Life with a Gorilla. Already got the grooming down. And when she’s finished picking bugs out of his hair she usually gives him a big kiss, which looks a lot like biting his nose off. And now, another day in the life of Click Clack…
Around six a.m. Pickles begins to stir. She nurses and turns, nurses and turns. She is asleep, but I do not sleep again. When I turn my back she paws at me with increasing urgency. If I turn, she quiets. If I do not, she wakes, disgruntled and loud.
When she is finished sleeping, she opens her eyes and smiles, kicking off the covers, repeating her favorite syllables over and over again. She crawls to the window and looks out over the yard. There is a bird. She waves, bangs on the glass. “Ooah. Babababababa,” she says, looking back at me over her shoulder. The Beard disappears under a blanket.
I push back the comforter and stand up. A voice from beneath the blankets mentions that it is cold. The kindling basket is empty, so I pick up a log, shrug on a large black wool sweater and go outside. The ax rises and falls as the log turns into a small pile of mid-sized wood. Inside, I stuff newspaper on top of the embers, then a hand full of freshly chopped bits. Close the wood stove door, rattle the little handle that moves the grate at the bottom of the stove, and in a few seconds the fire is burning again. No lighter required. This thrills me in a way that I cannot explain, and I think of the girls in Jean Hegland’s book Into the Forest. If the fire never really goes out, your hoarded matches would last for years.
The Beard muddles out of bed, bundles up, and heads to the kitchen to make coffee. I mix oats with water from the kettle on the wood stove. Chai amaranth porridge with oat milk. (Testing a possible sudden lactose intolerance. First soy tries to kill me, and now milk? What will remain when my body is finished with me?) Pickles eats chunks of banana between spoonfuls of porridge, sitting then standing then climbing on the bench next to me. Did I tell you that she started to walk? Two weeks ago. Watching her (less and less) wobbly little steps makes me feel strangely euphoric.
We play. There is a stressful telephone call from work, and then another. I pack a bag and go to the gym. There is only one way to shut down my buzzing brain: physical activity. Though this has its problems. Empty my brain of thoughts, and you empty it of both the good and the bad. When it comes to creativity I find myself less brimming when I am active. At the same time, the gym has become a sort of haven. It is a place where I do not have to look after Pickles. It is a place where my brain can shut itself off. It is a place where I can read, uninterrupted. Where I can hop into the sauna or take a long hot shower and no one will ask me to change a diaper. And after just three weeks of attendance, I feel much different, happier, more balanced.
At home, I tell the Beard that I would like to write for a while that afternoon. Go! he tells me. Take three, four hours. Have fun! Three, four hours? That is like three days in parent time! I pack my laptop up and walk into town to find a cafe where I can spend the time typing. Since Pickles’ arrival I have been surprised at the way my focus has sharpened and intensified. Now I get more done in an hour than I did in days, when all my days were free. I suppose I can thank Pickles for that. Priorities have become crystal clear, and my bullshit detector is functioning on high.
After two cups of espresso I return to hot zucchini cream soup and freshly made croutons. (I don’t know who has the pants on, but the Beard certainly has on the chef’s hat.) Pickles stands on the floor, and we spoon soup into her mouth between shimmies and crawls and bababa monologues. By the end of dinner she has food on her forehead and chin, a little creamy beard. It’s been a while since her last bath, so the Beard gets water while I set up a big round metal tub in front of the wood stove. She hates the water, unless one of us is in it with her. Instead she stands on towels next to the tub while the Beard scrubs with a frog-puppet wash cloth. She doesn’t mind.
In pajamas all, we sit on the bed and read books that I already have memorized. (“Hello little person, how are you today? Is your mood quite terrific or only ok? Are you happy as a hippo? Or angry as a duck?”) Then Pickles plays quietly while I read a book of my own, and eventually a distressed complaint signals that she is ready for bed. We lay down stomach to stomach and within minutes she is asleep, rolling away from me and in the process occupying the Beard’s entire side of the bed.
The Beard wants to watch Walking Dead, but I would rather read. We compromise with an episode of the Simpsons that is longer than my ability to stay awake. Pickles wakes to nurse around one, and I find myself wide awake (fuck, the espresso). Insomnia usually makes me hysterical, but tonight I accept it and finish reading Louis Lowry’s book Son. In it a dystopian world a mother searches for a son taken from her directly after birth, and though the story is a bit dull, predictable, I am glad to be reading it beside my Pickle, knowing that I will never have to trade a sorcerer my youth to find her again.