Monday, February 06, 2006

Groundhog Day


So of course it would have been more wittily postmodern for me to have posted this on actual Groundhog Day, which was last week, but I wasn't thinking about this then. Eh. Bygones.

In every pampered, first-world existence such as mine, there are all sorts of troubles. Loneliness, worry, financial insecurity of a not very threatening kind, intellectual insecurity about whether or not one's really any good at one's job, emotional insecurity about whether or not one's really lovable. Loss and grief and bleakness of all manner of stripes.

The problem I'm having now, though, is sameness. All of the parts of my life seem to have an unremitting, slightly malevolent familiarity. I hear the faint strains of "I Got You Babe" constantly in my head. I'm just so damn bored. I can feel my eyes folding into Bill Murray's sad-clown corners in the face of the week, the thought of the same students, the same discussions with those students, the same seminars, the same things in the supermarket, the same books on my desk, the same odd hybrid intellectual/low-brow smalltalk, the same ritual dance that my dissertation supervisor and I have been doing around one another for four years, the same, the same, the same.

If I were Truman Burbank, The Truman Show would be ludicrously economical. You'd only need two interior sets and about 50 extras.

The sameness is not an illusion, but I know that the cracks in it are what keeps me from driving into a quarry with a groundhog at the wheel. If it were really the same day, I'd see the same things, always. The same people walking around at the same time, the same pigeon taking the same bath, the same puddle with the same leaf floating in it like a tiny crinkly brown boat. But I don't.

Last week, I was coming home from work earlier in the afternoon than usual and there was a boy walking ... perhaps to a music lesson? He had an earnest, slightly abashed posture, and carried one of those paper wallets in his hand, along with a backpack that dwarfed him. He wore camo-print cargo trousers and had mussy, mind-of-its own, straw-coloured hair which he smoothed every now and then, as he walked.

I thought how unusual it was to see a kid walking alone here. He seemed tiny, and sort of robustly fragile, like a dragonfly or a fine steel guy-wire. I suppose he must have been 10 or 11. I suddenly had a fervent, fleeting, staggering impression of what it would be to have a child, to have this big-small, breakable-indestructible, wise-innocent person wandering the world and smoothing his hair.

Today, the cherry blossoms are almost peeping out from their brown twig huts.

Tomorrow will bring something different.

18 comments:

pluvialis said...

By the way, readers, I can assure you that Xtin, who is my housemate and closest friend, is in fact fantastically loveable and wonderful. So there.

Xtin said...

Aw, gee whiz. Thanks pluv.

Heidi the Hick said...

I knew it! I knew you two were housemates!
Here's what it's like to have a child: frustrating, rewarding, exhiliarating, exhausting, nerve wracking, futile, important, disgusting, beautiful, chest swelling and selfish. I wish I could show you a photo of my 9 1/2 yr old boy. He's all the tension and innocence and delightful stinkiness of childhood. Oh, and Jethro's birthday is Groundhog day and it wasn't a great one this year. so it's ok to be a week late!

Heidi the Hick said...

Frightening. forgot to add frightening in the list.

Scrivener said...

Having children does make the days less same. Which seems really weird since I have the same conversations with them over and over all the time, but I almost never have this feeling you describe anymore, though I used to.

Puzzled said...

Hi, Xtin!

I've found that having kids means lots and lots of routine. Getting them breakfast and dressed in the morning, picking up their toys, watching Finding Nemo for the umpteenth time...

...but the trade-off is that there are all those things heidi the hick said and myriad more, plus all sorts of variables that go along with their passing through each stage of life.

I loved your little epiphany with the 11-year old, Xtin. There's definitely something to it.

Xtin said...

Hi Puzz! How are the angel children? Good to see you again, Scrivener. Thank you for your insights (and not least those on your blog, danced over by your two gymnasts).

It is a brilliant gift to have mothers and fathers willing to share their phenomenology of having children. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Puzzled said...

The boys are thriving, Xtin. Thanks for asking. Julian turned six in November and Gabriel just turned three.

There are many photos of the family here and the rest of website.

We're hoping Gabriel takes a more avid interest in potty training soon. Julian is excelling in 6th grade, but tends to be a loner and somewhat eccentric and temperamental like a certain parent of his who isn't his mother.

Meera said...

First grade, that is. Six years old, first grade.

He's also smart as the dickens like another of his parents who may or may not be his mother.

Puzzled said...

Whoops!

Now if he were a one year old in sixth grade, that would be impressive.

Thanks for the correction, Meera.

Xtin said...

Wait, Julian is smart like his mother and crazy-ass-eccentric adorable like his father?

Day-um. Shame he's like, uh, 25 years too young for me.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hi, saw a comment of yours at Scrivener's and thought I'd stop by.

I read your three most recent posts (including the cloud) and assumed you were male, until I read your little blogger bio. _That_ should give you something to think about : )

I agree with Scriv re: kids. My days are the same; I mean my activities each day are the same; but the kids are constantly changing so I don't feel stuck in the way you describe. Living vicariously through them, I suppose.

Xtin said...

Hi Jennifer, nice of you to come visit. I've been told in other online forums that I post rather male. It is interesting. Perhaps it is a product of being a philosopher? I was once told by a historian that I had "a brain like a man". I don't think she thought this was a good thing. Sometimes I think I might be compensating for my physical appearance, which is a bit Jessica Rabbitish. Without the height. And, yanno, the ears ...

Scrivener said...

Wait a sec, Xtin. You look like Jennifer Rabbit, without the ears, and you're a super-smart philosopher to boot? Pluvialis must be right up above.

Is that why you asked that I knew you were female Xtin, that you've been told otherwise? I have no idea why, but I knew you were female the first post of yours I read, which was not at all a gender-specific post. I mean, I didn't stop and consciously think "Is Xtin a boy or a girl?" but I knew.

Scrivener said...

Uh, Jessica Rabbit. I was still sort of thinking of Jennifer's comment as I typed that I guess.

Xtin said...

I suppose that was part of why I asked, Scrivener. But perhaps we can add to the Something To Think About pile that the people (both online and off) that think I am male (or in the case of those that can see me, "male-brained") are generally women.

What does it all mean?

:)

Puzzled said...

You're a woman! Omigod, it's like my own little personal Crying Game here!

Xtin said...

I'm naked? This is just like a dream I always have ...