I still haven't quite gotten used to it, how hard it is being a grown-up.
I'm not thinking right now about the truly hard things, the anger, the sleep-deprivation, the jettisoning of small dreams. I'm thinking of things like arranging pre-approved mortgages and remembering to take your car in for emissions testing so you can renew your licence plates - the sheer dizzying amount of knowledge required to do something as commonplace as buying a house or changing an address. I feel weighted down by knowledge today, my mind crowded full of uninteresting facts: ceramic floors are hard underfoot but don't contain PVCs; proof of insurance must be kept in the glove box of the car; vaccination records must be presented upon registration in kindergarten; furnace filters ought to be cleaned at least once a year.
Underneath all these petty tasks, these bits of modern life, is a soft thrum of remembrance today for a friend who is undergoing her first miscarriage, that rite of passage no one tells you about, that almost universal step on the road of motherhood.
The novel I'm teaching this week includes this poem, written by the fictional Mary Swann:
Blood pronounces my name
Blisters the day with shame
Spends what little I own
Robbing the hour, rubbing the bone.
Characters in the novel project onto this cryptic verse their own preoccupations and needs: biographer Morton Jimroy considers the poem "a pretty direct reference to the sacrament of holy communion"; Sarah Maloney (Ph.D.) reads it as a testament to the power of familial ties; country spinster Rose Hindmarch is pretty sure it's about menstruation. Following their example, I read those lines and recall the losses so many of us have known, marked by the blood we refer to so politely as "spotting." I look out at the sea of undergraduate faces in my classroom and recognize how meaningless that interpretation is to them. They are eighteen, nineteen years old, still in that precarious, giddy stage where babies are a given, a disaster that must be kept at bay by careful birth control, a world where babies are crowding at the portal just waiting for a single slip-up to rush into existence.