Friday, September 13, 2019

Her Firstborn

I just re-read a book of short stories, Swim Back to Me, by Ann Packer, because I had noticed what I wrote down in my reading journal from the first time I read this book and wanted to revisit the whole experience. 

Such wonderful stories, linked by character or theme so that the book somehow holds together as...a whole. The first time, I was struck by certain things in the closing story, "Things Said or Done," about regrets. 

That story's title comes from a stanza of the Yeats poem "Vacillation."
Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.
Yes, I get that. And I was very moved and astonished by "Things Said and Done," particularly a woman's insight about what she did wrong in her marriage based on her upbringing: "I began picking at him over tiny annoyances--because the big annoyance, the fact that he wasn't paying enough attention to me, was too unreasonable for me to recognize at that point, let alone communicate. When I wasn't picking at him I was picking at the rest of mankind, going on and on about some slight, a minor social disappointment, an achievement inadequately rewarded. I was twenty-five, I thought it was just a matter of time before people shaped up and started acting as I wanted. Such is the lot of the narcissist's child, to inherit her parent's umbrage over the world's indifference." Well said. I won't say why.
But this time I was struck by something in the penultimate story, "Her Firstborn." A man is coming to understand something about his wife, who was married before. He's "had it all wrong: it isn't that Lise had a baby who died, but rather that she had a baby, who died." Yes, exactly.
Tonight I saw a lovely production of a lovely play, The Electric Baby, by Stefanie Zadravec, about a baby who glows like the moon...and about regrets. There's a woman picking at her husband in a troubled marriage. There's a young woman at the cradle of her firstborn.
This was the night of the full moon. This was a wonderful "random coinciday."

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