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Sunday, July 20, 2014

What are you reading this summer?

Now is the season for "beach reads" books. I always think of romance novels following in this category. When I was a teenager, I read many books written by Barbara Cartland. I must have reached my quota of stories about pure damsels being wooed by strong suitors, for now I shy away from this genre.  No, the book that is my summer read is We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates.
This title has been on my radar for years. The past tense of the verb was what stuck in my brain. I was accustomed to present tense: We are Marshall, We are Family, We are the World.   However, this book's title seemed to have a hint of regret and sadness, which at the time didn't appeal to me at all. A few years later, I remember hearing that a Lifetime movie was produced based on the book. This fact served as a testament that it must be a true tearjerker and I once again steered clear.
Recently, I saw this hard cover book at Savers on three separate occasions. Its position on the bookshelves changed each visit, but its bold black and white dust cover was always prominent.  I took this as a sign to stop eluding it and I purchased this book.
As I read, it beckoned me to tuck in and stay for a spell, not whiz through the pages like the balmy breezes outside. Each chapter brings me closer to finding out what's going on in the main story line. (I know something bad has happened to the teenage daughter at the Valentine's Day dance by the crumbs of clues) Yet at the same time, retracts and gives more information on the other characters' backgrounds. (All of the siblings' births, how the parents met, the main narrator spotting a deer in the middle of the night) Ms Oates has expertly perfected the art of the side bar.
For me I prefer my summer reads not to be a light sorbet, but like a meaty hamburger, hot off the grill, savoring the nuances of the smokey flavor.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Moving past deflated tire

Recently, I read an article in O Magazine about professional photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson. She has a body of work (pun intended) capturing brand new mothers proudly posing with their babies and their post pregnancy bodies, extra pounds and stretch marks not concealed by photo retouching.
As I looked at the photos, I wished her work was around the time I had my son. It would have been comforting to see appreciation for the body changes.
Over 16 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, my body knew exactly what to do. It was as if it assembled all its parts and announced, "Gather around troops! This is what we were made for! Commence metamorphoses!"  However, my mind was like a conscientious objector. During my first trimester, I thought "I'm having a b-b-baby? No kidding? Really?" Eventually, my mind caught up and joined the program, marveling how my body changed with every trimester.
After the customary 9 months, my son arrived and I was thrilled. A month later, as he slept soundly in his crib, I went into the bathroom to change clothes, leaving the door open. He was only a few feet away from me and within earshot. I had developed a knack for judging how far I could distance myself from him and be in safe range to sprint back in case he needed me.
As I removed my pajamas, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and gasped. I was startled by my reflection--my belly looked like a deflated tire with scarring tread marks. Shocked, I started to cry, for I didn't recognize myself. It was as if my body had finished its mission and left me in this baggy husk.
I looked out the doorway to my tiny son, cooing in his slumber and I smiled through my tears. My mind engaged and called out to the troops "Okay, I'm back in charge now! We've all been through a lot these nine months, so it stands to reason we look different. It's going to be okay. Until we build up our strength, we'll proceed with our new objective..."
Perhaps if these photographs were around at this time, I wouldn't have embarked on a 2 year mission called Operation: Avoid mirrors at all costs!