8.17.2011

CHAPTERS


On Monday morning we plum ran outta diapers, with less than 24 hours remaining in our family vacation. 

I snuck into Alex's room early that morning and asked to borrow her zippy little Volkswagen. And then, keys in hand and sudden freedom on our horizon, my Huckleberry and I set out for adventure! And intrigue! And the closest Target. For diapers.

There is nothing more defeating than buying an entire pack of diapers knowing full well you'll only use up a tenth of them with no room to spare in your luggage, but there is also nothing better (when you are me) than a car with a car seat carrying a fat gurgly baby, and also the baby is mine, and plus we have free excuse to go to the Targets. Diapers for everybody!

In the car I cranked up the stereo and rolled down the windows, and sang as loudly as I wanted. Huck jammed along in the back seat, blabbing and singing and kicking his legs and making buzzing noises with his lips. And as I glanced in the rear view mirror at his little monkey toes pointing to the sky, I thought to myself, 

"Oh, so this is what it would have been like if I had gotten pregnant sooner, and we hadn't moved to New York, and we had lived another life, and that life included Target."

Sometimes I feel as though my life is like a chapter book. Or possibly a collection of essays, or short stories. One place and one time and one person for a while, before morphing and changing, becoming another place, another time, someone new to discover, new to become, leaving trails and traces and entire lives behind, and always starting fresh. 

My book would go like this.
Chapter One: A confident, half-naked, free-spirited childhood spent in Arizona. 
Chapter Two: An insecure adolescent feels super awkward in Connecticut.
Chapter Three: The angry, contrary years at BYU.
Chapter Four: The newlywed years in Oregon.  
Chapter Five: That one time I moved to Brooklyn and suddenly became myself.
Chapter Six: When New York Natalie became Moscow Natalie, a girl who daydreamed in wheat fields.
Chapter Seven: That awful and blessed summer in San Jose when I was--well, I don't even know who I was then.
Chapter Eight: The end of Moscow and coming face to face with New York Natalie all over again. 
Chapter Nine: We become a mother.
Chapter Ten: Suddenly there is a pay check and it no longer upsets ulcers to go to the grocery store, and I can buy clothes for the baby and nobody panics.

Being a chapter book is tiresomely overrated, I am afraid. It involves the painful shedding and growing of new skins. One more Once Upon A Time, only to eventually leave it behind again, fully and completely. 

Often times I find myself wishing I could have lived a life of continuity instead. Staying in one place from start to finish. Being just one person, from beginning to end, one person I know and understand. One long, meandering paragraph.

As we pulled up to a stop light I read the intersecting street name out loud. It tasted foreign on my tongue though I knew the street well. I glanced back at those toes in the mirror again as the dark Portland clouds in the sky moved overhead. I remembered past trips to Target, I remembered past dreams of baby toes. I remembered when those baby toes were mine in the hot Arizona sun, when suddenly, there I was. All of me there. All of me at once. 

Every version of me I've ever been, every chapter I'd ever lived, violently crashed in on me with a whoosh of familiarity and recognition. Like time had stopped and sped up and rewound and played and I was finally in one piece.

And it was that summer in San Jose: the sun beating down through the windows of the blue Volvo and onto my arms as I drove--anywhere and everywhere--seeking adventure, or more likely, seeking to outrun what felt like perpetual sadness. It was those long years in Idaho spent daydreaming in rearview mirrors, pretending to see outstretched baby toes and imagining the life I longed for. It was the tanned little girl of five years old with no fear and ambition for miles. And it was Oregon, in a place I've never understood but sometimes call home, with my New York drivers license burning a hole in my pocket and my very own baby eating a Cheerio he found somewhere in the car seat. 

It was all so weird and painful and splendid. 

And then the light changed, and it was just me again. 

Fragmented in a borrowed car, running out of diapers we'll never finish.

43 comments :

  1. I'm pretty sure you SHOULD write a book my friend. Its strange to look back and think of the person you "were" at given times in your life... I do it all the time and think "whoa that was me!?"

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  2. you described perfectly the feeling i get about my life, how i feel it slipping away quickly with the people i used to be and so much of it still looming with the people i've yet to become. and then suddenly you're just yourself again. love your writing, as always.

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  3. You are seriously SUCH a good writer.

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  4. i love this post. thank you.

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  5. Who-eee, that was a powerful post! Isn't it amazing how looking back your life sometimes resembles a "choose-your-own-adventure" book, and then other times it's a perfectly orchestrated PLOT, full of character development and dramatic twists and turns!? By the way, the wheat is almost all turned golden and soft now, and the air is crisp and delicious. Would you like me to grab a handful and send it to you? :)

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  6. Natalie, this is amazing stuff. Wowza. You are talented and so yourself. I love nat the fat rat!

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  7. I totally understand the feeling. My life is full of new locations and a ton more to come, where I feel like each is revealing a different part of myself, but sometimes I wonder about the person that I left behind... and every once in awhile, I realize she is still there, but just for a moment. But the place where I presently am is oh, so good!

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  9. Nat, I think you're such a talented writer, and I'd definitely pay extra shipping to get a book you'd penned over here to the UK.

