Life as a 10 month old

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Some of Leo’s disposable diapers bear a hilarious legend on them reading, “I’m a busy baby” which makes me think of babies having agendas and trying to strike a work life balance. But he really is a busy baby.

We ask him, “What will you be?” A dentist when he shoves his hand forcefully into our mouths to discover what’s within. A tap dancer when we hold him over any hard surface and his feet paddle furiously against it. A contemplative monk when the stained glass at church absorbs his attention.

I wonder and wonder who will he be. What are the things he will say? What will our relationship with him look like in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years?

But he’s not waiting in some cocoon to transform into his future self. He really is busy being himself right now. And Leo right now is a wild and wondrous creature more bird or elf or monkey than human.

While his mother is caught up in her worries and distractions, he is meeting his world head on scampering away from grownups, flinging himself in different directions, falling over in boxes all the while chirping and babbling.

Except for diaper changes.

I’m pretty sure his gnashing and wails are just baby speak for a recitation of Helena’s monologue from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:

O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent
To set against me for your merriment:
If you were civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury.
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too?

 

 

Life as a 10 month old

Film Review: About Time

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I’m pretty sure About Time, which follows protagonist, Tim Lake, as he navigates work, love, marriage, and family life with time travel thrown in, will convince any vocational on-the-fencers that they’re called to marriage. I watched the film just weeks before my wedding and it bowled me over into a heap of achingly blissful sobs. How could it not? It movingly and wittily centers on marital and parental love and it was only a matter of time before I’d be eternally vowing myself to a life of that.

Every time I’ve seen it since, it never fails to make me joyously reaffirm my marital vows–the highest of compliments for a film. But it doesn’t just flatly affirm the goodness of love, marriage, and family. It touches on something more nuanced that’s been on my mind ever since I first realized my changed identity as someone’s mother: the relationship of time and family life.

Here are a few things on that theme that stick out to me:

Parents are the keepers of time in their children’s lives

He always seemed to have time on his hands. After giving up teaching university students on his 50th birthday, he was eternally available for a leisurely chat or to let me win at table tennis.
All in all it was a pretty good childhood. Full of repeated rhythms and patterns. By the time I was 21, we were still having tea on the beach every single day. Skimming stones and eating sandwiches, summer and winter, no matter what the weather…And every Friday night a film, no matter what the weather.

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These are some of the first lines of the film which opens in the loveliest way–placing us in the midst of a happy, idiosyncratic, imperfect, but love-filled family (in idyllic Cornwall to boot). When I begin watching this film I always think, “That’s what I want my family to look like.” But this life of repeated rhythms and patterns doesn’t just happen its own. Rather, it’s a parent’s responsibility to structure their children’s and their own time in a meaningful way.

I don’t think it’s too bold to say that parents are tasked with the reclamation of time as a sacred element of human life. Modern life sets upon us the pressures of instant connectability and a never-ending influx of information. We become sick with the glorification of busyness as work increasingly spills into personal life. Our children’s inner lives begin to dim when every moment of their lives is crammed with activity.

And so within the home, we must reclaim time for contemplation, for leisure, for recreation. And that atmosphere is precisely what the teas and the table tennis matches and the family dinners all create in the film. That’s why Christian parents, in particular, are meant to live out the liturgical year in their home both daily and seasonally.

Children teach us something about the nature of eternity

No one can ever prepare you for what happens when you have a child. When you see the baby in your arms and you know that it’s your job now. No one can prepare you for the love and the fear. No one can prepare you for the love from the people you love can feel for them, and nothing can prepare you for the indifference of friends who don’t have babies…Suddenly, time travel seems almost unnecessary, because every detail of life is so delightful.

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I’ve written before about the weird and wonderful stretching of the metaphysical confines of time and space in pregnancy. And equally wild is the baby’s actual arrival. Because you’re going about life linearly hitting different milestones and achievements and then this new, intense human being emerges (out. of. your. body.) and time feels as though it stops and everything is suspended in this new dimension of reality: slow and sweet and grueling and frenetic all at once.

The film does an excellent job of highlighting how having a child is both miraculous and commonplace.

The scene after Tim and Mary’s first child is born is a tender one and I love the choice of Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” playing at that moment. The name of the song translates to “mirror in the mirror” referring to an infinity of images connoting the profound transcendental weight that moments in time carry.

We then follow more commonplace, miraculous moments in Tim and Mary’s new life as parents that show how children only magnify the love of one’s community and offer more opportunities to come together, pause, and celebrate–a foretaste of eternity.

It is the ordinariness in our lives that reveals the extraordinary

We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.

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Director, Richard Curtis, got the idea for About Time when he was talking to a friend about how they would want to spend the last day of their lives.

