It’s three years and more since Daniel spoke to me privately. That is to say, he speaks to me readily enough when there are others present, at a reception, for example, or a family dinner when his sister Julia visits from California, infrequent though these events are. Then he acts as if things are normal between us. Otherwise, he doesn’t call and has specifically forbidden me to visit him at the shop where he works. At a certain point, he invited me not to update him about the family by email, saying he needed peace. What mother could argue with that? On the other hand, what mother could bear it? So, to make the unbearable bearable, I decided to write about him because that will be a way to open the flow of my dammed up love for him.
As soon as I made that decision, I said to myself, “But I don’t know him.” It’s been a long time now, for one thing, and he has always been an enigmatic character. “Proceed on a path of discovery then,” I sagely advised myself. Begin at the beginning.
Daniel is a second child, born almost to the day, on his sister’s first birthday. (See Daniel’s Birth Day https://115journals.com/2014/02/07/daniels-birth-day/ ) Just this week, I learned that this makes him an Irish twin, either a scathing and racist judgement on those who have their children close together or a tribute to the Irish lust for life and vitality. Certainly, my mother-in-law greeted the news that I was “expecting” again negatively. It wasn’t wise in her opinion. But, even though it was 1961, he was planned and not an accident.
His father and I decided as teenagers to take control of our lives, although it entailed the embarrassing process of journeying to the main library branch and signing out the books on birth control that were kept behind the counter. Study and a basal thermometer had done the trick.
(The oral contraceptive, whose imminent arrival had been toasted by madcap pre-med students at a New Year’s Eve party I attended in 1957, was on the market by 1962. I did not share their faith that such a miracle was possible.)
We decided to have our first child when I was in my second year of teaching. I knew I would be required to give up my job, but by then Blake had a teaching job of his own in another city. Obviously, pregnant women were frowned upon in the classroom then. There were a few married women on staff, but none with children as I recall.
(At the end of Christmas vacation in my first year of teaching, I came into the women’s staff room -yes, segregated staff rooms- and someone asked rather archly, “And what did you do for your holiday, Miss Hood?” I had been the object of pity all fall as I struggled with discipline. “I got married,” I replied. The sharp intake of breath around the entire table was deeply satisfying.)
Once Julia was born, the question was when, not whether, there would be a second. Blake was an only child and I was the one for those “My sister was an only child” people. In other words, I was six when my first sibling was born. Such children are regarded by psychologists as “only” children. Not a good thing, Blake and I had concluded. My reading led me to believe that waiting until Julia was two would make the adjustment harder for her. Age one or three, were easier, I had read. The trouble was that I had been terribly nauseated for the first trimester, nauseated for the second and still able to vomit right to the end. If I didn’t get going, I would lose my nerve.
Was it a wise decision? Probably not. Health-wise, for me, at any rate although Daniel has turned out to be healthy. But it would have been a better idea to give my body a rest, especially since I was actually even more nauseated during the second pregnancy and of course tired from looking after baby Julia and lugging her increasingly heavy self around.
And those were the days of cloth diapers. The diaperman showed up twice a week with 72 diapers, which I had to fold. One of toddler Julia’s favourite games was grabbing the freshly folded pile and throwing it on the floor. When I heard hysterical laughter from the kids’ room, I knew I had to get there fast.
So it was way too much work and not the kind of work I was good at. Which may have been the reason I had them close together. I was bored by it, so doubling it at least challenged me.
(I know, I know, I’m a terrible person, incapable of settling in and enjoying the miracle of childhood -its slowness, its playfulness, its repetition. I think that takes more mental health than I have ever had at my disposal.)
The why of it eludes me. Blame it on those selfish genes, wanting to replicate, seeking immortality.
Next time: the unknowable baby Daniel