Thursday, July 24, 2014
baby FAQ, month three
Q: Are you tired?
A: No, I'm thriving on five hours of sleep a night and an extra-large fully-caffeinated beverage in the morning. It's like college, except that at four in the morning there are fewer Wawa runs (only because I no longer live somewhere with Wawas) and more viewings of things which seemed like a good idea to put on the Netflix queue years ago. (Sure, let's watch a documentary about Shackleton, because it's not like puppies get shot or anything OH WAIT.)
Sidebar: I do not know how college kids these days do it, what with the entire internet and its social networking and streaming video marathons available as procrastination tools. In my day we had only Bejeweled, dorm-room theatrical readings, and Péter Nádas books to distract us (true story: when I was feeling a desperate refusal to write my papers, I would order bad Chinese food and re-read portions of A Book of Memories, which, yes, is a 900-page Hungarian stream-of-consciousness novel; for some reason this was the most comforting thing imaginable at that point in my life, and I still feel slightly warm and fuzzy when I regard my MSG-stained copy). End sidebar.
Yes, I'm exhausted. Because it's been so long since caffeine was a part of my life, there's still the exciting couple of hours in the morning when I code unstoppably and can't imagine ever being hungry again, but I am terrified of becoming inured to coffee. Fortunately the weekends are usually a time of recharging, napping when she naps, and ignoring the state of the kitchen.
Q: What happens when a weekend is non-stop socializing?
A: We've tried that once, and on Monday I could barely work three hours before having to go home and sleep until four in the afternoon. The spirit was willing, but that day never really stood a chance.
Q: How is being back at work / having her in day care going?
A: She LOVES day care. Everyone there knows her as "the happy baby". There is so much to look at and listen to, which she's always thrived on, so it's pretty ideal for her (and for them, since I gather she's the easiest infant-related money they've ever made). I can't say that I am thriving on being back at work quite as much, but my workspace doesn't have as many brightly-colored things in it. I do have a window, which looks out on a building with a giant lobster painted on it... so there's that.
Q: Who are your new least-favorite people?
A: The ones who, in a non-crowded parking lot, decide they must have the spot right next to me, and when they cannot immediately access that spot because my rear door is open while I am strapping my child into / removing her from her car seat, they honk repeatedly until I am either finished or I climb fully into the car and shut the door behind me. Seriously, this has happened three separate times now, once when we were virtually the only two cars in the lot. It is the strangest and most infuriating thing.
Q: So when you're thirty-seven and have a great life and are driving down the highway while your husband and child nap happily, on the way back to your little island home, and your brain decides it's going to catapult-launch that incredibly embarrassing thing you did fifteen years ago directly into your consciousness, you can laugh it off, right?
A: Humankind has not yet evolved that capacity. But I only brooded on it for about a mile before bringing it up to Berowne, and we laughed, and later Perdita farted directly into Berowne's face, which of course made me realize that my life lacks nothing. (Except a big white dog, but a) that's a given and b) if we are getting our faces farted into then Darcy remains with us in spirit. Walking up the stairs behind him was the deadliest game.)
Q: Have you been reading stuff?
A: In bits and pieces, yes.
Longbourn, by Jo Baker. The premise is that Baker is exploring the lives of the Bennetts' (from Pride and Prejudice) servants, in order to write a book about class discrepancies in Regency England. And I think this book would have been much more enjoyable if she had not done the riff on Austen, although that is the book's gimmick and who knows if it would have sold otherwise. But it means that she's just slamming beloved characters left and right, including having Lizzie sneer that referring to the footman as "Mr. Smith" made her think the speaker "meant a gentleman", which doesn't ring true at all. And I put up with it the first fourteen times our heroine, the Bennett girls' maid, thinks, "Jane and Elizabeth have X, Y, and Z and are still not grateful, while I would be content with half a potato sack to make socks out of BECAUSE SERVANT CLASS", but the next forty-five times I read the same sentiment it's rather like the Monty Python Yorkshiremen sketch: "Elizabeth gets Mr. Darcy, while GIRLS LIKE ME would be happy to have a rotting warthog carcass to warm our bare feet because we ate our shoes last spring and no one will spare a potato sack".
If you don't know the Yorkshiremen sketch, I'll wait while you google.
In any case, I liked the section of this book which was about Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper. And I like Baker's writing style. But Sarah, the maid and our primary protagonist, is like the heroine of a bad romance novel: too sassy for words and anachronistically feminist (and socialist), and every man she meets falls in love with her because that's easier than making the character actually lovable. (And would everyone in Regency England really have been that blasé about an interracial romance? Like, really?) Also, true, she has to do the Bennetts' laundry, but I wasn't particularly impressed with how much she whines about her lot in life given that she has a roof over her head, clothes on her back, food in her belly, and apparently lots of time to go on walks and read books. She's not dredging the Thames for bodies here.
This isn't a book you need to avoid or anything, but I was mildly disappointed after all the hype and waiting so long for a library copy to be available. My recommendation would be to read The Undertow instead. Baker's writing skills are on full display there, with no gimmicks.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley. The latest in his Flavia de Luce series. Short and very melancholy, and ends on a note which suggests the series may be over.
How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America, by Otis Webb Brawley. I didn't get much more than a third of the way into this before I couldn't take any more. Brawley is an oncologist, so his tales of failed care and terrible outcomes are all cancer-related, and usually breast-cancer-related. I am emotionally equipped to handle, oh, exactly zero such stories, and after four I put the book down.
The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny. So sad! So overwrought! Gamache is so impossibly-perfect! Love her stuff. This one is about Gregorian chant, which Perdita is into right now, so that was especially nice.
Going up to Vermont this weekend. I will potentially get some reading done, but it is a lot more likely I will repeatedly get through one page before passing out in the Adirondack chair, while my parents cheerfully entertain the Happy Baby. I can think of worse things. Hopefully I will be able to handle Monday this time.