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Issue 47: I wanted electricity to go everywhere in the world

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Woman About the Internet

August 15 · Issue #47 · View online

I am a writer, mother, and decent human being living in Seattle, Washington. My monthly newsletter pairs perfectly with the everyday and the End of Days. I think you're swell.


In the darkest hours of early parenthood, I looked forward to two things: the day Frida would rise independently from her bed to greet me in the morning and the day I would be able to visit a hotel alone and sleep for ten to twelve hours. So far one of those things has occurred.

Frida lumbers down the hallway every morning just before dawn, her sleepy, stumbling gait giving her away before she manages to make her way to my side of the bed. I can count the number of times she’s slept through the night in the last two years. It’s such a rare occurrence that instead of catching up on my own precious sleep I wind up rushing to her room to make sure that she’s still snoring away and hasn’t decided to leave our family for a better life freighthopping towards Canada. 
For the first few months after Frida was born, I’d doze off in a chair most nights with her still nursing in my arms. In a movie montage of those days you’d see me jolting awake over and over again, the baby nearly rolling off my lap with the soundtrack of the white noise machine whirring its siren song in the background.
I’ve compared quarantine to new parenthood and it’s not exactly untrue. An infant presents a slow and sneaky brand of social distancing that you don’t notice until none of your clothes are suitable for the outside world and visiting a Starbucks drive-through feels like a major life event. Six months into this pandemic we’re still bound to our daily routine, even if that routine no longer includes leaving the house or seeing anyone outside of our family unit. The most heartbreaking moments arrive when Frida explains quarantine as she understands it. Yesterday she told her bear that she wished she had more friends but that “kids aren’t safe.” At the age of 36 I’ve become my daughter’s youngest playmate.
There’s a Mary Oliver quote that writers and morning people like to toss around: “I get up at five and by nine I’ve already had my say.” I get up at five with a two-year-old and by nine I’ve lived an entire day and written nothing but a grocery list. Writing for myself is nearly impossible. Instead, I’ve channeled that energy into copywriting jobs and composing elaborate Instagram stories. My writing is confined to small spaces and character counts now. I can write 300 words about someone else’s stationary line but I cannot articulate how quarantine feels like sleeping in a chair every night.
I keep a note on my phone to document all of the half-awake phrases Frida greets me with in the morning: 
  • This is your body. It’s nice and strong.
  • You have a burp in your mouth.
  • I go out to a fancy dinner party with my raincoat on. I look so nice!
  • I play with all of my animals at night.
  • I cried for you because you are my love and I am your love.
The one-liners almost make the wake-ups bearable and recording them keeps me from feeling like I’m losing pieces of my one-and-done baby as she grows, even if I’ve spent most of the last two years willing her towards independence. 
Jacob and I are rounding the corner towards our tenth anniversary, which will likely be celebrated with takeout on a Monday evening after Frida is tucked into bed. When we got married I so desperately wanted our ceremony to feel meaningful without having to resort to pouring sand into a vase, mentioning god, or forcing a friend to read a fake Apache wedding blessing. Instead, we forced a friend to read a short story by Richard Brautigan, which felt right at the time. It just took me a few years to realize that it’s really about being someone’s mother.
I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone
by Richard Brautigan
I was trying to describe you to someone a few days ago. You don’t look like any girl I’ve ever seen before.
I couldn’t say “Well she looks just like Jane Fonda, except that she’s got red hair, and her mouth is different and of course, she’s not a movie star…”
I couldn’t say that because you don’t look like Jane Fonda at all.
I finally ended up describing you as a movie I saw when I was a child in Tacoma Washington. I guess I saw it in 1941 or 42, somewhere in there. I think I was seven, or eight, or six.
It was a movie about rural electrification, a perfect 1930’s New Deal morality kind of movie to show kids. The movie was about farmers living in the country without electricity. They had to use lanterns to see by at night, for sewing and reading, and they didn’t have any appliances like toasters or washing machines, and they couldn’t listen to the radio. They built a dam with big electric generators and they put poles across the countryside and strung wire over fields and pastures.
There was an incredible heroic dimension that came from the simple putting up of poles for the wires to travel along. They looked ancient and modern at the same time.
Then the movie showed electricity like a young Greek god, coming to the farmer to take away forever the dark ways of his life. Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a switch, the farmer had electric lights to see by when he milked his cows in the early black winter mornings. The farmer’s family got to listen to the radio and have a toaster and lots of bright lights to sew dresses and read the newspaper by.
It was really a fantastic movie and excited me like listening to the Star Spangled Banner, or seeing photographs of President Roosevelt, or hearing him on the radio “…the President of the United States…"
I wanted electricity to go everywhere in the world. I wanted all the farmers in the world to be able to listen to President Roosevelt on the radio…
And that’s how you look to me.
xo Drew
Need to catch up on an issue? Explore the archives right here. Some of my other writing lives here. If you’d like to follow me on Instagram, you can do so right here. I also hang out on Twitter.
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