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A Case for the Cliché
Every time there was a full moon, my grandmother would sit outside on her rocking chair to admire it.
The farm would get so dark at night. By 9pm it’d be as if the property was cloaked in a dark sheet, covering us in pure black. The darkness made the night bugs louder and louder with their screeching. Sometimes there’d be no stars, which intensified all the black. It’d be as if the elements were setting the stage for the moon. When the moon was full it would shine so hard there’d be white rays traveling all the way down to earth, touching our wild grass, sometimes coming right up to our toes. The light from the moon was so intense we’d have no choice but to sit outside and absorb its energy.
Me encanta la luna llena.
“I love the full moon,” she’d say.
She’d rock slowly back and forth as she said this, inhaling and exhaling in unison with the movement of the chair.
On the farm we had many, many dogs. We always had our Rottweiler guard dog named Peewee (an ironic name for the mean dog that he was). Peewee was extremely muscular with sharp eyes and a drooling problem. He could usually be found pacing the gates with his mouth agape to expose the glisten in his predator-like mouth. In his defense, my grandfather trained him really really well and he spent lots and lots of money to ensure Peewee gave any potential trespassers a reason to “beware.” During Peewee’s training he memorized all of our faces as a way to attack anyone that was foreign to him. Like, whenever the avocado man came in on his open bed truck to collect our avocado harvest he'd be lucky to be spared. Peewee died when I was 10.
At any given time we also had about 5-7 rat dogs that lived in the back house. Traditionally, rat dogs instinctively live to catch rats and for some time, they actually did that. They were useful in scouring the chicken coops and the bushy corners of the yucca to reveal them and finish them off so we didn’t have to. Eventually they stopped doing that because there was a time where we relied on setting traps. Nobody minded that they became lazy little potbelly dogs. They eventually caught on to the good life and I don’t think anyone can be mad at that.
When you live on a farm, something so precious and lush and worthwhile, it comes with nuisances like this. We had mangos and avocados and yucca and chickens and their eggs. There was an alcoholic grandfather who played his first round of Dominoes at 9am and a grandmother who could teach you about killing things with respect in order for these things to sustain you. There was an uncle with long hair and a password-locked Gateway computer tucked away in his room and a new Audi parked outside. There was me, a girl with a lanky body and a drawer full of basketball shorts and a consistent curiosity for something. You see? Things like this deserve guarding.
After Peewee died it was time for a new Rottweiler guard dog. There wasn’t much time to mourn Peewee at all, since he had a job and his job needed to be filled. So on one random day my uncle brought home a new Rottweiler puppy. My grandmother loves the moon so much she named her Luna. Luna, at first, was small and chubby with big teardrop eyes. She loved to stay close, she loved to lay down next to you, and she waited around patiently for table food. She eventually grew wide and curvy and we took to her so much she became an “inside” dog.
Luna was different from any guard dog I’d ever come across. She was a softy. She was a guard dog that didn't do any guarding whatsoever. The money that was spent to train her to “guard” might as well should’ve been put through a shredder. She’d wag her tail so hard her whole body would rock from side to side. She’d lay on her back and expose all of her teets as a way to ask for some touch. She’d follow my grandmother everywhere and lay down next to her. Said differently, if someone or something trespassed onto the grounds Luna would likely be the last one to find out. Luna’s teardrop eyes were built to see what’s good and sweet. If you opened up Luna’s body you’d find nothing but rainbows and butterflies and a lust for my grandmother's love. At night she’d soak up the moon the way we all did.
I don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot write about. I want to write about the moon and the flowers and all of the rote memories that come to the forefront whenever I close my eyes. When I close my eyes there is a thick blanket of black sky but most of the time the moon is nowhere to be found. When I close my eyes it’s as if my mind turns into a haunted carnival ride where no one’s really having any fun but we pretend we are. When I close my eyes I see a far away body holding a golden lantern, the lantern becoming brighter and brighter as the body holding it gets closer, and the anonymous body tells me I’m doomed if I don't make something out of my words. Every artist starts out this way. Every artist has bad dreams and absorbs the moon and stops to admire Spring. If I can sit here and group some words together, even if it’s about the most cliché of topics, then that’s all I’m after.
There are things - things like the moon and the stars and the flowers - that we can extract energy from and use that energy as a means to produce something.
Luna never became a mother. Every girl dog that came before her did. It was impossible to micro manage the happenings of every living thing on our 25 acres. Nature called and usually we’d be completely aloof to it until a dog with a hard, bloated belly turned on her side to catch her breath after a chase.
But my grandmother wanted to spare Luna of that strife. We didn't want motherhood to harden her. All of the other girl dogs changed after they became mothers. They’d grit their teeth and growl at us from time to time. They’d stop chasing and remain hibernating in their beds. It’s as if their energy was sucked out and they didn’t know how to replenish it. We didn’t know what motherhood would do to Luna and we didn’t want to risk it.
I think Mothers are misunderstood. I had to become a mother to find out that my body can be used for something besides reproduction. Becoming a parent allowed my artistry to bloom and has put me in my rightful body. I think artists use their bodies as carriers - if you opened up my body you’d find a beach where my two kids and my husband are swimming. You’d find the fetus baby that didn’t make it and the composition notebook I filled up in dedication to them. Dig deeper and you’d find specks of female artists that keep this body alive - Toni Morrison, Lidia Yuknavitch, Simone De Beauvoir, Clarice Lispector, Joan Didion, Agnès Varda. And all I can do with my body is to try, assiduously, to pay it forward.
I think I understand why my writing teacher told me to stick to my postpartum experience. Because it made me an artist. My postpartum experience might as well be eternal, it may never leave my body, and I may be forever changed. And if this is the case I’d be okay with that. My mom eyes are struggling with neurosis, built to find despair and indescribable love in everything. Here, opening up my body, looking inside it, taking things out piece by piece, is where all my memories are waking up, asking things of me. And as a mom my memories are now being held with new, curious, delicate hands. Maybe that’s where the “postpartum experience” dwells - in the way I hold it.
Open me up. Rummage out my insides. Find the moon, the screechy bugs, the rocking chair. Listen to it. Memories keep their promises. Go back to those ordinary days. It’s brought me here: spreading myself out more and more and more. Not yet entirely comfortable in my own skin but trying and trying and trying. My kids are my energy: They’re the moon when the dark sky covers me like a sheet. They’re the carnival ride that I have to make my way through on the hardest of days. They’ve allowed me to grow authentically and have given me navigational freedom to try new things. I have no idea where I’d be without these ordinary days. When I have enough of these ordinary days it finally makes sense they’re not ordinary at all. When I allow these groupings of words to slowly blow myself open then maybe I’ll find myself somewhere.