“We just want a very normal day at home, giving breakfast to the kids… seeing friends, having dinner with the family,” he explained.

I love that this film is littered with scenes from ordinary life. Going on nervous, thrilling first dates. Waking up in the morning next to your spouse and playfully teasing one another about who is going to get the kids. Listening to your dad read you a favorite passage from Dickens. Coloring monsters with your three-year-old.

Time travel may be the plot device that the film pivots on, but it isn’t really about that. It’s about real time travel. That is, our travels through our days that are made up mostly of small moments in which we may forge love and kinship with one another. These moments make up the framework of our relationships and create a space in which we can delight in one another and be vulnerable with one another.

SPOILER

In one of my favorite scenes near the end of the film after his father has passed away, Tim has one last opportunity to visit him in the past. His father beats him at a game of table tennis and Tim asks him for a kiss goodbye. It’s a moment that moves quickly from hilarity to poignancy. They decide to travel back to a moment from Tim’s childhood where they walk along the beach and skip stones. The two of them have played hundreds of table tennis matches and skipped hundreds of stones together and these repeated ordinary rituals culminate in this last scene revealing an extraordinary love between father and son.

END SPOILER

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Do yourself a favor and watch About Time. Or rewatch it. And think of the remarkable ordinary moments of our days that we all too frequently let slip away unnoticed.

As Mary Oliver says, “Who needs poets if we just offer up to the world our attention.”

P.S. another to reason to watch: to mourn the fact that you don’t live in this house.

Film Review: About Time

Links and life

 

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It’s been a long time since I’ve linked up to the Quick Takes but I couldn’t keep amassing excellent articles and keep them to myself.

Gifts from the Internet:

1. A really good one on trying to become worthy of marriage: “The very idea of making oneself “worthy-of-marriage” undercuts the reality of sacramental marriage, which isn’t a reward for the holy but a gift for holiness.”  One of my sweetest memories from the very beginning of my husband’s and my relationship was revealing to one another our feelings of being unworthy of one another. This excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s letter, “De Profundis” comes to mind:

“Nobody is worthy to be loved. The fact that God loves man shows us that in the divine order of ideal things it is written that eternal love is to be given to what is eternally unworthy. Or if that phrase seems to be a bitter one to bear, let us say that every one is worthy of love, except him who thinks that he is. Love is a sacrament that should be taken kneeling, and ‘Domine, non sum dignus’ should be on the lips and in the hearts of those who receive it.”

2. I promise I only share articles on abortion when they’re not just saying pro-choicers are all evil as so many unhelpfully do. This one is worth the click.  Being a stay-at-home mother of one is hard. So I totally get why a culture that pretty much does nothing to support parents or families and has a frighteningly wishy washy definition of personhood accepts abortion.

“It takes both a family and a village to raise a child. We’re all in this struggle together, and we must use everything at our disposal to give our children what they deserve: a life, a family and a future.”

3. I’m all about community living. I hesitated to share this because I’m afraid I’ll come off as totally weird. However, I think many of us secretly harbor this desire. How to go about that without it becoming or being perceived as weird or cultish? I dunno. But I think it’s a good idea! Modern American family life is so splintered. Even when nuclear families are in tact, elderly relatives are shuttered off in nursing homes, single people, who might choose otherwise given the chance, live alone, and again…the isolation of stay-at-home motherhood is a very real thing. So I dream of a place where we actually know our neighbors as our brothers and sisters rather than strangers, where we share meals and pray and sing hymns and grow a garden together. I want to live among people I can trust to watch my children when I need to run an errand. People who can count on me to do a favor for them without fearing that they owe me but simply because we belong to one another. Plus it’s becoming hip.

Yums!

4. My husband made some really divine tacos this week (if we lived in community, you could enjoy them too!) involving dried chile sauce and broth which have turned out to be the gifts that have kept on giving. I’ve since made tortilla soup with the broth and plan on making mole chicken enchiladas with the remaining sauce. I’ll get recipes written in the probably far out future (my blogging pace is at a crawl these days…)

5. I’m not a psl gal but I am crazy for Mexcian ho-cho. Need and want a molinillo.

Life:

6. Last weekend we made a trip to Oakland to visit one of our best friends (and our son’s godfather!) and witness him taking his simple profession of vows as a Dominican friar. It was a bittersweetly fleeting visit. I talked with another friend once about how vocations support one another and that was impressed upon me in a deep way this weekend. I know we’ve received so many graces through this friendship but seeing these men take vows to serve the Church in a radical way further reminded me of how much they spiritually sustain all of us in our vocations.

7. Happy belated Birthday, Mary. I’ve been reading Rilke’s “Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (in this edition) and they are incredibly transfixing poems.

Links and life