunity.

27 hours after baby Madeline was born, without ever having held her daughter, Liz died in the hospital of a pulmonary embolism.

In the space of little more than a day, Matthew became a father and a widower.

And a Single Papa.

I haven't read the book yet, as it just came out. I did, however, spend a good deal of time on Matthew's blog.

What I read there has me thinking.

And feeling.

And yeah, crying a little.

The first line of his book reads, "I am not a writer."

This is a lie.

He is a writer. And he was before he ever published a book. This much is evident on his blog. The fact that he was able to articulate his loss; chronicle his heartache; and translate his raw, confused, and aching emotion into words is only something a writer, however reluctant, could do.

Just open a vein and bleed, indeed.

Of course I'll read the book now. How could I not? I'd say you should, too, except I haven't read it yet. And recommending a book you haven't read seems a little silly.

So, in absence of a book recommendation, let me make a blog recommendation. Spend some time there, get to know Matt, Maddy, and Liz. Chances are, you'll probably end up wanting to read the book.

I definitely do.

Oh, and P.S.

Matt, on the off chance you actually read this, I want to thank you for reminding me--and many hundreds of thousands of others--that Single Parenthood is tough, tragic and tremendously rewarding, no matter your gender, or your circumstances.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Snack Time Snafu

Last week, the Little One and I headed out for a playdate with friends. I told her to pack up the toys she wanted to bring, usually an assortment of microscopic animal figures and their molecule-sized accessories, most of which have a nasty habit of finding their way into my vacuum cleaner.

Diligently and using very good 'listening ears,' she collected her pea-sized possessions. "I'm ready!" she announced proudly, hand on the doorknob. "Mama," she said, her smart little ponytail swinging behind her, "I packed some snacks in my purse."

"Really." Skeptical about her snack selection, I was about to explain that some snacks--like broccoli or hummus or jello--aren't meant to be packed in purses.

"Don't worry," she said, opening the front door. "I put an ice pack in there too, to keep them cold. It's pretty full, but I got it zipped."

My resourceful, thoughtful Little One, packing snacks for our friends--complete with an ice pack--in her black leather Nine West hand-me-down purse from grandma.

After I had my "aww, isn't that sweet" moment, I could have asked for further clarification. And through the crystal clear lens of retrospect, it's plain that I should have. But, we were already running late. And anyway, it's not like she'd pack the leftover ravioli from last night's dinner in her purse, right? A few cheese sticks maybe, and some goldfish, sure. I'd just take a peek inside her purse on arrival.

"Alright, kiddo. Let's move it out."

It's a short ride to our friends' house and Michele Norris was keeping us company on the way, explaining the intricacies of a potential federal government shutdown. A veteran NPR listener since her infancy, I assumed the Little One was as riveted as I.

Until a wail erupted from the back seat.

"What's wrong, baby?" In the rear view mirror, I could see the enormous tears rolling down her already flushed cheeks. "What happened?"

"They broke! Ahhhhhhhh!" Another wail, followed by some hiccups.

"What broke, sweetest?"

"The eggs!" Wail. Hiccup. Snort. Wail.

"Eggs?" I turned around to see her tiny hands holding open a too-big-for-her purse. Inside, several freshly broken eggs were mashed up against an ice pack and smeared all over an assortment of tiny animal critters, at least three dozen hair ties, one of my credit cards and a broken tiara.

"Oh, baby." Don't laugh. She's upset.

"I wanted to bring them a snack and it's broken and everything is egg-y!" Wail, snort, hiccup, etc.

Pushing her little hand into the yolky mess, she scooped out some shell-flecked slime. "Here! I don't want it." She flung the goo toward the front seat.

With egg literally on my face, I tried very, very hard not to let her see me laughing.

Upon arrival at our friends' home, the recent egg-tastrophe was almost immediately forgotten. And fortunately, I was able to clean the purse and many of the things it contained. Though one small prairie dog-like creature--may she rest in peace--couldn't be saved.

The next morning, the egg debacle no more than a slimy memory, I looked in the refrigerator. Guess what I didn't have.

Right.

She'd put every single egg we had into that purse of hers. No wonder it was so full. That little prairie dog didn't have a chance.

So, eggs have been added to my shopping list. Presumably, the next time she wants to bring some to a friends' house, she'll at least attempt to transport them in the carton. And speaking of cartons, there's one more little piece to this egg-centric tale to relate: The egg carton she emptied? I found it in our recycling bin.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Band of Mothers



Single Mamahood requires a lot of creativity. Single Mamahood as a freelance writer demands suspension of disbelief. It's a little like medieval warfare.

You get a gig, you lose a gig. You hustle. You work your ass rump off for just about everyone, but buy yourself precious little security in the process. You're understaffed and underfunded. Austerity measures in place, it is life without a safety net.

When I embarked on this particular adventure, the ranks of reliable supporting characters were thin and ill-equipped, like King Harry's 'happy few.' Since then, they've grown. So have I. And so has the Little One.

'All things be ready if our minds are so.' The Bard, for all his dramatic eloquence, could easily have written a self-help book for the Single Mama. Doing the whole single motherhood thing requires trust. Trust in yourself, trust in your kiddo's ability to negotiate change, and trust in those you rely on to help you, because none of us can do it alone. Even the legendary Henry V needed an army--however patchworked and improvised--to defeat the French at Agincourt.

The takeaway from this scene for the Single Mama--for anyone, really--is simple. No matter what the odds, no matter how the deck is stacked against you--lost gigs, lost sitters, broken hearts, and tired minds--you can't afford to lose faith. If you lose faith in yourself, in your ranks, in your future, then you cede the day without ever having fought to win it.

'We are but warriors for the working day.' And so we work. We strive. We comfort, console and contend.

It's what we do, we few, we happy few, we band of mothers.