    I'm only 22 and yet you've managed to capture how I feel at times so perfectly. If I could write only half as well as you I'd have written a book already :)

    Keep up the wonderful words :)

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  10. WOW. You are amazing.

    p.s. I can't wait for the moment in my life where all the things I've been dreaming of start happening. I am that girl looking in the backseat and wondering when there will be a baby back there. It's so bad (also because I'm also looking for my husband in the front seat next to me :) )

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  11. I was going to comment about what an amazing writer you are...But, um...You prob already know that (given the above comments).
    So, then I was gonna write about how I wish you were my bff...But, then I realized I think I write that in every comment I've ever left (I've left two, I think).
    Sooo, then I was going to just be like "wow, you are inspiring"...Then, I realized I'm kind of a loser. Oops.

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  12. Awesome. I love philosophical/deep thinking posts like this from you. It's been too long. You have such a wonderful way with words.

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  13. What is so confusing about Portland? It rains. It's green. Everyone owns a dog. Everyone (except those Mormons) drinks chai lattes. Everyone drives a Subaru Outback and wears Goretex and resists land development and hates Republicans. Pretty simple, really.

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  14. i've never commented before(a stalker, yes) but I've been reading your babble posts for a while and i really love your blog here - this is a beautiful post! i'm also a young mama and my life feels like chapters as well, sometimes so different from each other that i feel like i'm remembering someone else's life! you put these feelings into lovely words. (also, your huck is ridiculously nommable).

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  15. I absolutely love this post. I second Erica-best. post. ever.

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  16. I love this post. I think a lot of people feel the same way.
    My favorite posts have been the ones written in Idaho.

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  17. This is really really amazing. I've said it before and I will say it again, you are a very talented writer!
    And also, I totally relate. Running from perpetual sadness lurking between the chapters. Yes, you are wonderful.

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  18. i just cried over this post. probably because so much of this is exactly how i am feeling these days.
    thank you for your wonderful words and for this wonderful blog.

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  19. Wow........awesome writing.........you put those words together PERFECTLY! Love it!

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  20. This is an amazing post. I'm sure you already knew that. But you have a way with words that makes me smile and tear up, and feel sad and happy. Thanks for this one, especially.

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  21. This was wonderful, especially as I've felt the same way but never expressed it other than verbally. The people I was: the happy baby from Minnesota who thought she had an older, red-headed brother. The wistful, longing two year old who moved to Missouri with her parents and younger brother and always, always missed her other brother (actually a cousin), on and on and on, all the many, many places I've lived, how the surroundings have shaped me, and how I've shaped my surroundings as well, then left those changes of my creation behind, and moved on leaving part of myself and bringing a changed, slightly more grown-up person on my next adventure. This was beautifully put, Nat.

    www.blissfuldomesticgoddess.com

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  22. This was an absolutely incredible post. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your writing. Please never ever stop.

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  23. Chapter Five: That one time I moved to Brooklyn and suddenly became myself.


    i love that part!

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  24. lovely writing and great thoughts.
    i feel ya on the unfinished diapers.

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  25. I love this post. Thank you for sharing!

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  26. I love that you called yourself a we when you got to the motherhood chapter. By the time most of us get there, we are a we, aren't we? So many different hats tried on by that point that we are luckily able to offer the best "we" to our babies. Ah life.

    Great post!

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  27. Isn't it strange how deeply a location can affect your life? I feel that way about Austin, TX. I moved here and suddenly I was all the me I'd be searching for.

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  28. Beautiful post. I kept waiting for the part where you realized that suddenly your life is going to have some continuity because now throughout all the different chapters and genres, you have a little Huck; He's along for the ride longterm. And as silly as it sounds, getting distracted by diapers in such a beautiful post, I just couldn't stop wondering why you won't be using all those diapers?

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  29. Absolutely brilliant post, you are such a powerful writer! Working away on your goodies...safe travels home to Chapter 10 :)
    Nathalie

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  30. I just love your blog! Its always something to look forward to! :)

    www.gavinandlauren.blogspot.com

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  31. I agree with all of the above. Thank you.

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  32. Thanks for sharing such personal parts of your life. You're not alone. Everyone goes through chapters in their life. Everyone! What I find a little strange is how hard you have struggled to figure out who you are. You seem so cool and confident. This surprised me. Whats important is taking each chapter from your life and incorporating it into your next life chapter. I think more importantly, you should also never forget those around you, and those who have helped get you where you are today. I believe that treating people the way you want to be treated will help build 'chapters' no matter where you are in life. I'm a lot older then you. You'll also learn that image is not everything. When you have your next baby you'll figure that out. You'll be lucky if you get a shower and time to pee each day.:) Good luck with figuring things out. Stop trying to be like those around you. I think it will make you feel better deep inside your core.

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  33. I would buy myself a Nat the Fat Rat chapter book/memoir if there were one to purchase. Beautiful.

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  34. great post...and if you had lived a life on continuity (as I have, only 2 living locations here my friend!) then you'd wish for the other...absolutely the human condition, to want what we do not have.


    www.floridagirlinoklahoma.blogspot.com

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  35. I'm always struck not just by how well you write (which is really really painfully beautifully well, btw) but by how well you know yourself. It's very neat and very rare.

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  36. love. Love. LOVE. this post. and your writing. and your insightfulness. and your willingness to be vulnerable and share all your feelings with us. and ditto all the more clever comments above!

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  37. Wow!!! Great post, and just to ditto everyone else, I am in awe of your writing skills.

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  38. Holy Moly that was good! Beautiful stuff!

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  39. That was amazing. A book in one post. Chills, I tell you.

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  40. Oh, tears. You know what I see as continuous throughout those chapters? Big, beautiful, undeterred dreams... be they in New York City or in Moscow or wherever your life found you. So very tender and inspiring.

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  41. this is just beautiful. I just found your blog and love love love it.

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