A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

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A world of difference, Teddy thought, though he couldn’t help but wonder what a lark would taste like.

T has been practicing a certain piece on the piano and every time it shoots me back to when he was a year old and I was exhausted with the potential of the next baby and our days were quiet ones. And also sometimes very loud.

I was a big fan of Baby Einstein videos—I know they’ve been exposed as the edutainment farce we all knew them to be in the first place, but gack, that half hour of mindless music that captivated T like nothing else were golden half hours. I could sleep, I could write, I could stare at a weird patch of brown on our otherwise white ceilings. And on and on the tape would drone, bada, bada, bada, bada… I can still see the primary colored blocks sliding down ramps and the blue bubbles shimmering in the air.

And now T has been assigned one of those same pieces by his piano teacher. I didn’t recognize it when he first started working on it, and then one night I was cooking dinner and had this overwhelming urge to doze off sitting up, a Pavlovian response to the music he was playing. Bada bada bada badadadadah he plunked in the other room. And the smell of baby came back, and the underlying anxiety that accompanied every hour came back, and the tedious boredom came back, and his adorable “Moon Rover” jammies came back.

And last night I dreamed I was pregnant. Not a little pregnant with time to adjust, no, hugely pregnant and settled well in the shadow of looming birth. “Oh, you fool,” I remember muttering to myself. “You were so close.”

I loved my babies when they were babies but I like them so much more as functioning people who don’t have to rely on me for their every morsel of food and good will. They say interesting things. They entertain me. They teach me about the Suez crisis. They play me music.

When I hear music from that period of life, or when I spot a certain piece of baby clothing or a special toy or the red wagon or our neighbor’s driveway where baby T used to eat rocks, I feel a weird combination of nostalgic and relieved. Thankful to have had that time, grateful that it’s over. Just like several other things I just deleted because you don’t really want it on record that you compared your kids’ babyhoods to _________.

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