Blasts From The Past

posted April 17, 2009

“It’s like watching a fireplace,” said Tom tonight, pointing at Lila who was prancing around the center of the room, surrounded by writers. They had just arrived, from as far away as New York City and as nearby as Easthampton, MA. Some were veterans of my writing retreats; some had never been here before. I had been scurrying around all afternoon prepping dinner and cleaning the house and juggling the kids’ nap schedules. I overheard the writers introducing themselves to each other, and I was once again so grateful that the people who tend to come to this house are engaged, kind, talented people. One of them happens to be one of my oldest friends, someone I met when I was about four or five. We went to the same music school back then. I remember learning the difference between 3/4 time and 4/4 time, and also I remember dancing around in a circle. Good times.

The house is lighter than it was six weeks ago when I started this daily writing practice and stopped my coaching practice. Slowly, I have been following through on my vow to rid the house of 10% of its contents. One of the retreatants, one who comes here a lot, commented on the lack of clutter, which made me even happier than when people ask if I’ve lost weight.

“Go slowly,” a Feng Shui practitioner warned me once, ten years ago, in an airport. “Don’t make changes too quickly and don’t throw things out too fast. You need some time to adjust to the process.” So honestly, lots of stuff is in my basement and attic, in boxes that are more or (mostly) less organized. I will get rid of the boxes one by one.

I wrote a new version of Hush Little Baby last night for HooteNanny:

Hush little baby, don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna catch you a firefly
And if that firefly won’t light
Mama’s gonna show you a moonlit night
And if that moonlit night is dark
Mama’s gonna take you for a walk in the park
And if that walk in the park is too short
Mama’s gonna build you a cozy fort
And if that fort’s not cozy and warm
Mama’s gonna hold you like a shelter in the storm
And if that shelter in the storm holds tight
Mama’s gonna give yo a kiss goodnight
A kiss goodnight and a lullaby
Hush, little baby, don’t you cry
A lullaby and a story to tell
My little baby, may you sleep well.

I watched my kids today. Even though there was a part of me trying to get ready for the retreat, I ended up not being that busy. The house has been kept pretty tidy since we did the big clean up for Johnny’s baptism. I spent most of the day in the music room watching Johnny crawl over the instruments which are by far his favorite toys (though honestly, he loves anything that is long and stick-like, especially if ink comes out of it). Lila played her ukulele and sang the Good Morning song from HooteNanny. We drew together and she rode her tricycle outside. During her nap, I struggled through some more of my taxes while Johnny tried to eat the documents. It was a wonderful day. At three o’clock, Johnny went down for his nap and LIla woke up from hers. Because of my experience yesterday watching that other mom encourage her child to help her in the kitchen, I gave Lila a plastic knife and she “helped” me chop peppers. And yes, it took a lot more time, and yes, it was fun and felt really good. But she had much more fun when I dropped a handful of sugar snap peas on the floor and asked her if she would pick them up for me.

“Sure, Mom,” she said and went to work scurrying around just like her mom, gathering them all up and bringing them to the counter.

On my run today, I heard a Victoria Williams song called “Psalms” on my iPod. I want to learn it and sing it at my church. Her CD Loose was one of the most foundational for my adult understanding of how good a record can be. In fact, because of Loose, we asked her producer Paul Fox to work with us on what was supposed to be our smash hit back in 1997: “Taxi Girl.”
Here’s Victoria on Jay Leno, probably around 1994 or 95.

Speaking of the past, I had the huge luxury of eating my lunch by myself today, which meant I got to watch a TED video. I chose Amy Tan on Creativity in order to prep for this retreat, and in the sidebar was a five minute speech by Stefan Sagmeister, the artist we worked with for the cover of Gotta Get Over Greta.

The Comments

Join the Conversation. Post with kindness.

  1. Hey Nerissa–
    just wondering–when did this blog morph into a diary? If writing daily means you lose all commitment to the craft of real writing,then–please stop writing daily! The entries lately have been like a long form of Twitter tweets–and there’s a reason tweets are limited to 140 characters. The last # of entries have been dry and emotionless and depthless. Where’s the creativity? How often can we read about you sniffing your kids’ necks or cleaning your house or your new music corner or Johnny’s love of pens? Please–stop torturing (or worse: boring) your readers and dig deeper, dear N.–please. I can’t take it any more.

  2. Wow – whatever happened to “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything?” Personally, I love getting daily doses of this blog. Maybe it’s because I can relate to a lot of your experiences, Nerissa. I do happen to find a lot of creativity in most of the blog entries, as well. Emotionless? Seriously?

    Anyway, before I got sidetracked, I was going to say that I have found that both my 2-1/2 and 5 year old love being able to help. They both have their “tasks” before and after meals (putting out napkins, silverware, etc. and then clearing their dishes). It makes them feel needed and important, and although their help may add time to the task, it does help. One night they driped milk on the table so I had them wipe down the table after our meal was over. Their response? “Wow – can we clean the table every night?”


  3. Thanks for sharing your new version of “Hush Little Baby.” We’ve been singing a modified original since Evan was born–we actually modified it because we couldn’t remember the words (and because having an infant is really hard and exhausting). Here’s how we end it:

    . . . Daddy’s going to buy you a looking glass,
    if that looking glass gets broke,
    Daddy’s going to go drink a Jack and Coke.


  4. Be kind to the critic who has not yet learned the value of writing for the sake of writing. May Day Cafe is one of my favorite places on the Internet, sometimes because it’s the closest thing I can find to a new Nields song, but often just because there’s an invariable something that will connect with me.

    My kids are grown now, but that doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the plight of modern parenthood, or reliving the perennial challenges of those wonderful days. This reader fondly remembers the smell of his kids’ necks.

    Besides, this blog has inspired me to write my own. That too is a gift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More Like This

The Sky in Mid December

The sky at four o’clock on December sixteenth. The sky in mid December when the front shifts from subhuman pre-deep freeze (so cold one breath goes straight to your brian…

The Shoulds and the Tao Verse 17

When the Master governs, the peopleare hardly aware that he exists.Next best is a leader who is loved.Next, one who is feared.The worst is one who is despised. If you…

All Roads Lead to Homer: Quest-Driven Novels, (Part 1)

I started these stories because I knew I had to write about my years on the road as part of another folk-rock band. What I experienced as an itinerant musician, traveling and performing with family members and lovers, gave me an education I couldn’t have paid for, an education that makes my time in an Ivy League institution pale in comparison. As Melville’s character Ishmael says of the whale ship he lived aboard for the span of Moby-Dick’s timeline, “It was my Yale College and my Harvard.” So was my Moby, the white fifteen-passenger Dodge Ram van we traveled within for the better part of the 1990s.