When I started this blog in January I never thought I would be blogging about genealogy, in fact I had to look up how to spell the word, but now I am hooked. My “uncovering” led me to my grandfather’s albums, which had been temporarily forgotten in a box in my parent’s vacation house. I have no idea what might have happened to the albums when my parents sell the house they are putting on the market this week.
At home, my husband gets madder and madder every evening when he discovers another book or file from the 1930s spilling pages stacked up on the back of his couch, when there is no room left he might move out. And then there is poor Eva who with my blog, scrapbooks and videos and her misfortune to be born to a documentary filmmaker mother, she will be both immortalized and exaggerated for time immemorial. My current philosophy regarding hoarding is, it’s an underappreciated art form but I digress.
My grandfather Curt was a lovely sentimental man who left us at the ripe old age of 96 and with a few mysteries to figure out. In his album, he did not disappoint- we found a secret pocket with correspondence from an ex girlfriend who had suffered a mental health breakdown, and a family secret hidden in a letter hidden behind a photograph. My mother discovered it by accident and we then had to pull out every other photo and look behind it. All of that to say, that in the same album I came across this poem cut out and glued in, which in a way inspired this post.
All of our lives are quickly passing, brought home to me recently by reading love letters clearly penned by a teenage boy whom I only knew as an old man. The same is to be said of watching my little toddler grow up and change from an infant into a little girl. Don’t worry I am not getting sentimental – Hell will freeze over before I get sentimental about the first six months of Eva as a baby. I don’t want that back ever. When I was crying to strangers, with a boob hanging out, unable to get a grip on my life, there was always that advice, “This 2 Will pass.” It was the only thing that helped, I knew at some point Eva would have to stop screaming. Five months in she grew out of her colic and things began to improve. I no longer looked at people who had bathed that day with wonder and jealousy and I had reclaimed some control over choices in my life, now if I don’t shower it’s because I chose not to. It wasn’t grand but it was better. What didn’t work was this advice, “If you think having a baby is hard, just wait until you have a toddler, it’s worse.”
Now that I have a toddler I have a new theory on that piece of advice and it is this: People who complain about toddlers must have had easy babies. It just can’t compare. Give me a tantrum any day over breastfeeding that doesn’t work, a baby that doesn’t sleep, sterilizing six times a day for months, mastitis, and weight gain that gets worse after birth, and no way to communicate with a baby who clearly did not want to be born into this century or maybe she just didn’t want to be mine, the last theory is still on the table.
Eva I would say is a pretty good toddler, but tantrums do occur sometimes and sometimes at the worst moments. A few weeks ago was the Bermuda International Film festival. Every year I try and take part in some way. This year Jan Harlan was Chief Juror and he returned to Bermuda for a second visit after coming last year for the Screenwriting in Paradise workshop I hosted. I was happy once again to see him several times over the week. A friend Susanne and I had planned that on his last day here, she would drop him off at my house, I would entertain him, take him to dinner with Eva and then to the airport to catch his night flight back to London. Sounded like the perfect plan but seldom does anything with a toddler work perfectly to plan. I always have hope, I am not sure why.
On the evening in question, I was running late as usual and drove into the house at 5:30 but managed to get Eva’s dinner packed and her sorted out before Susanne and Jan arrived. Jan Harlan for those that don’t know was Stanley Kubrick’s brother in law and longtime producer, collaborator and friend. Jan now keeps Kubrick’s films and legacy alive by travelling the world setting up the Kubrick exhibitions and lecturing and publishing books about the man, his films and his legacy, which is Jan’s legacy as well.
After Susanne left, I took Jan over to meet the Gruncles, (Eva’s Grand Uncles) to show him that all things on Speaker’s drive aren’t derelict and that there were people who lived here who had class and good taste. Eva tagged along, happy to visit their toad pond, and dressed head to toe in a Tinkerbelle fairy costume. We approached their glorious house, two stories surrounded by wrap around balconies, over St. George’s harbour and framed by a collection of palm trees. Walking up the brick welcoming arms onto the porch, I detected a slight reluctance in the little fairies hand I was holding. I nudged her along.
After admiring the nasturtiums in full bloom, we entered the Gruncle’s house through two huge suspended temple doors. It was like passing a threshold and entering the Ming Dynasty except that there is also a fully equipped modern kitchen with all the latest appliances, (except for a red kitchen aid mixer as that is at my house.) By now Eva’s reluctance had turned into a “No, I want to play outside.” To which I responded,
“We have to go inside and see the Gruncle’ Michaels.”
She started to cry, so I picked her up and brought her inside.
“This is my Uncle Michael,”
Jan shook Michael’s hand,
“And this is my other Uncle Michael.”
He shook hands with Big Mike. He didn’t look confused even if he might have been.
The Michael’s poured us glasses of white wine, on a glorious late afternoon in a Bermuda spring. It couldn’t be a more beautiful day.
Jan took in the whole house, the blooming pink orchids, the scent of sumac, and cardamom, to the tall ceilings and art and artifact of the Michael’s previous lives and adventures through Asia. Classical music was tinkling out of the sound system and the air had the promise of summer.
“This is magnificent, just magnificent.” Jan said taking in the palms that almost surrounded the house.
Eva was a bit of a liability in a house like this, there was always a risk she would want to take a trinket or a souvenir out of the Ming dynasty Pagoda and it would disappear and turn up months later in her Peppa Pig doll house if at all. Or worse be dropped in the toad pond, and forgotten. Babies and toddlers probably didn’t belong in the Michael’s house, so when she was there I tried to keep a close eye on her. Worst possible scenario is she would try to mount the Tang Dynasty camel.
