Good Narrative Principles

I Flooded the Kitchen Today


I flooded my kitchen today. It was a mistake obviously. Not something I did on purpose. It was simply a matter of pure physics. Fluid dynamics. The vertical flow rate of a steady water stream under the influence of gravity.

I should have calculated it. Sensed it. Realized in a flash that the spout of the watering can would eventually fill and spray the water all over the floor while I was busy changing the baby’s diaper. Clearly I’ve lost my edge.  I’ve become a watcher. I watch Oprah, Dr. Oz, the other mother’s in the playground for tips on how I should behave with this new, young, squirmy thing I hold in my arms. I send out sporadic emails to old college chums and update my Facebook page hoping someone holds the key to how I should feel three months into this odd, murky experience.

I wonder if anyone else experiences early motherhood as the opposite of pellucid, if they too observe this lack of clarity. In my new daily state conflicting emotions generate waves. I feel them reverberating inside me, canceling each other out. First I’m sad and lonely, then I’m elated. If I model my emotional state on the physics of acoustics, I am pure noise.

In one of those well-thumbed parenting magazines which litter the waiting room of my OB/GYN’s office there was an article, more like an ode if I think about it objectively, that characterized the first few months of young motherhood as a soft, milky-white time. A place of no-stress, where you and your new baby cuddle together on a bed, a couch or comfy chair and co-exist. The baby nurses all day, while you, the young mother, are enveloped in a pillowy place where the outside world fades away to a smile. The tick-tock is driven by the baby’s schedule not the dance of the earth’s orbit around the sun.

I’m not well-suited to this task. I’m miscast for this role. But how could I have predicted it? I’ve pursued motherhood with the relentless force of objects hurling through theoretical space. First, I methodically dated a variety of types on campus, the English professor, the Music adjunct and when that didn’t work out as I had planned, I used a turkey baster. The father had high SAT scores. I made sure of that. The form said he is average height, brown hair, a post-doc in bio-engineering so that provided a bit of diversity since engineering and physics are two radically different disciplines. The sperm bank has a firm privacy policy in place that assures mutual anonymity. I need that. I will be both mother and father to young Jake.

I think his name will be Jake. Just plain Jake. Not short for Jacob or Jackie. His birth certificate still reads Baby Jones because I’ve been weighing the relative merits of Jake vs. Sam. My father’s first response to Sam was “Sam, like Sam you wear your pants too long??” I have not a clue what that means, but since it’s not uncommon for me to be mystified by passing cultural references, I smiled politely and asked my Dad to pass the salt knowing that he’d launch into his “salt is bad for you” tirade, thereby allowing me to do what I do best, avoid confrontation by changing the topic.

I worry that Jake will be socially tone deaf like me. I worry that the flood might have compromised the tensile strength of the linoleum tiles and I won’t be able to sell this house. I worry about juggling the demands of motherhood against the lure of the lab. Will I fall prey to jobbing little Jake or Sam out to an au pair with marginal English language skills so that I can track the progress of the Higgs particle experiments currently underway deep inside the earth halfway between Switzerland and France?

Any day now they will throw the switch and send particles hurtling towards each other, colliding at massive speeds and we will know definitively whether or not the Higgs particle exists or, as I suspect, it is nothing more than an inelegant way to explain an aberration in a theory that is fundamentally flawed.

Like my son hurtling towards me at the moment of conception.

But until we know for sure, it remains a theory where all possible outcomes must be considered including the one I didn’t count on — blind maternal love.

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