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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Recycle, Reuse, Remember (Children Mentioned)

It's the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. and I am driving through small town America thinking about the bicycle I left behind when I moved from Massachusetts. Her (because every hot pink bike is a "her" in case you didn't know) name was Amalia Skofeld. And she was gorgeous. Rescued from the side of the road. Rebuilt by the commune (yes, I once lived in a group house/commune). It was an indoor bike and I liked to ride it around the top floor of the commune, thumping on everyone's door. Why wasn't it an outdoor bike, you ask. Because we rebuilt it. Which means it was hardly safe. But I loved it.

I was thinking about Amalia Skofeld this morning because I was driving (at 6 a.m., in case you missed that fact) to a massive, indoor yard sale. I am a huge lover of the indoor yard sale. This particular one was run by a twins club and contained only baby items. I go to two or three a year. We've been trying to practice sustainable living and commit to having a certain percentage of our toys and clothes recycled. I also love vintage toys--the old Fisher Price people who looked like tubes with knobby heads. The Playmobil sets BEFORE they changed the horses from blobs into...well...horses.

So I spent an hour sifting through some godawful clothing (last night, my husband gasped and said, "we don't know how they dress in Columbia! What if the clothes are hopelessly out of style? What if they're from...2005?" But I've watched enough television lately to know that everyone, across America, has got their "fash" on. Thank you, Old Navy commercial) and toys to find a fantastic pair of black velvet bellbottoms for my daughter and 85 pieces of fake food for our toy kitchen. I'm going to be cooking up a delicious meal of plastic peas and rubber eggs tomorrow night. Come. And. Get. It!

I left the sale and made my booty call (you know, that phone call you make after you leave a yard sale to let everyone know what you found. That's everyone's definition of a booty call, right?). And drove home still thinking about Amalia. Partly because of Murray's post the other day about what we can do to protect the environment--I think bringing Amalia back to life somehow fits--but also due to Bea's post about the photograph and why she doesn't want to take it.

I was really thinking about the day I left this bicycle back in Massachusetts. I didn't have a bicycle rack or room in my car so I decided to leave it with this family who had taken me in for meals many times when I was an impoverished graduate student. They were extremely poor themselves and had ten (I'm sure it's more by now) kids. I knew they would be embarrassed if I offered them the bike so I decided to leave it in their garage while they weren't home with a note explaining that her name was Amalia Skofeld and I hoped they would love her as much as I loved her. As I was leaving the house, the father came home unexpectedly and I froze. He looked at me and he looked at the bike and I just said, "you didn't see me here today." I jumped into my car and drove off. And that was the last time I saw my bicycle or this family. My mental photograh of myself during grad school involves resting the kick stand on the floor of that garage and saying goodbye to that bike.

So how does this tie in to Bea's photograph? One of the points of her post is that she doesn't want to remember herself like this--she doesn't want photographic proof of herself childless when she was supposed to be a mother. When she had been trying to be a mother for so long. When she expected to be holding a child in the next family photo. And I was just thinking about all the old photographs of myself and how they capture how you wish to remember yourself. You usually take photographs during special moments--days that you want to remember forever. Rarely do you ask someone to photograph you while you are sitting on the bathroom floor, sobbing your eyes out after seeing yet another negative pee stick. You hand them the camera to record happy moments or things that were important in your life or places that you've been. So your photographs aren't really an accurate remembrance of life--they're just a recording of happy moments.

There are all of these photographs of me on top of Amalia Skofeld. And when I look back at those photos, I think about how happy I was--just riding my bike around the top floor of the commune with no inkling as to how much misery we would go through a few short years later when we tried to have a child. In Bea's last photo, she was sipping tea at the Ritz in London, oblivious to the fact that by the time the next photo rolled around, she would be enduring IVF cycles.

One of the only photos I have of myself from those years trying to conceive the first time (that wasn't taken on a trip) is a photo that was snapped at a dinner party. A few minutes before the guests arrived, the RE had called with bad news--either it was a negative beta or a cancelled cycle because my estrogen was too high. I locked myself in the bathroom, sobbing hysterically. I could not calm down. I heard the first person arrive and my husband tell him that Mel was just getting dressed and could he take coats and pour drinks? Later in the evening, someone took my camera and snapped a picture of us. And I look like I'm faking it. I'm smiling, but you can see something is truly wrong. How do I feel about having that photograph now?

And is it important to take those pictures and keep those pictures and record all the events of our life--not just the good ones? Remember how we looked when we were in that terrible space of limbo--not a newlywed with marriage rolling out in front of you nor a parent cradling a baby. You're in limbo, between those two happy places. And the camera keeps rolling. And recording. And you have to remember.

And later recycle and reuse how strong you were during this time period to get through a different, unrelated struggle in life. Because that's the other way you can view the pictures you take right now. You were at your saddest point, but you were also at your strongest. What is the saying? Women are like tea bags, you never know how strong they are until they get in hot water. And you are freakin' boiling right now. This is the hot zone. And if you are slogging through, if you are still trying, if you are making decisions, if you are filling out paperwork or waiting for your referral, if you are giving yourself injections, you are possibly the strongest you've ever been. Remember that and record it.


K said...

