sloughing off the state of the union

Posted by on January 25, 2007

Jeff usually rides his bike to school, but today he (most apologetically) took the car to school because the roads were unusually clogged with ice and snow. I didn’t care as I had nowhere to go, and sometimes bundling up Esme in her car seat and hauling her around is more trouble than it’s worth anyway. So I devoted myself to sewing during Esme’s naps (she takes a mere three per day) and listening to NPR.

Well, that might have been a mistake. All day long all I heard were reactions to the president’s State of the Union Address. It was dizzying– so many opinions, good points, contradictions, insights. One person in favor, another against, another disgusted, another pleased, accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative and vice versa. The better part of my brain was puzzling over a complicated sewing pattern, so I wasn’t giving 100% of my attention, but it all seeped in and turned into one big pot of yuck. Then there was the Terry Gross interview with a brilliant Mexican film director whose most recent film just got something like six Oscar nominations. His films have all been done in the genres of fantasy and what to me sounded like the slightly bizarre–insects, monsters, and that sort of thing. He made what I thought was a sort of profound statement when he said something about how people look down on fantasy because it’s not real, but to him, it’s just as real as anything else, since politics, religion, or national boundaries, for example, are all just mental constructs– no more real than fantasy. All of these things are just stories that people tell themselves. He actually said that some people accept Jesus into their hearts, but at a very young age he accepted monsters into his heart. It sounded, to my ears, simultaneously quirky and humorous, but then serious, and sad.

All of this radio input was really too much for me to wrap my mind around today. It felt true to me that all the hype over the president’s speech was truly a figment, a mental construct split into a gazillion shards. More subtly, it made me feel far away from my faith. I can hear Terry Gross politely and ever so respectfully calling it a story someone can live by, like the story of Dracula, or anything else you might choose, which may be fine, but not enough to make you feel better about the world after the State of the Union Address.

I’m so tired tonight and was tempted to rush through the requisite soothing-esme-to-sleep ritual. Sometimes while I’m rocking her she just looks up at me with a look of quiet concentration while sucking her pacifier. Sometimes I try to close my eyes to show her that it’s time to close her eyes too. Tonight this wasn’t working; every time I looked back down her eyes were wide open and her pacifier was working to rival Maggie Simpson. I just read in this book I’m reading on sleep that a good tip for soothing babies is to hum in a really monotonous way. I tried this but ended up humming some of the Byzantine tones, and landed on “When thou o Lord was baptized in the Jordan.” I went on to as many Byzantine hymns as I could remember, which turned out to be not that many, but I felt a little pocket of peace around the rocking chair, and all the radio buzz in my head being muted and turned off. Esme’s eyes closed and she seemed very content. I prayed for her and then put her down to sleep.

  1. Anonymous
    January 28, 2007

    Julia, we met once (at Smokey Bones Barbeque and Grill) in Kennesaw, GA. My wife, Jessie, and I are friends with Lisa. I read and enjoy your blog. Our little girl, Sylvianne, was born on October 17th. She is about 13 lbs. now and in good health. There are a few things that have really helped us so far: The Happiest Baby on the Block (i.e., swaddling, shushing, swinging/jiggling, and sucking), a boppy pillow, a baby swing, and a white noise machine.

    For shushing, other than our voice, we use the HoMedics Sound Spa (portable, carried everywhere) and the Sound Spa Classic (situated permanently by the swing). These have been two of our best purchases (better than lugging around a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer). Compact discs of white noise abound, but these have been really handy, especially for traveling.

    There are a number of other things we are really thankful to know or have around: a Nikon D50 and Canon PowerShot A85, Shout, a contoured changing pad, cotton washcloths for diaper wipes, a foldable play mat/gym, the Dunstan Baby Language (i.e., Neh, Owh, Heh, Eairh, Eh), and a Bumbo Baby Sitter.

  2. Jenny
    February 7, 2007


    This is a wonderful post! I heard the interview as well and had a similar response. I love your final paragraph about the pocket of peace around the rocker. I feel that sometimes, too, in the midst of all my fears and misgivings. But did you forget to hum “By the waters of Babylon?”