Sunday, October 9, 2011

Insides, Out

There's a children's book I loved called The Man Who Took the Indoors Out.  "The Man" of the title, or "Bellwood Bouse," feels sorry for his belongings, who aren't free to frolic in the sun as he is.  So he beckons them outdoors.  I'm not sure what drew me to this book as a child, but I believe it was a combination of fascination with his parade of furniture and knickknacks and recognition that an opportunity to survey someone's entire catalog of material possessions is both rare and provides a voyeuristic thrill.

I recall walking by an apartment building in Washington D.C. when I lived and worked there in my twenties as a woman threw what I assumed were her ex-partner's belongings out of the window and onto the grassy front lawn below.  That was a rather cringe-worthy instance of perusing another's belongings, one flung boxer short and CD at a time.  Not to mention that there were tangible as well as emotional "insides" being turned out on this occasion.

Blogging, perhaps, is its own form of "open house"--the spilling outward of interior contents, with the aim that a reader may recognize she, too, owns those drapes, or that she may disagree altogether with the matching of sofa and chair but respect the writer's choice nonetheless. 

We had occasion last month to tear out the carpet in our hallway and bedrooms, the very carpet that has tormented me for the ten years we've owned this house, what with its exacerbation of Big Sis's allergies and its designation as the favored site of Dog's and Cat's gastrointestinal adventures.  We felt real fear of what lay beneath, imagining either unfinished hardwood floors or no hardwood floors at all, both requiring financial outlay which never felt like a priority, despite the fact I've whined here about our carpet not once, but twice

What we never did was pull up a corner of the carpet to, you know, just peek.  Not once in ten years until The Bathroom Flood.  The Bathroom Flood necessitated hiring a Restorations expert, who charged us a billion dollars to tear out a section of hallway carpet and leave us with mind-numbing dehydrating fans for four days.  But our prize?  The revelation of gleaming hardwood floors (with no refinishing required!) from beneath that area of stinky carpet.  Worth a billion dollars:  we had only to move all our furniture and tear out the rest. 

So we summoned out our two bedrooms' innards, and stacked and piled and heaped the contents in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.  I admired the bare floors, the clean empty rooms, and promised them more order.  Like Bellwood Bouse, I took stock of all we have, and vowed to use this boon--the rug pulled out from under us--to sift and sort.  To appraise and consider and prioritize and purge. 

Sometime amid this process--the slow return of things that matter to their place, the packing away of items in limbo--I discovered I was pregnant.  An earnest yearning of three years or more unexpectedly satisfied at the eleventh hour, the last month we were to try. 

Suddenly sorting and sifting had new objects.  Information:  sobering risks and statistics associated with pregnancy at 40.  Habits:  out with alcohol and caffeine, in with the low-carbohydrate diet.  I congratulated myself for having squired away the crib, car seat, highchair.  I resumed tidying with the aim of establishing order in the face of potential new chaos. 

But perfect timing, best efforts, and cautious optimism are no match for What Will Be.  And this would not.  Before hope could implant more than its gentlest of tenterhooks in me, Nature commenced her own sifting and sorting.  Engorged breasts turned numb.  Queasy fullness subsided to an empty ache.   My body knew first; my mind adapts. 

As my womb cleanses itself I shed layers of my own expectations, ways of thinking, imaginings.  Hope forgets the truth at times.  My body is turning its insides out, symptoms I can't ignore, but I examine more closely my reactions. 

I recall a favorite scene from the film A Fish Called Wanda, when Kevin Kline's character, expecting to unlock a safe full of diamonds, finds it empty.  "DISAPPOINTED!" he yells, in a moment of comedic anticlimax. 

Empty.  Disappointed.  A bit inappropriately angry, in a car-kicking kind-of way. 

I stake no claim to tragedy, lining up among the ranks of those who've had hopes dashed.  My happy, healthy, blissfully unaware daughters kiss me, hug me, pause to hold my hand. 

I write.  I resume the act of rearranging, resist the urge to throw it all out.  I take stock of all I have. 

My womb has bare floors, but my life is full of promise.


aitchpea said...

I am so sorry, 'Fer. So sorry for your loss, and for the loss of hopes and might-have-beens. I gasped with joy when I read that you were pregnant, and my insides fell out for you when you described Nature's clearing. This is one of the most powerful pieces of writing I have read in a long time, though I am sorry for its inception.

Kate said...

Beautiful but wish it were a different post.

Barbara Bovee said...

I echo the comments previously posted. You said it has been a few bad weeks, but I had no idea it was this bad. So very, very sorry for your loss.