Miracle. All of it.

“You’re doing great, Nicole,” Jenny said suddenly, and these seemed like the first clear words I had heard in hours. “One, maybe two more pushes and she’ll be born!” It was the most powerful moment of my life, that moment shortly after one in the morning when I heard her cry and knew she was finally with us. Our daughter decided to come into the world with one fist raised. Seconds later she was placed on my chest, beautiful and flushed and still screaming at the shock of birth, and I touched her hair, her warm little cheek. Her skin felt impossibly soft, softer than I knew anything could be. At seven pounds, fifteen ounces, twenty inches long, she was not a small baby—her wails were also lusty, much louder than I’d expected—but she felt new and fragile in my arms. She stopped crying and gazed up at me, and my world shrank to the arresting dark blue pools of her eyes…

I had never been so tired, and I was sore to the very roots of my hair, but I couldn’t seem to close my eyes—how could anyone expect me to sleep when I had this fascinating little face to watch? It was almost impossible to believe this was the same unseen being who’d done jumping jacks on my bladder, greeting me with kicks and pokes and slow stretches for weeks on end. She was so small and so new, barely and yet wholly herself, already…

Suddenly I remembered the words of a friend…I love telling my kids their birth stories. It’s such a privilege to be able to do that. Yes, I thought, and also a miracle. The clichéd word didn’t embarrass me; this day and night was a wonder I’d never get over. As many times as this had happened before, to billions of parents since time immemorial, it was the only time it had ever happened to me. I had a child now, and she was mine. We were together. We would stay together. When Abby was old enough to ask me—to wonder, and to listen, and to care—I would tell her about her birth, her first days with us. You were born with one arm raised…I would say. When it was over, you and Daddy slept, but I couldn’t. All I wanted to do was look at you.

~ Nicole Chung, “All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir” (October 2, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photograph Credit
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

They thought it was the best thing for you

The story my mother told me about them was always the same. Your birth parents had just moved here from Korea. They thought they wouldn’t be able to give you the life you deserved. It’s the first story I can recall, one that would shape a hundred others once I was old enough and brave enough to go looking. When I was still young—three or four, I’ve been told—I would crawl into my mother’s lap before asking to hear it. Her arms would have encircled me, solid and strong where I was slight, pale and freckled against my light brown skin. Sometimes, in these half-imagined memories, I picture her in the dress she wore in our only family portrait from this era, lilac with flutter sleeves—an oddly delicate choice for my solid and sensible mother. At that age, a shiny black bowl cut and bangs would have framed my face, a stark contrast to the reddish-brown perm my mother had when I was young; I was no doubt growing out of toddler cuteness by then. But my mom thought I was beautiful. When you think of someone as your gift from God, maybe you can never see them as anything else. How could they give me up?…

Your birth parents were very sad they couldn’t keep you, but they thought adoption was the best thing for you. Even as a child, I knew my line, too. They were right, Mom. 

By the time I was five or six years old, I had heard the tale of my loving, selfless birth parents so many times I could recite it myself. I collected every fact I could, hoarding the sparse and faded glimpses into my past like bright, favorite toys. This may be all you can ever know…

Family lore given to us as children has such hold over us, such staying power. It can form the bedrock of another kind of faith, one to rival any religion, informing our beliefs about ourselves, and our families, and our place in the world. When tiny, traitorous doubts arose, when I felt lost or alone or confused about all the things I couldn’t know, I told myself that something as noble as my birth parents’ sacrifice demanded my trust. My loyalty.

They thought adoption was the best thing for you...

~ Nicole Chung, opening lines to “All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir” (October 2, 2018)

Welcome Home Dad

Adisalem Abu embraces his twin daughters after meeting them for the first time in 18 years on the end of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (Tiksa Negeri, wsj.com, July 18, 2018)

Driving West Side Highway. With Chip off the Old Block (not).

It’s 5:40 a.m. An early jump to beat the morning rush to mid-town Manhattan. I’m in a 50 mph zone, and traffic is blowing by me as if I were standing still. No matter. I’m not chasing them, not today.  I’m on the West Side Highway. Manhattan condo’s tower overhead on my left. Hudson River flows silently on my right. Sun is rising and casting a dreamy glow over all things. Passages from Richard Powers’ new book (The Overstory) flick through consciousness:  It’s morning like the morning when life first came up on dry land.

And the mind panned from Now to yesterday. From Richard to Rachel. To my Rachel.

