I [blank], Therefore I Am

Descartes was sitting in a cafe one afternoon, enjoying a croissant and people-watching. A waiter came over and asked him if he'd like anything else; he replied, "I think not," and disappeared.

I'm having a bit of existential angst these days, as the school year is rolling and I'm sitting at home, growing a baby. Lots of time for reflection, amidst the sleeping and eating.* I've realized that teaching isn't just what I do, but it's part of who I am, and though I can't imagine being that veteran teacher who's been at the same school for 30 years, I also can't imagine not teaching at all. I read the paper and want to cut out an article to bring to class. I learn a fun fact and want to tell the kids. I hear a joke and think of them. And - it's really nice not to have to do the work right now.

We go to dinner parties and meet new people and ask, "What do you do?" but we mean, "Who are you?" I know there's a degree of luxury in those things overlapping, and that for many (most?) people a job is just a job, a way to make a living so that they can get on with who they really are. Johnny Paycheck sings their tune ("Take This Job and Shove It"). But most folks I hang out with are lucky enough to do something they want to do, and find fulfilling. So now that there's this empty space where that used to be, I'm floundering a bit.

I know that in 6 weeks or so, I'll be glad for the time off, and it will be hard to go back. In some ways, this is a good crossroads for thinking about change: is there something else I want to do? Are there things I've given up on, branches on the alternate timeline of my life that I could climb out on now? Well, it's too late to be a ballerina, but maybe this is the perfect time to start writing for real. Or...I don't know - but it does sort of seem like an opportunity. I teach, I am a teacher, and I love it (and it's not perfect, of course), but I don't want to get stuck doing something just because it's what I've always done.

I feel like I should break out into an Andrew Lloyd Webber song, a not-quite-operatic baring of my soul that will somehow resolve all my problems with a long-held high note. (heh - I spelled his name wrong at first, as Weber - the legendary creator of the Phantom of the BBQ, Jesus Christ SuperGrill... George Foreman ain't got nothin' on him!) This kind of brushes the edge of that whole "just a mom" issue. Except I'm not even a mom yet. I'm just...at home. With lots of time that I know I should savor because soon my life will change dramatically and I'll look back on these days fondly blah blah blah. Or I should be frantically sewing baby blankets and researching breast pumps.

I've been thinking about this a lot and I'm not really sure I captured what I wanted to say, or even really know what I want to say about it, but I wanted to put something out there. Now that it's down, I can go back to contemplating my navel and working on filling in the blank. Or, you know, take the dog out, pick some veggies from the garden, and enjoy the afternoon.

*my life these days is nicely summed up by a poster in the children's bookstore downtown: Snack. Nap. Read.


Sartorial Determinism

So I've finally started tackling the baby stuff that has been showing up on our doorstep and getting tossed unceremoniously into our loft to be ignored over the last several months. We certainly appreciate all the hand-me-downs, but weren't quite ready to face them. Now...well, it's becoming more and more real that a couple months from now the squirming critter will be on the outside, my spleen will be once more unmolested, and we better get organized! At least a little bit.

But really? This is what people think we want our baby to wear? Actually, there's plenty of neutral or neutral-enough stuff in the mix, plain colors and stripes and vaguely cartoonish ducks. But I don't think I can put my kid in a McBaby onesie - oh yes, the Ronald has moved beyond special sauce, working on subliminally turning the next generation into a loyal consumer. He's not alone - Disney and Looney Tunes and every other registered TM seems to make an appearance. And even if we avoid the blatant brand whoring, he's going to be imprinted with baseballs and trucks and all things blue, because he's a boy! and that's the American way.

Let's not even get into "made in China" here. At least this stuff is being reused. There's nothing like having a baby to set up a wrestling match with your principles. Is it organic? Local? Sustainably made? Free of negative cultural messages? Or toxic chemicals? Although it really seems like the primary question for the people that make this stuff is: Is it cute?!

(it's like those awful motel comforters and wallpaper - it's hard to believe somebody was actually paid to come up with those designs)(because if it doesn't say "baby" on the front, people won't be sure that's what it is?)(though I admit to slightly melting over a couple of the fuzzier outfits)

Apparently I'm not any better with baby clothes than I am with my own. I don't have that mysterious feminine shopping gene. I have a somewhat embarrassing pile of stuff that I can't even identify. But one thing I know for sure: I do not need a giant pumpkin costume for my kid.