Friday, November 07, 2008

Memory's Odd Triggers

Even as I close in on those final laps of the current teaching term, January’s courses demand immediate attention: book orders to place, courseware web sites to resurrect from past terms. I opened up the ‘announcements’ section of my History and Theory of Media course website, copied over from three years ago, a series of relentlessly chipper invitations to my students to participate in the broader life of the university and the community: come to this talk! Hey, what a neat art exhibit! Register with the alumni association! Did you read this newspaper article?

Ready to start fresh in January, I deleted these Fall 2005 announcements from start to last—and something caught my eye. Somewhere in between this art exhibit where I gave a talk on urban utopianism and that department-sponsored visitor-lecture in new media performance art, I discovered my pregnancy and everything changed.

Suddenly, it’s mid-September, 2005, and I’m tired and uncomfortable in my fancy heels, having just completed my talk to a generally good reception. I’m relieved and sipping a red wine. I haven’t eaten supper, and neither has Pynchon, so we beeline for the ubiquitous art-event cheese tray. But the pickles are too close to the cheese, which looks distressingly wilted and sweaty, and the cold cuts are purple-pink and suddenly I absolutely need to 20 feet away from it, muttering gross gross pickle-cheese-purple, urgh. We put this down to my vegetarian sensibilities. I sipped and shuddered and felt yucky.

Suddenly, it’s late September, 2005, a couple of days after a positive pregnancy test that confirmed the more likely cause of my nausea. After the talk, in which the speaker ran for 40 minutes on a treadmill while talking about death and postmodernism, I warily approached two colleagues who had proposed to put forth a major funding application with me. I bowed out, reluctantly confiding in them that I was pregnant, didn’t want to commit to a new project for the new year which would fall during my maternity leave. One of them looked me deep in the eye and knocked the stuffing out of me: “Well, you must be really early? You know, these things often don’t really last, so don’t worry about not being able to do the grant. You just might, you know?” I wanted to cry, to punch her, to wrap my belly in protective bubble wrap and retreat from the world, so desperately attached had I become to Baby Embryo in the short days between gross-pickle and treadmill-talk.

I forgot all about this until today, routine digital housekeeping, blindsided by the force of the mundane, memory’s odd triggers, realizing how really momentous things spring from the simplest premises.

8 comments:

crazymumma said...

god. I know. I closed down a show nine days before I gave birth to my elder. I remeber riding back from Bathurst and Queen from the studio.

and here I am years later, and last time I had looked at the work in question it had rusted and tattered in our moist basement.

draw whatever metaphors you want fromm taht.

Omaha Mama said...

And were you thinking - where has the time gone? I was painting my new bedroom in August 2005 and wondering why I almost fainted while doing it. Then a day later, sitting on the steps of my then new and empty house. Realizing the test meant pregnant. Unplanned and all. 28 and knocked up. I wouldn't change a thing. But your post triggered those memories for me.

Beck said...

I was pregnant in 2005, too! But I found out I was pregnant in September of 2004 and then three days later a beloved elderly cousin died in a car crash and there I was, only a few weeks pregnant and crying my eyes out at her funeral, my hand over my secret belly.

hoppytoddle said...

Why are people so wrapped in in their own thoughts they think it's actually helpful in some way to say things like that??? Evil! Evil woman!

I can't believe I stopped working over a year ago. Well, working for 'the man', at least. Now it's just 'my man' & MiniMe. For free. I think of all the things I put myself through when I was pg & after she was born. You've inspired a post.

Kyla said...

It is fascinating the little things that trigger such big memories.

Did that colleague think she was being reassuring? Sigh. Some people.

Bon said...

your colleague - while techically correct - is all klass. yep, don`t worry...you might be able to do the grant! i`m sure that was your heart`s dream right then.

i recently came across my journal from that same fall, when i was pregnant with O. crazy how much one forgets...and then remembers when the memories are triggered.

Assertagirl said...

What an ASS that person was! A good friend of mine is pregnant and because her sister-in-law has been having trouble conceiving, all her in-laws can say to her is, "It's just too bad your sister-in-law is having so much trouble..." Nevermind being happy for her at all.

ewe are here said...

I cannNOT believe someone looked you in the eye and said something so incredibly thoughtless and outrageous.

Ugh.