This morning we walked three blocks to the neighborhood playspace, to Nanette with her wild hair and her bins of toys, who sets up at the local Akido studio and lets us come in from the cold to play. With the streets and sidewalks covered in snow from this weekend’s storm, Brooklyn is a series of white mounds. We can’t maneuver the stroller through any of it and Little O, having just turned two, toddled in his onesie snowsuit and spider boots, a marshmallowed bundle, with mittened hands jutting out.
So we walked at snail pace. We stopped to kick at the snow, to pat it down, to look at the doggies and woofwoofs. We stopped to watch the swinging door of the corner bodega, to marvel at the dripping branches, and to point at every delivery truck or bus trudging by. At one point, O threw his arm out and shouted, Elmo! and I had to send my gaze all around our small corner of Brooklyn to say, “Where’s Elmo? Elmo’s at home.” He’s bunched up in the crib. He’s on a video screen. He is not caught on the narrow lanes of sidewalk in between masses of 4 foot snow piles. Still he insisted, Elmo!
We continued on, at our pace, walking our rubber boots through the slush. I carried him across the street when the snow got too tall, his wet boots dripping at my knees. About a block and a half later, we passed a bus stop and he pointed at the ad poster. Elmo!
I looked at the Sesame Street advertisement and, sure enough, there was Elmo, in all his furry red glory. This advertisement my son had seen, a block and a half away, through the reflected glass walls of the bus stop, beyond all the trees and garbage cans, not to mention the piled up remains of a blizzard. He was right. Elmo had been there all along.
Since having O, my life has physically slowed. It has meant telling myself I’ll leave at 2:30pm in order to get out the door by 3pm. It has meant standing at the foot of our third floor walk-up and recognizing that it will be a long time before I reach the top floor because my son’s stubborn independence to do it on his own, to pause to look in the mirrored hallways and marvel at his reflection, is part of getting from point A to a belated point B. It has meant twenty minutes to walk three blocks.
But slowing and stopping has also meant seeing. The Elmo in the distance. The app-oo (apple) in the corner. Each leaf, newly fallen. Examining it as we twist the stem between two fingers.
Tackling yet another revision for a novel I can never seem to get right, I think of this. How stopping and slowing might mean seeing. I have wanted to rush into writing a world I know and love and so desperately want to get right. And it’s funny, to try at this writing gig for so long, to fail so many times, to watch weeks and years, almost an entire decade, disappear, only to think I’ll cure the work in minutes. It’s funny to not take the time, heck, to not take forever and forever’s extra day if I need it.
So, I step away from the keyboard. I sit with a notebook and a purple pen and dream longhand. In snippets of imagined conversations, in writing from her perspective instead of hers. Stopping every instinct to dig in and start rearranging paragraphs, slashing words, throwing sentences and scenes into a novel I think I know, I am slowing down in the hopes that I’ll see what’s been there all along.