This post is a follow-up to the one I put up late on Friday, which was about a very important conversation I had with my son.

Thank you all so much for the support you sent my way after my post on Thursday.  Your comments and the emails from people I did not even know were reading were so thoughtful.  Things are a little better now. 

I have found a doctor for my husband. 

We are starting to look for some more full-time help, which we had hoped to hold off on till close to the baby coming.  However, I cannot force my body to be capable of what it is not, and if I keep up at this pace, I’ll see a repeat of my last pregnancy, when I could not walk for the last six weeks. 

Zachary’s school starts up again today after a two-and-a-half-but-who’s-counting-week break.  He is difficult unbearable when he has no programming, so we are grateful for an eleven-month school.  Unfortunately, June is the start of a new school year in this school, so after moving here three months ago, he finds himself in yet another transition into a new class.  The school, sensitive to this, has kept him with one of his teachers and a close friend, but he is still anxious about the change on top of change on top of change.  I can’t say that I blame him, but the last week has been one long chorus of whining, and I won’t be sad to drop him at school today.

Most importantly, I have started unpacking the books.  We save them for last, because there are so many and they need such careful attention.  I have a system, a system that would have left Whatshisname Dewey green with envy. 

I only took about 20% of my books to London.  It would have been absurd to bring the thirty or so boxes of books that went into storage.  You do the math on that one.  I missed them, and I always seemed to need a book I did not have with me over the last two years.

But, now I am unpacking them, and I found a few things.  I discovered that my book collection grew in London, and our children’s book library seems to have doubled.  Yet, we moved out of a house that had built-in book shelves.  Suddenly, there was an overpopulation crisis.  We found that we need more shelves.

The other things I found were tucked away in a box of books.  A childhood diary, written I think when I was living with my grandparents.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it is sitting in my closet glowing a bright, pulsing orange, begging for my time.  And a pile of photos.

The pile is small, maybe twenty in all.  They are photos of my childhood, all that remain.   In some, my sister still has long hair.  In others, our hair is cropped short by haphazard shears.  My father pops up here and there, and our stepmother is in one.  And there are many photos that include the half-brother I have not seen or heard about in twenty-five years.

I leafed through them, and Zachary came up.  “Who’s that?”

“That’s my sister. And that’s me when I was a little girl.”

“Who is that?”

“That’s my mommy,” the one I had just told him died when I was very young.

“Who’s that child?” he wanted to know of the toddler he saw in the pictures with me.  And I froze.  I did not think I could explain “half-brother.”  And I was not prepared to deal with follow-up questions about him.  My sister, her I am ready to talk about.  But the boy?  He is so far away and so long ago I don’t know what I would say.

And so, all of my honesty about my mother’s illness and her death evaporated.  I lied to him.  “I don’t know who it is.”

The day will come, the day will come my child.  You will know it all.  But you must be older and you must be stronger.  I learned too much too young, but you do not have to.  I hope you will not learn until you are old enough to face these truths with a man’s heart.  I hope you will never surround yourself with books, hoping that the walls will fortify you against what is beyond their pages.  I hope you will know that books can be good company, but they can never give you the answers, because sometimes there are no answers. 

I hope your life will ring with Louis Armstrong and Mozart, not Beethoven.  I hope your pages will read like Forester and Stein and Austen, not like Dostoyevsky and Dreiser and Woolf.  I hope your color will remain pink.

And I hope that when the time comes for you to know it all, you will have become an empathetic soul who can feel for the child I was without having felt it yourself.  

11 responses to “Unpacking

  1. oh Emily. this is beautiful and poignant and hit me hard.

    i too want to protect my children from things i knew too young. i do not want them to hurt with rejection and abandonment, to know sorrow in the ways even that i have…let alone the ways that you have. and yet, and yet…i want, very very much, for them to be the type of people who give a shit about other people’s pain, and have some wellspring of understanding to draw on to get there. and i look around me, and so many of the people who have never known any real deep disappointments and losses are not able to get there…so i wonder. and i hope for gentle, small sorrows that teach but do not damage.

  2. Beautiful hopes for Z.

    And babe, I wish I were there to help you out.

  3. Wow… wonderful! I understand this in ways I don’t care to explain.. but I know what you mean.

  4. Oh that’s tough—what to say, how to explain.

    Enjoy being surrounded by your books again.

    And (hug)

  5. There’s a box of photos in our house that would lead to a number of questions that I’m not ready to answer, either. Of course, you did the right thing.

    (That diary…wow)

    I’m glad you have your books again, and I hope more shelves materialize soon.

  6. You are such a wonderful and loving mom. I am confident your children will be able to handle whatever comes their way because of your love. You are doing a fabulous job.

  7. What a tough thing. Does everyone have to do that to some degree or another with someone in a photo? You handled it perfectly. I’ve not read your blog long enough to know about your past, but I get an idea just from posts likes these.

    The diary? Relish that full-time help when it arrives and lie down and READ IT! The bright orange alone is worth it!

  8. Z and B and #3 are in good hands. That’s what you need to do– go with your gut about sharing truths with your kids while protecting them from things they don’t need to know yet. Just think, someday you will have this wealth of writing to share with them. It will be a lovely, complex gift.

  9. Wow…that is beautiful. Thank you for sharing those memories with us.

  10. This post moved me, Emily. I can relate on so many levels. xoxo