Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I have been trying to watch PBS's American Masters episode on Annie Leibovitz for probably a month now. I snatch a few minutes while Josh bathes Dash or does the dishes after dinner. Today I got home from work early enough that I could lie on the floor with the baby while he called every number in my cell phone and watched maybe ten minutes.

We were on to her work in Sarajevo and they began to show photos that I had forgotten about. The ones that Susan Sontag encouraged her to take. No celebrities or saturated colors. Nothing but black and white, with the black usually representing blood.

Giving birth removed most of my skin. I cry every single day, usually twice a day (on my way to work then back home again), listening to NPR. Every single story of a lost soldier or corrupt government makes me weep for parents of children everywhere. And today I cried a little extra. Leibovitz's photograph of a downed bicycle and swath of blood brought me immediately to my knees.

But as I cried I was also thoughtlessly running my fingers up and down Dash's spine and he started laughing in that insane, stomach-cramping way that babies laugh when they really mean it. So the house contained, simultaneously, a mother weeping for someone's lost child in Sarajevo 15 years ago, and a baby laughing raucously at having his back tickled.

I wish I had the skill and the words to speak more eloquently about the duality of motherhood. About the terror that tempers every moment of joy. About the fact that laughing and crying, in some sense, must always happen simultaneously now. About the knowledge that we have to teach our children to endure and grow through pain in order to ensure that they will fully enjoy their lives.

But in any case, that is what happened, in the most cartoonish, literal sense, in my living room this evening before dinner.


InTheFastLane said...

So much of motherhood is a duality. A lot of times I feel my life is a constant paradox in which I am living two feelings/emotions/actions at the same time.

Stu said...

Beautifully put, and accurate (for me, at least). As a stay-at-home Dad, I so can understand that duality. Thanks.