December 30, 2006

Re-educating a Poseur

We had friends over for dinner last night. These are intelligent friends, academic friends, well-read friends, friends who can crack jokes about faux book titles written in the style of P.G. Wodehouse.

P.G. Wodehouse?

I consider myself an intelligent, well-read individual. I have never read any P.G. Wodehouse. I funk it (and quite badly, I might add) when I play the booklovers' edition of Trivial Pursuit. One would think I had never heard of a classic or read any book written since the mid-20th century.

Last night also brought me a new lesson about myself: in the company of intellectual friends, I turn into a poseur.

Much of my thought process revolved around frantically trying to think of erudite authors I could introduce into the conversation. I dropped more $5 words last night in casual conversation than I have in the preceding year. I think I was still myself, but I tried too hard to project myself beyond my humble Midwest surroundings. I didn't want a bland meat-n-potatoes meal that relied on salt as the sole seasoning, so I made pasta with a puttanesca sauce and a raspberry trifle. We drank white and red wine with the meal, had a long and intense conversation about wines, teas (full-leafed, if you please; no humble tea bags for us) and talked for several hours about topics ranging from the Greek scholarly interpretations of the gospel of John to incredible books (e.g. Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, Leif Enger's Peace Like a River) to any number of topics.

I enjoyed the time and talking immensely. My feeling of out-of-place-ness is that it feels so far away from who I am now. It wasn't until after we went to bed after midnight that I realized... I missed Nathan, who went to bed shortly after our friends arrived. He wouldn't have contributed anything to our conversation, but it was the first time in months (years?) that he wasn't any part of the conversation topics, either. So many of my friends these days are friends in life stages similar to my own.

Conversations with moms can be disconcerting: "I couldn't believe that this thought was articulated - No, we don't lick the dog back... I don't care if he licked you first - so beautifully in language - Because I said no! No licking - and leave his tongue alone while you're at it - that felt like it could have been my words. He put my thoughts on that page, and it was wonderful to read it." Schizophrenia seems like it is often peeking around the corner.

My life focus has changed as a mom. I had many people say I should enjoy reading before Nathan was born, because I'd never have time to read afterward. I saw friends unable to converse about anything other than safety studies, development stages or the latest toy recall and how their adorable Squizzle-bug was now in tears that a beloved whizz-gig had to be taken away.

For those without kids, be not afraid. I read just as much now as I ever did before Nathan was born. -He is a compliant child, but it's also that reading is that important to me. My husband and I still have deeply satisfying conversations about French cuisine, compare Russian authors, or discuss my feelings on Rosetta Stone's ability to teach Arabic effectively. We are still the same intellectual, multi-dimensional people we always were.

The difference for us now is that Nathan is as much a factor of life as Trent & I are. A trip to the grocery store is dependent on Nathan's naps, his eating schedule or other factors I cannot completely control.

Yes, it's a struggle to relinquish more control in my life. It's also been an immense blessing to have the excuse of my son to set aside tasks I once considered imperative (clean this, organize that, finish this, check the list entry off) to sit and watch. I never remembered until this week that there was a time in my life that I, too, was frustrated that I couldn't fit a large toy through a small hole. Sometime in my life I learned that magnets don't stick to wood and books don't stick to walls.

I only remember these things if I'm willing to set aside the busyness of my life to watch Nathan discover his. Watching Nathan learn about this world is helping me remember it, too. This year has been good in so many ways, yet I always hope the new year will prove to be even better.

1 comment:

Christianne said...

Susan,

What a beautiful post! On so many levels, I appreciated what you had to say here. Where do I begin?

Perhaps by saying that I think every thinking human being has been the poser you were on that night. I know I have. I know others who have. I loathe myself afterward; did you? I have been recently found myself reflecting on how loathesome it feels afterward, plus how much I actually have to contribute to the world, even if not on the most arcane or abstruse levels, and sometimes even manage to remember it the next time around -- before I make a fool of myself TO MYSELF again. :)

The other thing I appreciated was learning about your interests through this post -- French cuisine and Russian authors? Yes, please; I'll take more of that! I don't cook but can appreciate a great meal, and the Brothers Karamazov is one of my favorite books.

And, finally, I laughed at your iteration of the mother speaking about the writer speaking about the dog and his tongue. Made me laugh. :)