Folgers, The Best Part IV: Becoming Perfect
I’ve never been good with deadlines. If it weren’t for my mother completing a “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” diorama after midnight, I just might have failed the fifth grade. And so, when I found out I was pregnant with Violet Maeve, I marked the date of her expected arrival on as many calendars, both real and imaginary, as I could locate, and began to prepare. Pregnancy is one of the few deadlines in life that won’t go rushing past unmet- not for long, anyway. Forty weeks is not a lot of time to learn everything there is to learn, and transform yourself into a whole, healthy, happy, fully realized person. But that was my goal. I wanted to be ready. I had to get my stuff together. I wanted the best for my girl from the time she was the size of a split pea. So I went to therapy. I exercised diligently, daily, walking, dancing, stretching, practicing Nia up until the very end. I endeavored to eat more vegetables and less bread, though many, many cheeseburgers somehow slipped through the cracks. And I volunteered at an old folks’ home. This retirement facility was bright and sunny with lots of overstuffed furniture in the central TV room. I met with the volunteer coordinator, feeling earnest, shiny and brimming with life.
Every Wednesday for the next twenty weeks I brought a stack of books into the dining room where I would sit at the center of a group of gray heads who wanted to listen to stories. I read to them histories of Maine – stuff from their era about drive-ins and dance halls. I read poems comprised of amusing sounds – “The Jabberywocky,” for example. I read folk tales and fairy stories and excerpts from plays – language meant to be heard together and shared by human voices. Sometimes I had to shout for everyone to hear me. Sometimes we got distracted and turned on the CD player to find an old tune referenced in one of the texts. Sometimes only one person came and she fell asleep.
But they asked me to keep coming back. They asked me about the baby. They wanted to be a part of the experience. It made them happy to hear news about what I saw on the ultrasound, and when I found out “it” was a girl all the ladies squealed. I was giving a gift to them – a new life brewing for the future while we talked about the past, both distant and recent. And they were giving me hope, too. Though I could have felt sad or lonely for those senior citizens, what I felt the most was that I was part of a human history that was alive and beating. I was a link in the chain, manifesting the next generation.
And while I didn’t become perfect in the time before I had her, I know that I made progress, that I connected, and acted on others with compassion while I was pregnant, and I hope that somewhere in her tiny veins and cells and vessels Violet soaked up some of the peace I found then.
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