Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Can’t I Look At My Kids’ Baby Pictures Without Crying?

Look at these photos.  Adorable, right?  How do they make you feel?  Warm and fuzzy maybe?  Wistful?  Well, they kill me.  Send me into a tailspin of tears, and no, I am not PMS-ing.

It all started a few days ago, innocently enough, to show McLean some videos of when he was a baby.  I had been dreading dragging them out of the hard drive and putting them in the new photo system on the laptop we got forever ago because I knew what was going to happen.  Even Derek saw the videos coming out while he was making dinner and quietly uttered an “uh-oh.”  He knew I would be binge-watching videos of both kids being babies; they would be laughing hysterically at themselves and I would be crying hysterically.  At they baby-ness.

I don’t even remember recording them.  Any of them.  I don’t even recognize my own voice.  I had a different Baby Mama Voice.  It was soft and encouraging and amused:  “Hey, big fella!  Whatchoo doin’?  You sure are working those muscles for tummy time.  Look at you go!” over the soft little be-boop-de-boop-de-boop sounds their cute little toys made.  Breastfeeding pillow ever-present like a third pet.

Those videos are nothing like the Naggy Bitch Voice I constantly engage these days whilst shouting to be heard over the Warriors game or Teen Titans Go:  “You forgot to put the toilet seat down!  Close your mouth when you chew!  We’re leaving in TWO MINUTES WHY ARE YOU STILL NOT DRESSED?  Don’t wipe your nose on the couch, ew!  I have enough to do around here without picking up your scrillions of Legos!” etc., etc.

The thing is, back then, I can only recall a feeling of being overwhelmed, not the peaceful serene little snippets I see in the videos.  The first one overwhelmed me with how much sheer heartbreaking love I felt for him that seemed to engulf my very soul.  Took over my being completely.  The long hours.  The lack of sleep.  The confusion of constantly feeling lonely but never being alone.  And the ever-present mother’s love that everyone tells you about but you are never prepared for just how earth-shattering and deep it really is.

Then the second one came and I cried constantly because I loved him just as much as his brother, but was also reminiscing about the first one being a baby, and all those profound emotions.  My strongest memory of that time is McLean loving the show Yo Gabba Gabba, and the episode about babies was his favorite.  Every time I heard the songs on that episode I just broke down into tears.  It was like a Pavlovian response.  And dealing with even less sleep, more work, less time for myself.  These videos are my only real link to that time, to that person I was, to the eyes I saw my little world through.

I also didn’t realize it at the time, but I was really unhappy with where we lived.  Now we live somewhere else, and though I didn’t think I had any attachment to the house we left, I realize now in looking at it in the photos and videos that I do.  It was the first home my babies knew, and there are things about it that I really miss now:  the huge backyard, the master suite, the old bathroom tile.  Things we did to make it cute and make it ours that we can’t do in a 100 year old rental home that is quite literally crumbling at the edges due to lack of TLC.  I really wished we could have picked up our house and dropped it here in SLO.  But at the time, I lumped the house in with all the other things I had grown disenfranchised with about living in the area and I just wanted a new beginning.

I love where we live now, so much.  It was the best decision for our family and I would do it all again.  But I feel a little sad now about the skid marks I left driving away from my kids’ first home.

What is the point of this post?  I don’t know.  Does missing your children as babies ever go away?  I hope so.  Because eventually I will have to make a baby photo album, right?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Do I Do This?

The challenge when writing something fictional is to remain open enough to let the story flow through you.  I know this now after many frustrating attempts to "make shit up."  Letting the story flow sounds easier, and really should be in theory, but it is still a challenge indeed when your primary occupation is the survival, safety, feeding and psychological well-being of young boy children.  They don't care about my flow (you could go several ways with that statement, yogic, menstrual, ad nauseum), nor should they.  They're kids.  They shouldn't have to care about my angsty writing crap.

But the challenges when writing something non-fictional based on an actual person have become thusly:  1) Getting the story and its impact exactly right; and 2) Capturing a real, live person in all their incredibly complex detail.  This is not a person who is made up.  Her life events really happened, and they are intense and outrageous and it is up to me to do them justice.  This task is even more confounding when A) Said person is a "force of nature"-type person; and B) Said person has literally lived two lives, first as a man, then as a woman.

At my most recent meeting with Jessica to go over more details about her court case so I can write about them in some semi-intelligent fashion, I found myself repeatedly staring into her eyes, searching for that dude in there.  I only know her as female, but I have to try to picture her as male in order to capture her.  She has literally had a double life, and seen things on both sides that most people can only dream (or read) about.  I never knew her before her transition.  She has always been 100% female in my experience of her.  But I still have to tell the part of her story of living in a man's (and boy's) body while having the mind of a female.

Which brings me to the next perplexing issue:  How do you nail someone's magnetism?  That indescribable something that draws you to a person?  It has no gender (or race or color or religion for that matter).  She had a much different personality back before she was in the body of her true gender.  How do I capture that?  I never met that person, but I am told he was quiet and shy, retreating; nothing like the open, talkative, brassy chick I know and love today.

And therein lies the fun of it.  If it weren't a challenge, it would be boring, and I need to remember that.  And so I press on.  It pales in comparison to what she has overcome, and continues to overcome every single day.