Pretending the house is clean


It’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow, February 7th, so I spent some time this morning looking at photos. She always looked happy holding a baby–that’s me, beginning the lifelong practice of talking with my hands–although I really like the one, too, of the mid-60s records spread out on the floor. The classroom pictured above is one I would teach a lot of poetry in, Payne 201 after the renovation, but Payne 21 back then. I was 26 or 27, just starting the job, and showing my parents around the joint on a summer weekend.

I’ve been reading proofs for Poetry’s Possible Worlds, so this is a busy and stressful moment. I’m always mildly panicky at this stage, wondering what errors I’ve overlooked, but it’s about time to type up my list of necessary fixes and send it back to the designer. It makes me think of my mother’s advice on housework: just keep the counters and other eye-level spaces clean, nobody looks at the floor. What would the floor be, the bibliography? Sigh. Some reviewers, especially any scholars who may read the book, will TOTALLY call you out on a dirty floor.

Proofing this particular book makes me think of my mother in other ways. It’s about reading poetry during a time of crisis, especially focusing on my father’s implosion. I only realized late in the game that it’s also very much about my mother, and not only because she was the one who discovered his string of affairs and called quits on the marriage. She was the person who gave me piles of books as well as the habit of reading for pleasure, consolation, education, and imagining future and alternate lives. Poetry was always in the mix, too, often long poems like Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. I read Chaucer in the Penguin translation as a middle-schooler, not knowing I should be intimidated. They were just stories.

I’m okay these days, mostly, although sad about my mother sometimes and anxious about getting things done. I suspect I’m sleeping badly not just because my workload is heavy, although it legitimately is during this book-teaching-committee work-Shenandoah crunch, but because of grief I’m pushing aside so I can make my deadlines. That’s one reason to put up a post today, despite not really having time. It’s space for thinking, which I do best through writing, although blogs are less like sparkly countertops than life’s debris hastily shoved in a drawer.


7 responses to “Pretending the house is clean”

  1. Thanks for letting me know, Ren! I just looked for it and if I click “sidebar” then scroll down past the twitter feed, I see a place to sign up for emails. Could you please let me know if that does or doesn’t work?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was charmed by that picture with the midcentury LP records, as I’m old enough that they were part of the furniture of my youth. I think my childhood house had one Mantovani LP which I played a lot.

    And with the book: it’s a shame that muses and passions can’t help with final checks and proofing!

    Liked by 1 person

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