Rachel’s birthday was yesterday. She took the day off and came home. “You don’t expect me to work on my birthday do you Dad?” With Mom and Dad both working, she was going to spend the day alone at home. Now that doesn’t seem right.  I cancelled meetings, worked from home and scheduled lunch with Rachel at the Rowayton Seafood restaurant.

She orders the Lobster Roll (butter poached with lemon on brioche). Plus fries. Dad orders the blackened salmon on a bed of corn, tomatillo and asparagus. Plus fries.

Waitress asks her if she’d like a glass of wine with lunch. “No Thank you. Ice water would be great.” I watched her interaction with the waitress, her unfolding of her napkin and placing it on her lap, her straightening her dress over her knees, her ease in the surroundings, her comfort in her own skin. Wow. Look at what you’ve become. [Read more…]

Lie back daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls…
You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea…
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Philip Booth, from “First Lesson” in  Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999


Notes: Photo by mary-annm. Poem via 3 Quarks Daily

Growing Up (60 sec.)

Not yet. Not yet.

Bring out the tissue box…

this feeling…unspoken and unacknowledged and invisible

Michael Chabon, in his new collection of autobiographical essays, “Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces”…shares various insights into fatherhood…In one essay, he recalls a recent visit to his own father…The older man was recovering from an illness, and the two lay on a bed and watched a movie together in silence. It took Mr. Chabon back to his own childhood, when they often sat together quietly watching movies… The realization made him more conscious of the importance of sharing such time with his own children: Just being together was valuable. “That makes me look more mindfully at moments where I’m sitting on a couch with my daughter watching shows on HGTV,” he says. “I’m sitting here and she’s sitting there and she puts her feet up on my lap.”  “…this feeling,” he says, “that this is a way that I experience love…that is unspoken and unacknowledged and invisible.”

~ Alexandra Wolfe, edited from Michael Chabon Wants to be a Good Father (WSJ, June 8, 2018)

Saturday Morning

She is making a pot of tea and I am clearing plates from the table. We both step around the room, around the dog, around the circular table, around each other, by instinct. I could navigate this space with my eyes closed, if called upon to do so. From down the corridor, the voices of my children, playing with the array of toys my mother keeps in her cupboards, can be heard, rising and falling, exclaiming and negotiating. Tea-making is a sacred, circumscribed ritual in this house. I would never presume to undertake it, would never encroach on this most delicate of tasks. There are several steps that must be followed, one leading mysteriously from the next: I can never quite remember the sequence, have always been too impatient to learn, unlike my sisters, who enact the same ritual in the same way in their own kitchens. The correct pot must be selected, as should the most suitable cosy. Warming must take place, for a prescribed amount of time, and this water must absolutely be discarded, with a quick, derisive flick into the sink. Only then may the tannin-dark pot be filled, first with tea leaves, measured out with a specially appointed pewter spoon, then boiling water. On goes the cosy—knitted or quilted, mostly embroidered—then steeping occurs. On the draining board, cups (bone china, always) and milk at the ready.

Maggie O’FarrellI Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (Feb 6, 2018)


Notes: Photo – Antique Passion. Related Posts: Maggie O’Farrell

From this Papa too. Yes. Me too.

My favorite space is the living room, by the fireplace. It’s warm and serene, and covered in adobe tiles made by an artist friend of mine when he was in his 90s. I practice there when I’m not on tour.

Perhaps my most beloved possession is a framed note on the wall that my father wrote to me in his 90s. He didn’t communicate well with his kids. In the note, he wrote, “Dearest Joanie, I love it when you visit me. From your Papa, with love.” It pleases me that he finally wrote me something nice.

~ Joan Baez, from  How Joan Baez Found Her Voice (wsj.com, Feb 27, 2018)


 

part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours

If you have ever stood in a room in front of a painting by Munch, or Van Gogh or Rembrandt for that matter, you will know that part of the painting’s magic is that it brings together its time and yours, its place and yours, and there is comfort in that, because even the distance that is inherent in loneliness is suspended in that moment.

– Karl Ove Knausgård, in a preface for a catalog for: Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed – an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York City, November 15, 2017–February 4, 2018. (The New York Review of Books, Dec 7 2017)


Notes:

  1. Post Inspiration. Rainer Maria Rilke from The Poetry of RilkeNothing is too small: against a gold background / I paint it large and lovingly / and hold it high, and I will never know / whose soul it may release.
  2. Art: Edvard Munch, “The Sick Child” (1907) via San Francisco Chronicle
  3. Quote Source – ekphora.
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