Monday, October 04, 2004

On my mind

Lassoing the moon

Every morning last week, venturing through the living room to the kitchen for breakfast, Helena would stop to point out the window and exclaim, "Moon!"

The moon was big in the morning sky, bloated and full-ish.

I didn't think anything of it at first, but now I think it's weird.

"Moon." Though J-F is a stargazer and the heavens leave me in awe, we don't as a practice keep the little one up after dark to trace constellations or track cosmic phenomena. We have never taught her "moon" by correlating the word to the real thing.

"Moon" is not a common word in our basic vocabulary books. It is featured in one alphabet book: even though its purpose clearly is to demonstrate the use of the letter "M," Helena disregards this principal and has, until this week, been calling the picture "ball."

The other book features a protagonist who mistakes the moon for a bowl of milk, which in no way helps Helena with the correct labeling of the object. Ball, balloon, maybe bowl, and occasionally circle.

But all the while, evidently, she has been learning the word "moon."

So, Helena has set some process of abstraction into operation.

In another of Helena's books, a crescent moon is depicted in the background. Does she know it's the same thing. Metaphysically, is Wednesday's moon the same as Friday's? Or does each day provide a new one?

What are her constants?

Being the world

When is it that our mothers stop being the world in our eyes?

Our relationship has changed significantly, Helena's and mine. In some ways, the changes over the last month (daycare, drinking milk from a glass) or so, though subtler, are more significant than earlier developments (stopping breastfeeding, walking) marked by physical milestones and tangible circumstances in our material world.

Changes that occur now are imbued with Helena's conscience and cognition.

She still thinks I'm cool, but I have sent her out into the world for better and for worse.

I know love for one's mother is deep and complicated — not always unconditional, but forgiving and pervasive. I don't know any adults who love their mothers completely and adoringly.

I don't remember ever idealizing my mother. Did I lose faith so young? I do remember learning many times over to respect and appreciate her again and more deeply.

Do we fault them for abandoning us in the world? For thinking of us as unlimited potential while we go about discovering our limitations?

Is it an inevitable process, perhaps a biological function of survival in the world outside the uterus, beginning at birth?


Playing with Lego the other day, my running commentary conceded Helena's point that "sometimes you're better off scrapping everything and starting from scratch."

At the time I said it, I meant it. Yet it runs contrary to my editor's credo: work with (and rework) what you've been given. Find the beauty, the truth within.

Are they compatible and complementary principles? Which is the real me: Lego-me or work-me? Can I really be both?

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