Taking Care of Carrie
You round the corner, speeding into the kitchen. Your three year old has pushed one of your ladder back chairs to the counter and climbed up and is precariously standing there, yanking and yanking at a cabinet door.
“Carrie!” you shout. “What are you doing on the counter?”
“Peanut butter,” she says, looking down at you intently with her dark eyes.
You step over and sweep her off the counter.
“Noooo!” she hollers.
You dance across the floor, rocking her in your arms, dipping and swooping until she giggles. Then you set her in her high chair.
“Are you hungry?” you ask.
“Book,” she says. “I want the alphabet book!”
“We’ve already read it three times this morning,” you tell her.
“I want down! I want the alphabet book!”
You pull out a chair and sit down beside her at the table. You are thinking about your days as the layout designer for a software company. That was a long time ago, in the dark ages, before you switched to working from home so you could take care of Carrie. Sheila and Dan and Morgan and Tyler are still at Creative Resolutions, probably laughing together and taking off together for lunch about now. You never thought of those lunches or those restaurants as a luxury. But they were fun. They were a break.
You would lay down your life for this miraculous child of yours, but the day feels long and dragged out and you feel slightly blue. You long to talk to another adult.
Carrie is shouting, “Read the alphabet book, Mommie!”
Oh boy, this is work, you’re thinking. This business of caring for Carrie is hard work. What will you do? You can either read the book again, feeling bored and tired, or you can try to find another way.
I WON'T READ THE ALPHABET BOOK ONCE MOREI can't look at A for Aging or B for Bored and Broken Down or C for Clock. Because all morning the H has been doing the same job, standing on this page like a hippopotamus, holding the heavy purple sky on his back.
Why can't the sky invent new legs to prop beneath its storm clouds so the H can finally walk off the page? How can I go on allowing the M to be made into a monkey over and over without any pity? There is going to be a revolution.
I can feel the band strike up in my blood. In my chest I can feel the bullets flying. You shout Read! Read! Read! but my shoulders are already hoisting themselves like two flags, fluttering away from here.
Under the circumstances, I pull your stroller down, and take you to the zoo. There the sky floats effortlessly. There the hippo loves his body merely because it holds him down to earth. See how he raises his mouth
easily into the vast purple air, teeth scarred as ancient bricks? He is letting his leathery tongue ride out, unhinging the shovels of his jaw, rolling the sun in his mouth like a wild cry of joy. It is the fiery letter Oh!
The hippo cures the alphabet. We can live in the same house With that book again. We can take back all the letters— Mean-spirited X, boisterous R, Even the overworked, weeping H. I push your stroller home. Hopeful. Hurdy gurdy. Hindsight. Hallelujah.
Image by Leo Reynolds. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Jeanne Murray Walker author of New Tracks, Night Falling. "I Won't Read the Alphabet Once More" originally published in Coming into History.