I've only just started reading your blog. But this entry reduced me to tears. It also made me so very glad I kept a blog throughout my cycles. I can read back on all of that now that I've gotten lucky enough to have a baby, and know how strong I was. Makes me glad I spent the first few days home from the hospital after a horrendous c-section writing my birthstory... i can read it now and know i kicked ass as hard as I could have.
Excellent entry.
Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel, Mel (SA) here. You write as well as you bake, which looks delicious! Love your post, just read Tertia's latest but some crazy reader got all radical and nasty about IVF and then it just got all ridiculous!
I agree about your pics and keeping those rock bottom ones. I have a photo of myself holding my son when he was about 3 months old. I am standing next to his father (my ex) and I look so incredibly sad and fragile with my fake brave face. My mother hates that pic, I don't. I can see how far I have come and how we do get through the bad times. We think we will never be happy again but somehow we move out of that place slowely but steadily and snatch happiness back again. I love woman (don't wanna smooch them, maybe hug) and their capacity to bounce back. Their bravery and compassion. Chicks rule!
I look forward to your book.

Melissa said...

I was brought to tears by this post as well. How true that we only "photograph" the happy times...That's why I've started a scrapbook journal. I am taking certain posts from my blog-the mad, sad, and the crazy- and incorporating them into a scrapbook of sorts. I want to remember this time...Not so I can relive the heartbreak later down the road, but so I can remember the strength, how close the hubby and I were, and so our (hopefully soon to be) children can see how much they were wanted. I don't want to "lose" these years of my life...just because it was heartbreaking...

Lisa said...

Thank you, I needed to hear that.

Anonymous said...

I've been mulling this over for a day or so now... and I want to thank you for this new angle. I'd got as far as tolerating this phase, this picture, accepting it, that sort of thing, but I never thought of celebrating it.

So, thanks.

I'll let you know how I feel when I see the photo itself.


ms. c said...

Wow, sometimes you read my thoughts. I love coming to your blog and seeing what perspective you are going to have everyday. Thanks for this space.
I had this very thought yesterday as we were having a bash for my grandmother's 80th birthday. Over and over again people mentioned her wonderful family: 3 daughters, 3 sons-in-law, 5 granchildren, 1 grand-son-in law, and of course 2 marvelous great-granddaughters.
Each time I wanted to scream: there should be 3 great-grandchildren! Each picture I thought: where is the baby I want to be holding! I want to show him/her off to all these people! I kept my neices occupied for most of the party with thumb wars and tickle contests, but really wished I was busy with my own child.
I am very visual, and have a fantastic memory for events, and I know these mental images will stay with me a long time.
When you talk about the positives we can grasp by looking at these "images", you give me much hope.

The Town Criers said...

Though, just to clarify, I see nothing positive in going through infertility. If I could wave it away, I would. But if you are going through it, I do think those journals and photos from the time period are important down the road. To remind you of where you've been and how far you've come and to draw on later when you're going through a separate (but equal) crisis. I went through it (and am going through it) so I don't want to forget it since it became a part of who I am and my history.

aah0424 said...

Your post got me thinking about the pictures I've been in over the last 20 months. There haven't been many just a couple at a family wedding and a few over the holidays last year.

Last Thanksgiving Day I got my period and looking at the pictures from that day is pretty hard. The pain is pretty transparent-my eyes are puffy and there is not a smile on my face in any of them. I'm sure my husband's family thought I was just being pissy about not being able to spend the day with my family. I remember that day so clearly, I just wanted his aunt to stop taking pictures and I wanted to go home so badly and crawl into bed. When his aunt first sent the pictures to us, I was shocked at how much pain I was displaying and I asked my husband about it. Of course he said I looked fine and he didn't see what I was talking about.

I KNOW I'm strong and my friends and family are always amazed at how well I'm getting through this, but for some reason when I look at those pictures I don't feel that strength. I see someone whose pain runs deeper then anyone close to me really knows. I feel like I'm able to mask it sometimes, but a picture is worth a thousand words!

Katie said...

Previously I'd only seen the change in hairstyles and weight in my pictures but now that you mention it, those pictures snapped whole LIFE MOMENTS too.

My hubby and I married at our house (that we are now moving out of...sad) and didn't hire a photographer. We never had a "wedding day" photo taken.

Anonymous said...

Women are tea bags . . .so, so, true. thanks for sharing.

Zee said...

Thank you for this.

C said...

My husband snapped a photo of me on Friday--the lowest day I've had in a long time--because I was snuggling with our dog and he thought it was cute. I look like hell in that photo. Not just because I'm not wearing makeup and my hair is all over the place, but because you can see infertility written all over me. I look tired and defeated and heartbroken. It's in my eyes, in my smile (or lack thereof) and in the way I'm clinging to my dog like a life raft.

Right now I can't stand to look at that photo. In fact, if I hadn't read this post, I probably would have deleted it yesterday when I was downloading the weekend's cute pet pictures onto my laptop. I decided to keep it, though, because upon further reflection I know that someday in the future I'll look at it and remember everything we've been through. Like Mel said, pictures like this one may help get me through a tough time down the road because they'll remind me of just how much I've already endured.

serenity said...

Funny. J took a picture of me this weekend, framed on a cliff with a bunch of the autumn foliage and the sea in the background. When I saw it last night, I thought that it seemed odd that you couldn't tell that I was sad. Have I gotten that good at faking it?

You make an excellent point tho. Thanks for this post.

lunarmagic said...

I don't have a lot of photosgraphs of me - I'm the photographer. But I wanted to say that, for me, my journals are my photographs - my true photographs. They show the ups and the downs, the freak-outs and the fights as well as the happiness and joy.

A photograph, to me, is art. It's beautiful and poignant and usually says something. But it never really captures reality.