It’s official – summer has arrived. And with it, my annual summer reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This will be the 17th (!! time flies!!) year in a row that I have poured over every page of this novel since my first introduction to it during a college literature class on magical realism. My husband thinks it’s a bit weird (ok, truthfully, he thinks it borders on mental illness) that I could re-read a book with such frequency, but I can only argue that with a novel this intense, you continually peel back layers and discover something new with each reading. I love the idea that a novel can grow with you throughout life.
Reading it in my early twenties, I marvelled at the moment when Remedios the Beauty rose up and disappeared into the sky -reminding me of that Husker Du line “she lifted her arms and she floated away…” As a young woman, the idea of a life lived so free of constraint and care was something to really savour, imagining the possibilities and consequences. Scrawled throughout the margins are dozens of notes, the ones in red stemming back to my first reading, and reflecting the thoughts and reactions of a young woman deeply engrossed in burgeoning feminist idealisms (much thanks to my “women’s studies” bender in college), horrified at the treatment of women at the time and the expectations that were placed on them as wives and mothers. Mixed with them are pages covered with scribbling from when my oldest daughter got hold of the book and pretended to by like mommy, taking notes in the margins.
Reading it now, the wife and mother in me looks at Ursula, the family matriarch, in all of her wisdom and faults. I could only dream of being as industrious and logical as she is- maintaining her household and family stoically throughout years of turmoil. She lives for over one-hundred years, her final moments spent in prayer and giving advice on how best to run the household. I imagine that hers is a home uncluttered, everything in its place and everything serving a purpose. Not that Ursula herself is without fault- as I am beginning to realize is true of us all. Sure, she is the stalwart, the icon, the woman who at one point takes over and handles the entire village on her own, but she can be blind to her children- blind to their needs and their faults. I won’t even get in to the part about her leaving her husband tied to a tree in the yard for years…
As I read it, I wonder how I will view it in the future, when I too have a legacy of extended family behind me and a history to look back upon. What notes will I scrawl in the margins then?
A book that can grow with you, that you can grow up with.
I witnessed my first birth today. A quick stop at the farm to check on lunch plans with my sister-in-law turned into a “before my eyes” moment as a baby lamb entered the world. I’ve never seen that before… and I have 2 kids of my own (c-section births left me with a different perspective of the “becoming a mother” experience). The ewe needed assistance because the lamb was positioned the wrong way, and my sister-in-law acted pretty bravely jumping in to turn it properly so the ewe could deliver. What an amazing sight: birth. New Life. Watching the ewe tend to her newborn so instinctively was such an affirmation of motherhood.
And then I saw her turn on the 1st twin, the one that had been delivered just a lit bit earlier. As that lamb sought out her mother’s milk, the ewe acted out in aggression, spurning it time and again. It broke my heart a little. She just completely refused one baby, while protecting and caring for the other!
Okay, I know…I KNOW it was a sheep. I get that. This is the way it works and nature has a way… but the mom in me was horrified. The lamb will be fine. My sister and brother-in-law will take care of it, and there are lots of other sheep that will most likely take it on as one of their own, so it will be just fine.
So today’s lesson was a good one: The beauty and cruelty of nature.
Those lambs are damn cute.
Our baby turned three this week. I’m trying to wrap my brain around the passage of time- 3 years ago she was born, and in the blink of an eye she’s 3 and telling me what she would like for dinner and which dinosaur is a Stegosaurus. It’s with a sigh of relief (and okay, to be honest, a wee tiny bit of sadness) that we declare the official end of “babyhood” around here. The crib is in the attic, the stroller found a new home, the changing table is being reincarnated into a potting bench in the garage.
So I guess that’s the “rub” of parenthood: they grow up. The 9 months you spend waiting for baby to arrive seem endless- filled with dreams of the future and insane impatience because you have to WAIT SO LONG to get the baby. Then baby is here and someone hits the fast forward button on your life. Our oldest is only 7 and I literally have to refer back to my journals and scrapbooks to find answers to friends questions of “When the girls were babies and _____ happened, how did you handle it?” You sleep a few hours and it’s time to celebrate their 1st birthday, thanking the powers above that you managed to somehow (although you already can’t remember how) get the child through the first 12 months successfully. Phew! Then they’re walking and when you blink it’s time to sign them up for soccer. You spend millions of hours reading Dr. Seuss and Guess How Much I Love You, and then you walk by their room tonight and realize they are sitting up in bed reading Nancy Drew- by themselves. Without You.
It’s amazing and beautiful- watching your children grow and learning who they are and how they will tackle this world. It can be hard to swallow the reality at times though, as you give away the baby clothes and highchairs, that this chapter is done. Mostly it’s RELIEF that babyhood is over- I bid a fond adieu to sippy cups and diapers. Time for new adventures.
Bittersweet. That’s the word I’ve been searching for…
Time to buy a new toddler bike.