Presents and Presence

Well, Mr. Book’s work has informed him that no one gets days off during the holiday season; this means that he may very well be schedule to work the day of Cricket’s birthday party. If so, he will try to trade shifts—if that isn’t possible, I don’t know what we’ll do. Tomorrow I will mail Cricket’s wrapped gift up to his parents so that it can be opened at his birthday even if we aren’t able to be there; finally, my habit of acquiring gifts two months in advance pays off! The whole situation is slightly complicated by the fact that we don’t actually want to go to the party—but we think that we need to, that it’s important for the open adoption relationship.

Wrapping the present was a challenge for me—I am somewhat clumsy and impatient at this sort of thing—but I really wanted it to look nice, so I bought paper and bows and took my time. It does look nice, if nothing special—the paper has little zeppelins on it, which I like, but I should emphasize that they are peaceful-looking little airships accompanied by shooting stars. I didn’t move here with any wrapping paper, so I ended up spending better than $10 on the roll of paper and some bows; Ruth would be horrified, I’m sure. It’s a stupid way to spend money while we’re poor, I realize…but then I don’t think that kids think “Well, of course she didn’t wrap it, they need that money for the gas bill.” As long as we’re able to do both, however carefully, I want to keep up appearances for Cricket.

On Monday, before I started for home, Kate and I spent a bit of time wandering around downtown–some lunch, but mostly used bookstores. Souvenirs are important in my family, and it’s a tradition I hope to keep alive in the Book family—I’d already gotten Mr. Book something, but I ended up adding a couple of vintage Canadian postcards and something little for his mom, who is having a pretty rough time of things this year. Then, suddenly, I wanted to find something for Cricket. Now, there was probably nothing in these musty stores that would be genuinely appropriate for a baby, but I thought about getting him a book for when he is older, some beautiful out-of-print something that his parents could hold on to for him.

As a kid, I loved the books of Albert Payson Terhune—he wrote about beautiful, clever, noble collies, and since Cricket is growing up with a dog, I thought one of his books might make a great present—I found one of the same set that I had as a kid, and for only ten dollars. And then I just got upset and put it down and left, wandered into the biography section and finally left without buying anything.

I have this split in terms of how I feel about the kid. On the one hand, I think that my life would be easier if I could just stop thinking of him as mine at all, think about myself as no more a mother than any woman who has an abortion. I know how ugly this sounds, and how selfish–certainly, even when I’m holding this out as my personal ideal, I never imagine myself contradicting Cricket in his opinions. In some ways, all I am doing now is deciding what I’ll think until he tells me how it’s going to be. But of course it will inform my attitude and decisions, that underlying belief, and so I have to choose the right model. The other hand, of course, is feeling like the other mother; I’m sure I don’t even at my most momly feel as much like his mother as Ruth does, but I do feel some mom things. What do I do? I guess I think that the more I feel like one of his mothers, the more hurt I am going to get. Maybe that’s true for any mother. But when I think of him as my son, I think “I’m not going to see my son this month” or “I wish I could cuddle my son when they visit” or of course the big things like “I would never put my son into daycare.” If he’s not my son, then I’m fine—kids do great under all kinds of different, thoughtful parenting philosophies, and while Ruth and Nora’s differ from mine quite a bit, they are good and loving parents, and why shouldn’t they, e.g., dress him in clothes I would never ever choose? Maybe I could ideally feel like a grandparent; he is very slightly mine, for all that I don’t get to pick or do a lot of bonding.

So what will I do? Well, I’ll probably pick up a couple of those books for futurekid off the internet. That’s my imperfect solution to so many of these questions—what happens when I can’t get pregnant? Yes, I know that I’m borrowing trouble with that question, but if you’ve read my blog, you know that that is my m.o. And this way I get to come up with answers; if there is to be no futurekid, I can give these things to future nieces and nephews. My sisters each want three kids, Tammy has already gotten pregnant twice…odds are that there will be some kids around sometime in the next several years. A bold claim, I know. So I’ll pick up The Heart of a Dog and one or two others, and I’ll put them on the shelf that has all of the children’s books—which is in the room that was closed off when Ruth and Nora were here. There are things that I am glad to hide from them.

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