The first thing I did when Sprite's Keeper gave me Elizabeth of a moon, worn as if it had been a shell for my Secret Santa assignment was…panic. Because I know Elizabeth, and not just from her strong presence as a writer on her blog, but I actually know her, she is my friend. We live in the same community, and our boys are in the same Cub Scout pack. We've camped together for God's sake! Here we are out for martinis…
And so I feel tremendous pressure to do her justice, and share this incredibly excellent woman with all of you.
So I decided to make a list of qualities that I would use to define Elizabeth. I came up with...
But before you all start hating her, the following words also came to mind...
It's the mixture of all of these qualities that makes Elizabeth such a remarkable person, and a moving, eloquent, honest writer. Because she's not just a mommy blogger. She's a real, honest-to-God published writer, a literary soul, a poet, an aesthete. She has an uncanny ability to locate and reveal the beauty in mundane everyday life.
And Elizabeth's everyday life is not easy. She is the mother of three beautiful children, and her oldest, Sophie, has a severe form of epilepsy Sophie's disabilities are profound. Her specific diagnosis is "refractory seizures of unknown origin", which basically means that no one knows why she is the way she is, and no one knows what to do to help her. The bottom line is that for the last 16 years, Sophie has suffered daily from multiple seizures. She must be fed and bathed and dressed and kept clean. She is unable to walk without assistance, and has never uttered a word.
In addition to Sophie, she has two darling and clever boys, Henry and Oliver, and a husband, Michael, who is a fabulous chef and spends most of his time at his restaurant, which Elizabeth refers to as “his mistress”. It’s safe to say she has a tremendous amount on her plate.
And while Elizabeth could well be a college professor, or a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, or possibly running a Fortune 500 corporation, she has chosen to stay home and care for her children. No small feat.
Elizabeth is an outspoken advocate for all special needs children, and her blog is a safe haven for other parents with similar situations. And while I say that she finds beauty in the mundane, and often in the painful, her blog is never one of those glossy, smiley-faced, look-at-me-and-the-graceful-way-I-handle-all-that-God’s-thrown-at-me kind of blogs. She is an Atlanta-born Southern girl, and is not afraid to yell at the world. She will often go off on one of her liberal diatribes, but really, who can blame her? What she goes through to provide health care for Sophie is mind-boggling. But if she gets particularly testy and perhaps…goes too far…she’s not afraid to cop to it with a bit of mea culpa.
I find myself envying her grace and charm. She is a woman of style. She's the kind of mother who casually serves her kids fondue for dinner...and they eat it. Her home is beautiful and tasteful in that “Parisian flea market” kind of way.
Why should you read her blog? She writes about literature. And art. And melancholia. And liberal politics. And her boys. And disability. And she's always almost painfully honest. She's an extremely prolific blogger (she told me once that I should post more often, something that I'm just terrible with), with her posts ranging from lengthy essays to a simple picture or video. And she's one of the best commenters I know (another failure of mine!).
Oh, and have I mentioned that she's also a pastry chef? Sigh...yes, she also bakes the most gorgeous cakes and cupcakes...
I’ve tried to choose some specific posts to share with you, but she’s so prolific, that it’s been hard to decide which posts were particularly representative of her blog. I will, however, share this snippet, which, though a bit on the angry side, I feel embodies all the honesty that I love about her blog...
I, like most cognizant folks of contemporary culture, am saturated with doing good, feeling good, feeling virtue, feeling Zen-like, seeking to understand the positive pathways of the brain and how to ensure them, being mindful, counting my blessings, listing things to be grateful for, etc. etc. Every now and then, though, I'd like to surrender. I'd like to say to those people whose kids are really young or newly diagnosed that you know what? It's not going to get better. It's going to get worse. Your mind and your nature will be chipped away to such a fine point, you'll be capable of pecking at any closed door and slipping through. You'll be bitter and angry and self-righteous and you'll get things done, but you'll also do a lot of crying in the shower and sliding down the proverbial wall.
I would like to be the John McEnroe of parents of disabled children. I'd like to curse at the ref when I miss a shot, scream at the fans and maybe even throw my racket and storm off the court. I'm out of here, I'd shout, I'm through with this shit.
I suppose it's actually time to meditate.
I hope all of this hasn't embarrassed Elizabeth. And I worry that this isn't good enough, that I haven't done her justice. So I will stop trying, and leave you with what Elizabeth says is her favorite poem, and the source of the name of her blog.
By William Butler Yeats
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'
. . . . . . . . . And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There's many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, 'To be born woman is to know-
Although they do not talk of it at school-
That we must labour to be beautiful.'
I said, 'It's certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam's fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.'
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time's waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.
Please go and visit Elizabeth at a moon, worn as if it had been a shell. And while you're there, add her to your Google Reader. I promise you won't regret it.
And then visit Sprite's Keeper for more Secret Santa posts in which everybody writes about another blogger who they love and admire.