After Work

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At ten to five I realize I should have left already.  Stuffing the assorted mason jars that carry lunch and the obligatory breast milk in my bag, I grab the laptop, pumping supplies, and my coat.  Sometimes, when I leave earlier, I like to think of walking out the door as a small act of resistance against a career designed to leave little room for anything else.  Me, leaving early, bag in hand, a smile on my face, not sneaking away as though anyone is keeping track.

Spring is starting to emerge and entertains me on the walk home.  Little gardens are tucked in the front yards and side yards and in-between yards, some only showing hints of life with brown grass and twiggy hedges.  Others have come utterly alive in the last few weeks with a  parade of early spring flowers; snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinth, and other delicate white and purple flowers whose names I cannot remember now.  Tulip leaves are everywhere, the excitement mounting as I wait for a new symphony of color.

Sometimes on the walk home I call my parents or grandmother to chat for a few minutes about the little things Adi is learning or how she is sleeping.  Other times I prefer to think about all the plans I can’t help but tidy away in the back of my mind, waiting for a yard of my own, a house of my own, more time of my own.

Fumbling with the keys, check the mail, open the door, and it’s the squeal of a baby as she sees her mama’s home.  Her daddy is lounging on the sofa trying to contain her glee and waving arms without losing his glasses.  Someone’s hungry!  Boots off, mason jars unloaded, milk in the fridge.  I change into house clothes that are already covered with a layer of drool and snot.  I try not to think about that.  Adi and her daddy have followed me into the bedroom and as soon as I’m done changing she reaches out for a huge baby hug.  Home-coming is my favorite part of the day.

While James works on dinner, Adi and I snuggle in bed for nursing and reading.  After weeks of waiting for it to arrive via inter-library loan, I have six delicious issues of Taproot Magazine to pore over with a baby in my arms; there is no greater bliss.  Finally satiated, Adi chirps and squirms and reaches out to grab the colorful pages.  I’m hoping Taproot makes it back to the library in one piece.

Dinner is ready, baby is stripped down to her diaper, and the table is set.  We’re all eating split-pea soup with sourdough bread so fresh that it’s still slightly warm.  James has been experimenting with some of the whole-grain bread recipes in Tartine Book No. 3 and this new bread recipe he started making a couple weeks ago with oatmeal is fast becoming my favorite.  Even Adi, who is only slowly coming onto bread, would rather put buttered pieces in her mouth than on the floor.

Long after the adults have finished eating and in the middle of a conversation about how James doesn’t like gardening or want to have a hoard of farm animals someday and how that is fine because that way he will have energy to do the things I don’t want to do, like taxes or setting up computers or making tons of money by sitting at a desk all day solving other people’s problems, which apparently I’m fine doing as long as I don’t get paid a lot of money for it; Adi starts flinging split-pea soup across the kitchen while trying to wiggle out of her highchair seat.

Dinner is over and it’s time to wipe up the baby and clean up the spray of food that has collected on all nearby surfaces.  After James does the dishes and I put Adi in her PJs, we cuddle up in bed once more for a snuggle, some bedtime stories, and a final nurse.  On a good night, Adi falls asleep in my arms and settles down in the fetal position in her crib without a peep.  Lately, we haven’t had a lot of good nights.  Teething and ear infections have meant a lot of rocking and singing, extra nursing, and finally, when nothing else works, quiet playing in the dark while an exhausted parent lies on a futon in her room.

But tonight is a good night, and soon I’m tip-toeing away back to the living room that is also our kitchen and dining room to make myself a cup of tea and sit on the sofa to watch the sky turn dark.  From the sofa I can see four different kinds of trees with their bare branches outlined against the intensely dark blue sky.  Each tree’s branches have a different character, some branching smoothly, others with a series of crooked turns, one with large spine-covered nuts.  Looking up, I can almost imagine that we don’t live in the city surrounded by pavement and cars and not enough gardens or fields of wild flowers.

For the next couple of hours I have my time to dream and create, to read and write about all that is and all that I hope will come.  There is still the laundry to hang up, dry diapers to put away, and perhaps a bit of cooking to do for dinner tomorrow, but otherwise this time is my own.  Tonight I am reading Taproot issue 10::seed and thinking about my lost garden in California and about the pots and grow lights that provide a dispiriting replacement in our new home.

Despite my frustrations, I can’t help but be hopeful.  Nature is stirring around me with an intensity I haven’t felt in years.  The transformation from barren wasteland of snow to verdant jungle is underway and soon I will be enjoying the first asparagus and spring greens, even if I am no longer able to grow them myself.  In my container garden new life is also stirring, with pea and fava bean sprouts breaking out of the soil to stretch ever upwards.  Spring is here and it is time to rejoice.

Kathryn

 

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Starting Over

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Before the birth of my daughter, I had the life I wanted.

There was the apartment within walking distance of work.  Small, but rent included utilities, prompt maintenance support, a tenant-organized swap shop for donating and adopting gently used household goods, and space in a community garden.

What we didn’t grow in the garden we bought at the farmer’s market a short walk down the road or from the community-supported Food Co-op on our walk home from school.  We learned to can jams, pickles, salsa, ketchup and hot sauce.  We made bread and yogurt.

Food scraps went into the compost.  Tissues were replaced with handkerchiefs.  We stopped buying paper towels, napkins, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil.  Other than a few recyclables each week, we were living mostly waste and plastic-free.

All of these changes were made over many years.  Slowly picking up skills, finding little ways to minimize our impact on the environment, to become more connected to the natural world despite spending our working lives indoors conversing with machines.

It’s surprising how quickly good habits can be broken.

After the birth of our daughter much of the progress we’d made was lost.  It started in small spurts of having close family stay with us and do the shopping.  Soon the kitchen was covered in disposable plastic containers and the trash and recycling multiplied.  There was the occasional disposable diaper and a huge increase in laundry of all kinds.  We prepared as best we could for parenthood, buying minimal baby gear and mostly making do.  Our focus was on learning about pregnancy and then baby development.  What I didn’t prepare for were the other people who would be living in our home and taking care of us and our baby.

Now that we are settled into our new home in Cambridge, it’s time to get back to where we were a (very long) year ago.  With a different location and rental situation the resources have changed.  There is no longer a convenient compost pile, or a garden, or even a south-facing window for growing plants indoors.  There is no community-supported Co-op on the way to work (although there are multiple farmer’s markets). But the public library, the doctor’s office, our daughter’s daycare, our bank, and a beautiful park are all within easy walking distance.  There are also community gardens nearby and my name is on the two-year-long waiting list.  While we may have taken a few steps back, I have no doubt that changing our habits the second time will be easier.

Starting with getting more sleep…

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Baby Adi wearing a handmade blouse and wrap dress that were made for me when I was a baby.