Monday, April 22, 2013

Walt Whitman and Whipped Cream

This picture is, itself, a poem.
My baby girl is nine years old today and every bit of it and then some.

She was born on Earth Day. She was due smack in the middle of National Poetry Month and waited a bit before she decided to come.

On her due date, I waddled forth in the shy new sun of springtime,
wrapped in a sarong and a small t-shirt.
I let her hang out the bottom in her belly-nest
for all to see so she could feel the warmth of that splendid, cherry-scented day.
Reveling in our last few days of just we two, my husband and I
went to a diner in the middle of corn fields and ate the breakfast of truckers and farmers,
letting the sunshine egg-yolk drip from our fingers and chins
and washed it down with strong black coffee as we threw out our prenatal diet and caffeine caution.
For that blessed morning, we were just ourselves.
Not nervous new parents-to-be,
not a few weeks from law school finals,
not a few hours from a house full of expectant and officious grandparents.
That day I was large and resplendent and the grass was so soft on my toes.

My baby never slept. She had too many things to learn.
So many, many nap-time hours, I spent reading whatever was around to my little bright-eyed baby. The cute little board books in bright colors quickly lost their charm with repetition, so I moved on to longer works.

My baby and I sat in the front yard in the sun and read Leaves of Grass for hours until Daddy came walking up the street after classes. A welcome and weary sight.

I have loved Walt Whitman since high school. I love the simplicity and elegance of his poetry. I love the idea that he was self-published and initially rejected by the literary community for his "new style" and his "questionable" themes. My love was even more deeply cemented in college when I sneaked into my friend's American Literature class after I had dropped out of school and watched a three-part documentary about his life. We call him Uncle Walt to this day. On that day, the day of the documentary, we vowed we would together "suck the marrow from life" and we have held to it, one way or another.

And now, whether she realizes it or not, Uncle Walt runs in my daughter's veins as well.
My Earth Day baby who felt the sun through my belly and burst into this world
with the daffodils and the cherry blossoms
is never more at home than when she's out in the trees,
climbing with strong legs, barefoot, and chatting with the birds.
Than when she's standing on the shore, digging for shells and crabs
and listening to the whispers of the water.
She's drawn to words and art and politics.
She's fierce in her causes and longs for the flavors of distant shores.
Before she could make the words come out, they were imprinted
on her heart and mind in all those waking hours of quiet poetry waiting for sleep.

  Come, said my soul,
     Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
     That should I after return,
     Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
     There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
     (Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
     Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on,
     Ever and ever yet the verses owning—as, first, I here and now
     Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

From "Leaves of Grass", Walt Whitman 1855

There are no pretzels today. Only a strawberry cake with strawberry whipped cream frosting; frothy piles of pink for my little girl. She has grown tall and strong; fed on sunshine afternoons and poems and more love than I ever thought I had to give.


  1. Do I contradict myself?
    Very well, I contradict myself.
    I am large -
    I contain multitudes.

    Oh, Uncle Walt. He should reside in everyone's soul. :)

    Happy birthday to your little girl!

    1. He should, indeed. I knew that you and I were soul sisters on a particular level. Perhaps this is why! The Walt that binds us together.

  2. Happy Birthday! (are you still reading together?)

    1. We do not read together as much as we used to, but now she recommends books she likes and I read them and we discuss them. She also reads to me sometimes.

  3. Happy Birthday little one.. Blessings to you and yours.

    "The young are beautiful, but the old are more beautiful than the young. "

  4. Pure gorgeousness--this post, the poem, the picture, your baby girl. Hope she enjoyed her frothy pink celebration.

    1. Thank you, Masked Mom. She did enjoy, continues to enjoy. Really, I believe she views most of life as a frothy pink celebration. Not a bad way to be.

  5. I always love when you write about your children. It's so beautiful and poetic. Happy birthday to your sweet girl.

    1. Jewels, you touch me. I have such a hard time writing about my kids. It's hard for me to write about things so very close to me without resorting to cliche. I wonder if that extra challenge brings out the better stuff? Or the fact that I am so head-over-heels in love with them.

  6. Happy happy birthday jBird!

    This is gorgeous, TL.

  7. This is a most beautiful piece of writing, and I feel warmed just for having been here. I hope she had a wonderful birthday. She definitely has a wonderful mom.

    1. Oh wow, you flatter me.
      Perhaps you understand when I say - it is she who makes me a more wonderful mom. Left to my own devices, I would wander around muttering to myself with my jeans falling down.

  8. I love everything about this! Happy birthday to your daughter!

    1. Thank you, and thank you! And a very warm welcome to these parts. It has been quite a while since I've had a new reader!


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