Hoquiam and Aberdeen have a population of about 27,000 people so it should really reveal something about the microculture we live in that today a complete stranger asked me if I was “Ralph Hogaboom’s wife” and here’s why: she works with my husband who revealed our son’s proclivity to his sister’s clothes the other day, and this morning at our favorite deli Nels was wearing a hairbow of Sophie’s (to a lot of smiles and comments). This “recognition” should just give you a tiny taste of how rare it is for a preschooler boy ’round these parts to wear anything much more girlie than an Elmo shirt.

Of course in PT the requisite look was encouraging one’s boychild to wear a Halloween costume year-round and / or thrifted Hanna Andersson playdress, fairy wings, and dirty face comprised of equal parts organic gummi bears, Odwalla Superfood, and Veggie Booty. While I lived there I never thought I’d miss the New Ager Preciousness of that crowd of parents and kids but of course, I really really do – not just my friends, which made my holiday season hit pockets of unbearableness, but the culture there in general. The Port Townsend I knew was exciting, brazenly liberal, and fiercely creative. Port Townsend will always hold a very special place in my heart and in the inheritance of my young family.

OMG I have nothing to complain about these days, and I really shouldn’t. I mean really. Today I spent the day running necessary errands and cleaning house, with my children’s help in all endeavors. We had a delightful lunch on store credit. And I’ve since been at the library having me-time while my children quietly play and read. We’re about to head home and get ready for a Y visit this afternoon where I can get in some walking and talking with my girlfriend J. And if I’m lucky, the kids won’t hate-fuck the house and mess it up again. I am definitely dreading firing up the old clunky sewing machine again, but I do have to finish Sophie’s li’l overalls and start on her birthday princess dress. Which will, in all likelihood, be worn more by Nels anyway.

"tell me little bird: is today the day?"

Today I read a bit of Miles Levin’s story (his blog is, in my opinion, worth registering at carepages.com and reading; after logging in do a search for “LevinStory”). I am sorry to have only heard about this young man on the day after he died. I am glad to have found his website and I wish I’d been reading earlier.

This entry struck me today, penned by Miles’ mother two weeks before his death:

I read an article once in Mothering Magazine many years ago when I was studying to be a mother. It made a huge impact on me, shaping my platform for mothering. It identified four key ingredients in an effective mother/child relationship [ … ] They are: PROTECTION; NOURISHMENT; STIMULATION; AND CHERISHMENT. I could write about each one more fully as I have meditated and reflected on each quality. Each, one no more than another, is essential – in equal measure – to the development of a child into his/her full potential. Each is a requirement of the parent, though some come more easily to each one of us, in order to provide the safety and encouragement, the roots and the wings, that allow the child to develop into a person of responsibility, extension, and self love.

No one has asked me what my view of parenting is, but I’m telling you. I hope that young parents who are reading this site will take to heart the critical role that parents play in raising children who are at once filled with self respect and respect for others: a tricky balance.

I read this while feeling deeply moved after having followed a few months of the successive entries of the mother, father, sister, and that of the brother / son / boy / man himself in this story. And I thought, Is that all? Almost laughing to myself with relief because I do these things, and I relish them, every day.

The thing is, I second-guess myself as a wife, mother, and person – every day. Each one of those identities (and many more: daughter, sister, American, friend, lover… the list is complex and varied) comes with it’s own pitfalls and successes – each self-noun I write here I have wrestled with in both public and private struggles. Motherhood is, however, very much with me since my children are at an age they cannot care for themselves or even be left unsupervised for any length of time. It is not only an identity it is my full-time job. This job is the cornerstone of our family right now.

Reading Nancy Levin’s words had a special meaning for me today. Lately I’ve been feeling so odd that most of my day is spent laundering, cleaning, cooking – Cooking! No one tells you that the more you bake bread from scratch and create home-cooked meals the faster these foods just disappear. There are no half-eaten casseroles in my fridge; food is rarely thrown out but eaten voraciously; I cook and it’s more more more cooking – washing hands, laying out clothes, brushing teeth, clipping nails, holding and cuddling and instructing and educating. I devote most of my day to those things and there are some imaginary voices (and some real) I hear who tell me these concerns are so small, so provincial. Where is my brain? Where is my proof of life? Where is my contribution to society? Why do I care about making pizza sauce from scratch? Why do I think so much about the clothes on my children’s bodies or the state of their bedrooms? Why do I have my hands in dough again and why are my successes getting the dutch oven going before our bike ride to the library?

But I also know there is nothing more important in life than relationships and kindness; nothing more important than striving to be a spiritual and loving person who gives and re-gives to those around me; to my family, to my friends, to the community, to the planet, to the world’s people. I know that if my last day on earth was spent baking bread, walking with my children to the hardware store, and talking with my husband on our bike ride together I would not regret this last day.

So today I am taking Nancy Levin’s words to heart today and remembering to protect, nourish, stimulate and cherish each of my children. I hope you can and will do the same for your loved ones in your life.

i probably shouldn’t have stopped going to church

In some very small but acutely painful ways it would almost be better to have never moved away from, only to return to, my hometown. 12 years after leaving place of address I return relatively whole as a person – no longer obsessed with new parenthood, having accepted career hiatus, enjoying my family very much but open to experiences outside them. Then I encounter every possible repressed feeling of FOO, of old friends, old hurts, places with bad memories; places with memories bittersweet and nostalgic and feeling as if they happened to someone else. I feel out of touch (not what I want) from friends I used to hold dear. I try to reach out but am sometimes paralyzed by the worry they no longer will care for me. I love the town I live in but every now and then it feels so claustrophobic, as if I will live and die on this same spot and nothing could stop that (and would it be a bad thing?). All in all it can be, occasionally, very painful. I know if I never would have left it wouldn’t be painful. I know if I never would have returned I perhaps could have avoided these feelings.

Living close to FOO is a mixed blessing, but so far I’m so glad I moved closer to them. I love them and I love spending time with them. They make me laugh, a lot. I have good boundaries with them. My mother in particular is so loving that any changes I go through, any requests I make, are listened to and usually honored. As well I enjoy being close to them as they live their lives in the ways they are seeing fit these days; I enjoy the thought I will be with my father as he experiences the last days of his life, however many those days will be (I’m hoping for a lot).

My small family took me out of commission for a while. It was a trap. I have always been interested in people and how they work; it’s something I love thinking about, talking about. I did not realize this prior to breeding, but to have children is to watch a person form, in fact from the very beginning when they are a quickened fish-flop deep within your own body. Who could blame me that the experience absorbed me for a while? I feel in some ways terribly apologetic to my family, to my friends, to my husband, to my self – that marriage, family and child-rearing took up so much of my mind and soul. Things seem to be different now than they were a year ago. My children are just as fascinating, just as visceral and bone-deep, but I have also looked up and seen the rest of the world again. I am reading history books, I am thinking about the world’s people and the world’s children; I am trying to listen in to other people’s lives with the listening ability so many have praised me for. I am wanting to spend time with my husband more than anyone else. It’s hard to make that time but we both try.

As I write this my daughter sits on my lap. I can smell her hair and thinking about her dearness stings my eyes. She is not entirely a separate being from me although she thinks she is. No matter where my mind and body take me, they can always return to her. She can read aloud what I write here and although she can’t understand my meaning maybe one day she will.

For now, the beautiful weather and an open day ask us to put our sandals on and get on the bike. We’ll probably find modest adventures; watching my mom paint mayoral campaign signs, picking blueberries, getting a little sun. I hope to see you on the road!