Auntie Annie came to visit just before I turned five months old. We were fast friends.
One route I want to tread more frequently is purposeful re-writing of the tone, of my memories, from Salamander’s first years. Writers have said that parents remember all their worst moments, their mistakes. I heard an interview with a writer for a Portland (OR) magazine today and he talked about a piece his 80 year old father read. The father, whom the writer insisted was the best, a great dad, called his grown son crying over a mistake, a bad reaction, he’d had fifty plus years earlier.
It’s not my intention to white wash things or write them out of my history, but to re-frame painful memories into ones that are more contented. I wasn’t a perfect mom. I was good enough.
Salamander was not gaining weight fast enough. I also had (somewhat irrational) fears about giving him formula. In conjunction with trying my absolute damnedest, I gave him avocado.
He enjoyed it? I blended together a home-made recipe for formula every week that contained no fewer than a dozen ingredients. For more than a year I would wind up making gallons of it at a time. It worked like a chamr and soon he was a roly-poly. This is not the exact recipe I used, but for the sake of time, it’s close. We spent a small fortune on gallons of raw goats’ milk. And god bless the Pacific Northwest for being so liberal and individual’s rights oriented, that buying raw goat’s milk in a town with 8,000 people was possible!
I spent untold hours reading up on how to best do -this, and most respectfully do -that. It was a little over board, but I just loved him so much and wanted his life to be built on a foundation of two things: needing the outdoors as one needs oxygen and confidence in himself.
Our daily walks were some of my happiest and most cathartic moments. “The more we get together…” I sang. “Summertime, and the living is easy,” I crooned convincingly. Every day, almost without fail, we walked up and down our hilly green roads. The rains poured over bright primroses and pine-mud rivulets. The sun filtered through and soon tulip stems were pushing up alongside crocuses. I watched ever season from the emerald island near the feet of the Olympic mountain.
We were a train: I would be the engine, but in front were the two dogs, my boy in the stroller, then me, and bringing up the rear, cautiously bold and devoted was, Billie, my cat. The posse made me happy. The landscape took my breath away. The fog, the spider webs caught in dew, the small homesteaded land and odd landscaped lots, the amazing bounty of the growing season, the subtle changes in the raining season.
When I got stir crazy I sought pleasure in sewing curtains for Salamander’s room and decorating the house, cooking balanced and seasonal meals, talking on the phone to my few friends who were also at home. On really tough or sad days I went to the espresso road side stands and then drove toward the mountains.
Salamander began babbling and gurgling and squealing. He was happy a lot more of the time. He smiled and cooed. He began sitting up. I would have him propped in the boppy on the counter top (I KNOW! Was I trying to murder him?!) while I cooked and chatted and he drooled and chewed. I would park him in the stroller while I gardened, play music, talk to him, and give him pieces of our world I’d found worth exploring.