The unmaking of Americans

            In Oleander, Jacaranda, Penelope Lively has a lovely passage about travel.  When she was young – an English girl being raised in Pakistan – she knew the distance between the two lands because it took so freaking long to travel between them onboard a ship.  She says it much more eloquently, but I cannot quote her because my copy of her book is in a crate somewhere on a boat taking a very long time indeed to travel between countries. 

            Gertrude Stein (whose work I love, all evidence to the contrary) was inspired by the breathtaking disturbances caused by modern travel.  She saw airplane travel as uniquely American (either because it was invented here or because she liked to figure any group to which she belonged was superior), and so she felt that Americans had a whole different way of viewing land and time, because our perspective was changed dramatically as we zoomed high above.  Stein felt this American perspective created a type of genius in writing (hers, mostly) that was shaped by a totally different and modern view of land and time.  Gertrude Stein said this all much more conceitedly than I can, but my copies of her books are in the same crate as Oleander, Jacaranda.

            This is to say that jet lag is a thoroughly modern invention.  It is the curse upon us that we accept for getting everywhere much faster than we really have a right to expect.  It is the punishment, perhaps, for our willingness to pollute our environment with the weight of all those airplane emissions.

            And did we ever feel that punishment around here for the past week.  J and I could not adjust our clocks until the boys adjusted theirs, which meant we watched with increasing desperation as the mornings got a little bit later each day.  3:00.  Then 4:00.  Then 5:00.  Then the magical jump to somewhere past 6:00.

            The problem, of course, is what to do with two boys in a tiny apartment on Easter Sunday at 4:00 in the morning.  There is nowhere you can go until well past 10:00, by which time they were ready for lunch and nap.  Fortunately, Denny’s was just down the street.

            Unfortunately, this was the day the stomach bug hit.  While J and Benjamin finished off the Lumberjack breakfast together, I held Zach’s head outside while he vomited up his three bites of waffle.  Later that afternoon, it was his brother’s turn.

            And so we sat, watching one another grow tireder and sicker each day.  And I imagine I was not the first person ever to entertain the thought that although Penelope Lively offers up much food for thought, Gertrude Stein is sometimes full of shit.

22 responses to “The unmaking of Americans

  1. Oh my, you poor Mama. I hope everyone is recovered from the Awful Ralphing Ick and back on a semi-decent sleep schedule.

    The last paragraph made me laugh. When you read my next post, though, you may not want to speak to me any more. 😉

  2. It would make some sort of cruel sense that the flu would tackle all of you in the middle of moving stress and your transition back into a whole different country. Your writing though, suffers nothing ; ) I hope things are better soon.

  3. Somehow you manage to be witty and entertaining amidst all the grogginess and bugginess.

    I hope that you are all feeling more human now.

  4. One thing I look forward to when I’m retired is taking my time getting places.

  5. you mean you don’t think holding a child’s head upside down while he vomits offers a kind of unique and genius-like perspective that magically leaks into one’s writing? damn.

  6. I spent two weeks in the States when my son was about four months old. I remember I just about threw a party when he got onto a somewhat normal schedule. 🙂

    I’m glad you’re all feeling not-so-sick anymore.

  7. Jet lag. Yes. In most cases, I don’t mind it. If I had kids to consider, well, that’s another issue. 😉

  8. Oh Emily. Oh I feel for you. And oh how I appreciate you entertaining me, anyway.

  9. Oh no! That is not a fun Easter. My youngest had the vomit bug on Easter too. Ick. Poor kids.
    Hope everyone is feeling better.

  10. Oh I’m so sorry – I hope everyone is recovering!

  11. LMAO!!!

    Not laughing at the horror of the experience . . .

    But the hilarious commentary!


  12. Oh you poor thing, to have to make such a big move AND have to contend with a stomach bug as well? So very unfair!

    Hopefully it will be smoother sailing from here on.

  13. You must be exhausted. Were the boys saying the kiddie version of what the heck? Wait, that is the kiddie version.

    Good luck with this transition, and hang in there.

  14. you make me laugh.

    and i hope that illness and jet lag have long passed

  15. A rose is a rose is a …unless you have a stomach bug.

  16. Stomach bugs are when I decide I don’t want to be a mother – and dear God, on top of jet lag and arrival in a whole new place!! You have ALL my sympathy, and it is legion. I really do hope you are all feeling much better, very soon. And yes, Stein is sometimes full of shit, even when you’re well.

  17. Oh, so much has happened in the 2 weeks I have been “fasting” (a reading fast).

    1st of all, Welcome home.

    2nd-Ugh. The dreaded stomach bug. Ick.

    My fast is unofficially over. I’ll try to catch up on ALL the goings on.

    Hope you guys are all well.


  18. Poor poor you. I thought the measely one-hour change for daylight savings was bad enough.

  19. Jet lag being a curse – a very fascinating but accurate way of seeing it!

  20. It sounds ridiculous but our best moves were the ones where we drove. We drove from Texas to Alaska and from Alaska to Virginia and both times it was the best way to do it. Yes, it took ages, yes by the end of it we were all well sick of the car BUT that long, long drive gave us a gradual transition from one place to another (and a lovely concentrated time with each other which was fantastic). The worst move (aside from the most recent one)? The one where we flew… dreadful.

  21. Oh, how I hate the stomach bug. Glad that you’re feeling marginally better.

  22. oh crap–that was a crappy present the easter bunny left. a stomach bug sucks.