D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Writing Round-Up: March Edition

I'm having a smashing good March, which is exciting. Right before my birthday we went on a little family vacation to Chicago, a city I had formerly only been to on business (shhhh, don't tell anyone but I used to sell beauty products in convention centers on the weekends all over America when I was in college. I was very bad at it). We did it up in our original style, which was cheap and fun. For people with kids who don't enjoy all sleeping in the same room as each other I highly recommend finding an airbnb place in a more colorful part of town. Cheaper, you get your own parking spot, and it feels much more legit. We also found $4 drive-thru gyro's which were delicious, found an out-the-way lebanese restaurant (we left entirely stuffed for $10) had chocolate cake milkshakes, took in a few museums, and made much use of the free conservatories and zoo. 

My birthday was lovely and now my parents are in town, spoiling both my daughter and myself rotten. I am slowly starting to feel better about my health and am realizing I really might have a full fat and happy full-term baby this time. As per my lenten discipline, I am exercising every day and while it doesn't affect my weight it sure does affect my mood. I have one more week of teaching (sob!)  and then I will get on to the business of hanging out with people and nesting (which, in my case, involves Konmari-ing everything to my great satisfaction). Yep, looks like everything is coming up D.L. these days. I am sure the sunshine and occasional 60 degree days have absolutely nothing to do with my cheerier mood. 

 

 

Anyhow, I had a few pieces go up over the past few week which I wanted to highlight here.

 

 

1. The first is one I worked really hard on--and as many writer's know, the ones we love the best often land with a thud. This essay was no different! I don't think anyone even read it, but I don't care. I went to the Minnesota State Fair last August and had a great and terrible time. This state really is so weird and so diverse and chock full of so many contradictions (Minnesota Nice/Minnesota Ice is REAL people). I'm still just an observer, taking it all in. It doesn't help my feelings of confusion that I definetly live in a neighborhood/context where it doesn't actually feel like I live in Minnesota at all (I have one, ONE friend who has the blessed MN accent). Anyways, here is the beginning:

The girl is wearing a tie-dyed shirt, comfortable jeans, her curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Perched on a stool next to the calf in his pen, she is telling us how to get a cow to give birth at the Minnesota State Fair. It takes careful planning, especially if you plan to do it year after year. Here, in this barn, this girl is a star. Here, in this barn, we are witnesses to what she experiences every day: the rustling hay and the stink of animals, the sensible shoes and the awkward teenagers who water the animals. She is sitting on a stool, and she is talking about a cow she owns that has given birth here, at the State Fair, over thirteen times. That kind of cow, she says to everyone and no one in particular, that kind of cow is only good for ground beef. You can’t get any good steaks out of a cow that has had thirteen calves. I am staring at the white paper attached to the calf’s pen that describes when he was born (less than twenty-four hours ago, here in this barn) and his name: Ferdinand. I think: sometimes I eat ground beef.

I wander past Ferdinand to the larger pen just to the left of him. There is a large black-and-white spotted cow lying down, sides heaving. There are people milling everywhere, pressed around the sides of the large pen. There is a small set of bleachers, a mini grandstand to watch the action. And indeed, that is why everyone is here. This is the Minnesota State Fair, and this is the Miracle of Birth barn. There are flat screen TVs hanging from the barn ceilings, a loop of sticky legs and hooves and heads being pulled out of various birth canals. A gangly boy sees me and my friend hovering by the sheep pen. I suppose you want to pet one, he says, and hoists up a two-day-old baby lamb for us to fall all over, rubbing the soft ears. What kind of life is this little guy destined for? I ask him. He says something about wool and being used for breeding. At six months old, this little lamb (name tag: Cosette) can start having lambs of her own, over and over again for as long as she is able. As we leave the barn, my friend Jen whispers to me:Imagine that kind of life. Jen is a successful doctor, a resident of Minnesota, friendly and welcoming and always sporting the nicest smile. She is also a vegetarian, a self-proclaimed “nutrition freak,” and greatly interested in democratic politics. We are here because we are interested in the absurdities of this great state, this great nation, this great fair. We go, we eat, and we are blessed.

You can read the rest of the essay, The Sermon On the Plain, over at The Other Journal.

 

2. I wrote about trying to drag my child to the aquarium in Chicago and my ensuing realizations about both being and having a highly sensitive child. In retrospect, I just think my parents were super awesome and tried hard to listen to me--even as we lived a pretty transitory, certainly not-easy life. As I see our path spread out before us I see some similarities in my daughter's life, and the older she gets the more difficult it might be to explain our life choices (plus the amount of loss in regards to relationships one experiences when living in chaotic, under-resourced neighborhoods). Anyways, I am continuing on in my Anne Lamott renaissance and she did not let me down in this instance. Here is the beginning of the piece:

 

Recently I found myself engaged in another maddening conversation with my four-year old daughter. We were discussing the aquarium we were going to visit the next day. She wrinkled her nose and pronounced that she wouldn’t go.

“Why?” I asked, more than a little impatient.

“What if there are sharks? What if there are eels?”

I assured her that we would keep her safe.

“No,” she said, firmly. “I am not going to the aquarium.”

“Yes,” I said, “you are,” thinking of the tickets we’d already purchased and out-of-town friends we’d meet there.

She cried and flung herself onto the couch. “But the sharks! But the eels!”

I had no pity. My heart was a steel trap of already-made plans.

My daughter has a history of fixating on small worries in her life—every night there was a book or a toy I needed to take away, and so many questions about death and existentialism that I’m unprepared for. As she wades deeper into an awareness of life, I just try to get us through as best as I can.

And I really wanted to go to this damn aquarium.

 

Read the rest of the essay over at Good Letters. 

 

 

And I think that is all for today. Have a happy Friday, and as always, thanks for reading along with me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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