Daughters of the Dirt
/ Sarah Higdon
by Marion Winik
They say every day is the first of the rest of your life, but Iíve
noticed that some days are more so than others. And some times these
inauguration days arrive with a burst of fresh energy and others feel
more like getting punched in the gut.
A couple of years ago, I was single, 40, the mother of two, and happy
about it. If you had asked me if I would I get married again, Iídíve
said hell, no. How bout another baby? I donít think so. Would I sell
my beloved house in my home of more than twenty years, Austin, Texas, and move 1700 miles across the country? No freaking way. Would I
perhaps choose to live in a rural area in Central Pennsylvania? Had I even heard of Central Pennsylvania?
Well guess what.
When I first started changing my whole life Ė breaking the news to my
sons, putting my house on the market, calling movers, saying good-bye to
my friends Ė it was easy. I was as corny as Kansas in August and high as a flag on the Fourth of July: in love, in love, in
love. Emotionally, I was already gone. Practically, I was catching up
I threw a big party, shoved my cats and kids in the car, and got on the
interstate. Three days later, I arrived at our giant new house in the
middle of nowhere Ė and burst into tears. It was very, very hot and
all our stuff was in boxes and I hadnít noticed the ugly wallpaper in
the dining room. But I had to pull myself fast. The wedding was in a
couple of weeks, in the backyard, without a caterer.
By fall, I was pregnant and thrilled about it, though both my mother and
my husbandís mother were nonplussed to say the least, shouting
expletives not used on radio when they heard the news. I think they
thought the four we already had between us enough. But we wanted a baby:
a concrete expression of us-ness, a new person from all this newness.
I had a tough time my first winter, pregnant in Pennsylvania. With my sons back in school and my husband busy at work, it dawned on
me what I had done. I was completely alone. I had not one friend, no
doctor, no dentist, no place to get my hair cut or buy nutritional
yeast. As the snow fell outside my window, the pain of losing everything
and everyone I had left finally hit me. Soon I was as big as a house and
wearing the same gray sweatpants every day.
On the plus side, my doctor assured me you could take Zoloft while
The dubious pleasures of middle-aged reproduction ended for me on the
summer solstice of the millennial year, when my daughter arrived in the
world with an eclat that brought to mind the delivery scene in the
horror film the Bride of Chucky. But while poor Mrs. Chuckyís eyelids
fluttered shut for the last time after splattering onlookers with her
offspring, I felt immediately reborn, literally floating right up off
the delivery table with joy and relief. Then my first daughter, my
second-marriage, pre-menopause bonus, was placed in my arms, and I
wafted gently back to earth.
These days I start my mornings by watching a baby awaken. The dark
fringe of lashes flutters against her rosy cheek. She opens her
blueberry eyes and the first thing she sees ó the ceiling fan, the
kitty, mom or dad ó is the recipient of a wide, toothless smile. They
just keep coming, those smiles, like a stream of bubbles from the mouth
of a carousel fish. Sometimes I have to wonder if isnít all that
Zoloft I took when I was pregnant.
For my baby, every day is a fresh start, one she meets merrily and head
on, with nothing but the most cheerful expectations. No matter how old
we are and what weíve been through, surely there is no better way.
Marion Winik is an author, NPR commentator and Austin's beloved
daughter-on-the-lam. We forgive her for leaving us.