Monday, February 18, 2008

Baby Book:

On February 14th Elliot rolled over by himself for the first time. He scared himself when he did it and promptly rolled back. It was an auspicious day for him to roll over as it was his four month birthday and the one year anniversary of the test that told us we were going to have him. He may have rolled over before now, at night in his crib, but if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to commemorate its symbolic gesture…

To celebrate the day, I made Jes salmon Lucerne, stuffed red peppers, and fresh cut green beans sautéed in sherry and butter. We opened a bottle of Felsina Chianti Classico reserve 2001 that Kate had gotten us for our wedding – very good. I’ve been cooking a great deal of late. I am making roasted red pepper soup right now – baking the peppers at 400 for 45 minutes to get the skins off. I daydream about leaving teaching for cooking school. To take a thing you love and make work of it – no better for food than for literature, though in both cases your relative success is dependant to some degree on the palate of your “customer”.

Jes is in Illinois letting me work. We went and visited Sue’s stepmother Bonnie in the hospital this morning; she fell and broke her hip last week, but is recovering well. I left Jes and the baby with Sue so I could get some work done. We had gone for Elliot’s fourth month check up this morning. He weighs sixteen pounds and four ounces. He is in the seventy fifth percentile for most of his growth measures. He got the second series of four shots and a sugar “pill”. Hint for you future parents – take the Tylenol with you and dose your child just prior to the shot – can head off hours of screaming. With his last series we had no Tylenol and he was inconsolable – this time everything went very smoothly.

So I am home now, reading. I am reading/teaching Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz. It’s good to get paid for reading great literature. I wanted to blog about odd overlaps – both authors use the word “capricious” frequently – I think in both cases the word conveys an awareness of the arbitrary way in which the powerful (patriarchs or Nazis) dispense both pleasure and pain according to whim. Though with Primo it could just be that the translator liked the word – works in translation throw a big old wrench into readings of authorial intention.

I recently experienced another synchronistic literary overlap event relating to pockets and identity. I’d just finished teaching Ellison’s Invisible Man to my A.P. kids and the narrator is very focused on the several symbolic items that are in his pockets as the story reaches its climax, on Lincoln’s birthday I read an article that discussed what was in his pockets at the moment of his assassination, and then in the Primo Levi book he talks about the loss of items of personal significance – the emptying of one’s pockets as a metaphor for the loss of humanity experienced by individuals during their arrival at Auschwitz.

I had my students write a DO NOW paragraph about what the items in their pockets said about their identity as a set establishing exercise. I talked about what all the keys that I carry around in my pockets are to, and what the some total of my keys says about a life that is focused on both security and access. The clicker on my key chain is not for my car, it’s for my home’s alarm system. Two of my keys are for paddle locks for the cables that tie up my front porch furniture and my backyard grills respectively.

Primo Levi talks about how life in the Lager (camp) was a war of all against all. He’s borrowing the phase from Thomas Hobbes. Levi makes it tangible with the ethics of theft – anything unguarded will be stolen. The fault for the theft rests on the inattention of the owner rather than on the thief, who would be a fool not to steal if given the opportunity.

As I sit in my dinning room, aware of foreclosures and evictions on my street, I wonder about Primo, Hobbes, and the kids I teach – most of whom are not well equipped for a war of all against all. It is the very lack of skills combined with a lack of opportunity that has me using a club on my steering wheel and chaining together my lawn chairs. Ah well, my troubled kids are troubling me – so it goes (just taught Slaughterhouse Five).


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