Eva was patient enough to see if she was getting a present, usually when she comes over she gets either a new Chinese outfit or at least a dumpling. She was 0 for 0 this afternoon and she didn’t drink wine yet. Eva didn’t know or appreciate it but the dumplings that appeared in our freezer were put there by the Gruncles.
I had just sat down probably for the first time that day, and brought the glass of wine to my lips when I got a tug on my trouser leg.
“Mommy, I want to go outside.”
I put the glass down.
“Ok in a minute”
“No now! “
“No in a minute, Mommy is talking.” Mommy wasn’t talking she was trying to drink a glass of wine and have the option of taking part in a civilized conversation that didn’t involve Peppa Pig or Mickey Mouse.
“Outside now” Eva barked, this time I didn’t respond. She stewed.
A few sips of wine later, I was thinking about pitching to Jan how he should try and sell the idea of my screenplay to his friends at Warner Brothers.
A Perfect Day,
A Glass of Wine
A possible entre to Warner Brothers
The perfect moment.
And then it happened.
Eva shut her eyes, balled up her fists, opened her mouth and there was just silence and then an ear piercing scream followed by short rapid breaths, blind kicking and punching movements vaguely in my direction but with enough force to knock her off her own feet. Then muffled words came out between the scream-breaths.
“I –WANT- TOO – GOOO- OUTSIDE.”
I put down my glass of wine, gave Jan and the Michaels a sheepish smile while they continued small talking while pretending not to stare at what is known as a TANTRUM.
The side door was the quickest exit. I whisked her out immediately. That is always your first goal as a parent, when the TANTRUM strikes, remove child from the direct vicinity of anyone even if they have hearing aids. A piercing scream would make anyone think twice about saying how cute Eva is.
When we got outside, meeting the demand, which started the TANTRUM, Eva was not satisfied as the TANTRUM usually ends up being about anything other than what actually started it.
“What is wrong Eva, What do you need?”
“I want to go to my house.”
“You can’t Eva, we have to stay with the Michael’s and Uncle Jan.”
I don’t know why I try to reason with a toddler, it’s futile but we still do it I think with the false hope that suddenly her capability to reason will grow up by twenty years.
She cried and stomped her feet.
“Mommy has to go back inside, are you coming with mommy or do you need to be by your self.”
“No, No. No” She said.
“Okay Eva you can stay out here but do not leave the balcony, you can come back in when you have calmed down.”
When I closed the screen door to rejoin the party, the TANTRUM regained strength. Her stomping turned to thrashing which turned into running, and soon there was a screaming, stomping Tinkerbelle Banshee running loops around the wrap around balcony, each one getting faster and louder, as I enjoyed my glass of white wine inside chatting to Jan and the Michaels.
“The wine, the body is full, but it’s so light and zippy.” I say commenting on the Pinot Grigio, kissing up to the finer palated in my midst.
“It’s quite fruity.” replied Jan in his Teutonic tone.
“Pardon me,” Said the Michaels.
I swirled the wine in the glass like you are supposed to do. I smiled and did my best to indulge in an over thought out analysis of the short films that won at the festival.
As the screaming and running continued unabated, I thought to myself:
“This 2 Will Pass. She won’t scream forever.”
Conversation drifted to Coral Beach, the exclusive private club where Jan had been staying, the highs and lows of the food at the restaurant, the view, the general ambiance as we, the four of us tried to collectively ignore Eva’s pacing and screaming. Eventually I spoke to what no one else dare comment on. The TANTRUM.
“Let me just check to make sure she hasn’t thrown herself off the balcony.” I exited stage right onto the porch.
She looked up at me, stopped running like she might have finally won,
“Eva, have you calmed down now, would you like to come inside?”
“No, !!! I want to go to my house.”
I knew she wouldn’t leave without me, so I shook my head and returned inside the threshold of the screen door.
She returned to her well worn loop.
When back inside, I said, “She is only 2, she has to get tired at some point.”
Jan looked at me with a slight smile, one that was either a smile of understanding or of disapproval; I could not tell, and then he said,
“It seems to me that there is a battle of wills going on, who will win, that is the question, who will win?”
“I will win the battle, she will win the war.” I thought.
A few minutes later, after I had gulped my wine when no one was looking, I saw a little face smushed up against the screen. She was breathing heavily, sort of snorting but she wasn’t screaming any more. Her face was red and she had worked up an appetite.
I bent down to her level, and asked,
“Eva have you calmed down?”
“Are you going to cry anymore?”
“Okay, would you like to go to your house?”
“Would you like a dumpling?”
“Sometimes they just have to get it out of their systems.” I explained.
Eva and I had come to an understanding you might call it a TRUCE.
Jan, Eva and I said farewell to the Michaels and stepped out of the Temple doors and went back to our house. Later we met daddy at the restaurant, had a pleasant dinner where she was surprisingly well behaved and then we took Jan to the airport and said our goodbyes before returning home to put Eva to bed. It was the end of a typical day in the life of a 2 year old and her Derelict Mother.
That night as I was going to bed I was reminded of those people who said, “If you think a baby is hard, wait till you have a toddler.” They were wrong. I wouldn’t trade this for the world, sure my Warner Brothers moment was ruined but she had already pretty much ruined my career, if you could call it a career. But when she was a baby- that – almost ruined my whole life, but I knew then as I knew in this moment… That This 2 Will Pass. I will have to admit that I will in later years look back at my raging Tinkerbelle and miss her spirited rebellion and hey anything where I can still sit down and have a glass of wine- it can’t be that bad now can it. It’s nowhere near as bad as breastfeeding a baby. A friend who had had a similar experience sent me this link this week to a blog about breastfeeding.. I would say it touches on what it was like for me, but I made it far worse for myself by working and refusing to give up. I won’t be writing a blog about breastfeeding, I will be writing a book, forthcoming. # Crazy and Derelict!
Xx Derelict Mom